The Film (4/5)
The 1940s was a great decade for so many classic films; not only were we treated to many great melodramas, but it was the heyday of a genre known as Film Noir. By the late forties, Film Noirs had been extremely prominent with all the major studios producing them. One of the major studios, Twentieth Century Fox rivaling Warner Brothers for the top spot in hard hitting Film Noirs, had been producing a lot of great ones including the 1948 classic entitled Road House. Ida Lupino (Food of the Gods, High Sierra) stars as Lily Stevens a singer for a night club “roadhouse” owned by Jefferson,”Jefty “ Robbins(Richard Widmark, Night and the City, No Way Out). Jefty gets a little infatuated with Lily, while she has gotten smitten with the club’s manager and good friend of Jefty, Pete Morgan (Cornell Wilde, The Big Combo, Gargoyles). They fall in love and plan to get married. When Pete informs his boss Jefty of his plans to marry Lily, Jefty loses his mind and decides to get even. He frames his former friend Pete for stealing over two thousand dollars, and when in court, the judge releases him in the custody of Jefty. The judge also orders Pete to continue working for Jefty at the night club, and all his paychecks will be used to pay for the stolen money. In the grand finale, Jefty takes Pete and Lily along with the club’s cashier Susie Smith (Celeste Holm, 3 Men and a Baby) to his cabin for a hunting trip, the tension mounts, where it’s more than just the animals that will be hunted on this trip. Susie has found some evidence which will clear Pete’s name, but will she live long enough to clear him? The climax has Jefty chasing down the three of them in a fog drenched woods with a gun after a fantastic fight scene between himself and Pete, who couldn’t take it anymore.
Road House is a one terrific movie; director Negulesco did an excellent job capturing a dark, moody, tension filled movie. The film has an insane amount of ‘Noir’ atmosphere, especially during the scenes at the cabin at night with the fog laden woods. Also helping to achieve this movie come alive and flowing at a good pace is the great cast, who all give, brilliant performances with a lot of fantastic dialog coming from all the actors. Richard Widmark is just outstanding as crazy Jefty with his cackling laugh that just drives everyone insane. Ida Lupino plays a very strong female lead, which wasn’t common back in the forties, also has a few musical numbers, including singing a Johnny Mercer song - One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) which at the time was a classic, but not in 2016. The only downside of the film for me were the songs, which is pretty minor. Overall, Road House is a great movie and an overlooked classic. It is most certainly NOT to be confused with the 1989 Patrick Swayze dud under the same film title. If you’re going to watch any movie titled Road House, watch the 1948 film !
Road House makes its debut on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:33:1, in 1080p with an MPEG 4 - AVC encode and the results are splendid. This has some deep blacks with an excellent grey scale, film grain is present, no DNR has been applied; the picture is crisp and clear, with the occasional but minor scratching and a few speckles along the way. Overall this looks outstanding!
The audio quality for the movie is the usual Kino DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0. The dialog, songs and gunshots all come in loud and clear. It’s more than serviceable.
Kino has supplied us with a few extras for Road House. We get an audio commentary by Film Noir Historians Kim Morgan and Eddie Muller, a featurette entitled Killer Instinct: Richard Widmark and Ida Luino at Twentieth Century Fox and a trailer gallery
Road House is an excellent film, and is recommended to those who are interested in Film Noir and now has been given (thankfully) HD treatment where now the film can be seen and heard in the best possible format. Add a few good extras and you’ve got another great package from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This is a highly recommended release from Kino and I look forward to the other Film Noirs that they have lined up for November.