In the summer of 1983, Clash frontman Joe Strummer decided to make a movie. The band had recently parted ways with drummer Topper Headon, and tensions were boiling between the remaining members of the band — so why not have them all act in a black-and-white improvisational gangster film inspired by Italian neorealism?
As Far Out Magazine recently wrote:
"Let's make a film," said Mick Jones who, during an interview in 2005, was recalling the events of Hell W10's creation. "We had no other agenda there than that. Everyone put in their time without thinking about it. That was what we did on our time off; we worked! It was totally Joe [Strummer]'s idea. He directed it, he shot it, he did it. And then it was gone. It didn't even come out."
The final film remained locked away for years until Strummer, who was contemplating a new career in the world of cinema, let slip of his directing debut as part of an interview in 1987. "I have directed a film myself, a black and white 16mm silent movie and it was a disaster," he said. "Luckily the laboratory that held all the negative went bankrupt and destroyed all the stock, so the world can breathe again. I shot without a script. God knows what it was about. I'm the only other one that knew, and I'm not telling."
While the punk-noir project had people gossiping, Strummer never released the project. In 2002 however, the year that he passed away, the film was discovered on a VHS tape and handed over to long-time Clash collaborator Don Letts who re-edited the film and added a Clash-infused soundtrack.
Bassist Paul Simonon appears as Earl, a musician and general low-level thug who gets into trouble with a crime boss named Socrates, played by guitarist Mick Jones in a sleek white tux. Strummer himself shows up as a corrupt and as a racist policeman. It's got all the elements!…It's just really hard to follow, and not very good. But weirdly fascinating nonetheless!
Image: John Coffey / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)