August 15, 2006 -- I saw this strange movie, “Highway to Hell” last weekend on broadcast TV and was compelled to watch it because it was so unusual. Unlike most movies, which are fairly predictable, I had no idea what was going to happen next in this odd movie, originally released in 1992. The locations, mostly bleak desert and awesome sandstone formations were fantastic. The cast is also very unusual, attracting some surprisingly well-known talent to what appeared to be a pretty low-budget film.
The story has Charlie Sykes and Rachel Clark (played by Chad Lowe and Kristy Swanson) driving to Las Vegas to elope when suddenly the mysterious Hellcop (C.J. Graham) kidnaps Rachel and drives off to Hell, which is located in the desert, naturally. Charlie takes off after her in his vintage hot rod, hoping to rescue her. The rest of the movie is a sort of car chase involving Charlie, Rachel, Hellcop, and the Devil (AKA Beezle or The Satanic Mechanic, played by Patrick Bergin of “Patriot Games”) and various other hellish denizens. What transpires here is sort of a mix of “Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey” and “Mad Max.” The story is very loosely based on the ancient tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Charlie is trying to rescue Rachel from Hell. Neither Charlie nor Rachel is dead. They are both living people in the land of the dead. Despite this grim premise, the movie is not really serious. It is loaded with jokes referencing Greek and Christian ideas about the afterlife.
In one scene the old saying about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions is given new meaning when people with good intentions are fed into a paving machine run by Good Intentions Paving Company. Each person dutifully gives a rationalization for sinning before being put on the conveyor belt and fed into the paver. In another scene an electronic sign over a tunnel through which the River Styx flows reads “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” This is a combination of Greek myth and a passage from Dante's Inferno. In another scene, Charlie stops at a diner, Pluto's, where Medea the waitress (Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller's wife and Ben Stiller's mother) taunts the patrons with food and drink they can never enjoy. The show business family of Jerry, Ben and Amy Stiller all have cameo appearances in this film. In another scene, Charlie is attacked by a large number of Volkswagen Beetle cars while racing across the desert. I always suspected those cars, especially the new Beetles, were designed by Satan. Charlie also is confronted by a motorcycle gang (Hell's Angels?) led by the mysterious Royce (Adam Storke of “Death Becomes Her”), who also wants to return to the land of the living. Along the way, Charlie befriends a young boy, Adam (Jarrett Lennon of “Short Cuts”), who is the devil's apprentice.
This is one of those rare films that is so bad it is enjoyable. The movie is edited in a very haphazard manner and has many errors, yet it is so full of ideas and clever in-jokes it is hard not to like. Bergin is also quite good as a very slick, suave devil, who could easily inspire a song about Sympathy for the Devil. Just try to imagine the stand up comic Gilbert Gottfried giving a performance in this film as Adolph Hitler. Can't imagine that? Watch this movie and you'll see him doing just that; a jaw-dropping, head-scratching, but entertaining performance. I could not believe what I was seeing. A lot of this movie is like that. This is the kind of movie Ed Wood might make if he had a lot more talent and a bigger budget. This movie is so far off the wall, it is on the floor. This film rates a C+.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.