Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Six Degrees of Patrick Swayze

A Patrick Swayze movie that I failed to mention yesterday is Road House. That having been said, the other Road House is well worth seeing.

Made a few years before Swayze was born, this Road House stars Cornel Wilde as the manager (but not owner) of a road house where people can stop and get good eats. We should know from movies like The Postman Always Rings Twice that in 1940s Hollywood, such roadside eateries meant nothing but trouble. For Wilde, trouble walks in at the beginning of the movie in the form of Ida Lupino, who is to be the place's new lounge singer. Wilde suspects that she has no talent, and has only been given a job because their mutual boss (and Wilde's good friend) Richard Widmark is in love with her, and gave her a job to keep her near him. That's certainly a recipe for disaster.

However, Lupino brings the house down, setting up an even bigger disaster: it's obvious that Lupino is going to come between Wilde and Widmark in fairly short order. Predictably, this does happen, and just as predictably, when Lupino and Wilde falls for each other, it sends Widmark into a rage. (Wilde should have watched Kiss of Death. Perhaps he would have known not to rile up Richard Widmark.) Widmark responds by setting up a plot to frame Wilde for embezzlement....

At this point, the plot turns from noir to melodrama, but that doesn't really distract from the fun. Wilde gets convicted for embezzlement, but his punishment is having to go back to work for psycho Richard Widmark, who constantly taunts the two lovers, eventually taking them to his cabin not far from the Canadian border, which may give Wilde and Lupino an opportunity to escape.

Road House is not a bad little movie. Richard Widmark was always an effective nutcase in the early part of his career, and does that role quite well here. Lupino is also very good, and it's easy to see why both men would fall for her. Wilde is OK, but nothing more. Rounding out the cast is the underused Celeste Holm, who is a co-worker at the road house who had fallen for Wilde, but who is "just a friend" to him.

Road House has been released to DVD, so you can watch it whenever you wish.

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