Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nut house

Road House (1948--not the Patrick Swayze movie) is being bandied about for entry into the film noir canon. There are three probably causes for this. Ida Lupino plays the toughest tough broad you ever saw, and croaks some nifty tunes in a cigarette-stained voice in a smoke-filled bar. This bar is immediately adjacent to a bowling alley, the kind with human pin-setters, and Ida Lupino wears a stretch top to the bowling alley that seems to have been borrowed (by a time travelling wardrobe mistress) from a Roger Corman white trash epic of the mid-70's. And finally, Richard Widmark is in it, is a little crazy, and giggles quite a bit, especially in the last two reels of the movie until he drives Ida so crazy with the giggling that she shoots him, much to the relief of the audience.

That is the only violent crime in the movie, unless you count a pretty good bar fight about halfway through. There is no strange murder to start with, no failed payroll robbery, no double-crossing dame who gets her boyfriend to kill her husband, almost no shady activity at all, which is pretty disappointing for a road house. Heck, I don't think they even have gambling in this place. The second leads are Cornell Wilde and Celeste Holm and they look way too healthy, like they'd been outdoors in the daylight or something. I think us film noir fans have to fight to maintain standards of law-breaking and sleaze and keep this half-hearted entry out. Give me rain, smoke, self-loathing and betrayal any time!

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