First off, I wanna say that the road house depicted in Road House is AWESOME. It’s low-ceilinged, built like a log cabin. There’s a bowling alley, a bar, a sporting goods store, and Ida Lupino playing piano. This is the coolest (fictional) joint west of Chicago. Now if it wasn’t for the tension between its manager and owner, Jefty’s Road House would be perfect.
After Richard Widmark struck it big with Kiss of Death and Street With No Name, Ida Lupino personally requested that he play in Road House, which was her star vehicle. He essentially plays a variation of Tommy Udo, with the psychotic tendencies clicked down a few notches. But ho boy does he resurrect that beautiful, unnerving laugh from hell. Road House, directed by Jean Negulesco (Mask of Dimitrios), has a simple story infused with brilliant dialogue and heaps of noir aesthetics. Man, I really love this sharp little movie.
Sometimes the girl on a gangster’s arm is more important than the billfold in his pocket. Nothing is truer in the world of Mr. Brown, a somber, carnal crook who gets off on owning Susan Lowell, a stunning blonde who’s essentially held captive by Brown. Sniffing at Brown’s polished heels is persistent flatfoot Leonard Diamond. While he insists he’s spending the tax payers’ money to take down Brown’s big “combination,” it’s really his overwhelming lust for Susan that’s driving him. The Big Combo is director Joseph H. Lewis’ other masterpiece (alongside Gun Crazy). While on the surface it may seem like a pretty straightforward gangster flick, this bad bitch is a potent brew of cruelty and sex.
Daaaaaaamn Gene Tierney is a cold bitch in this one. My eyeballs have experienced plenty of femme fatales since starting this whole Hardboiled Hangover thing, but nothing like the icy chill Tierney’s deranged Ellen Berent character gave off in Leave Her to Heaven. Beneath her technicolor warmth lurks a jealousy that drives her to commit some seriously heinous acts, which must have been teetering on the razor’s edge of the censor board’s moral standards. Backed up by Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Craine, and John M. Stahl’s sharp direction, Leave Her to Heaven is a beautiful and brutal melodrama.