|Wilde, Lupino and Widmark in a tense moment|
"Jefty" Robbins (Richard Widmark of Garden of Evil) runs a road house complete with nightclub and bowling alley in a small town with his buddy Pete (Cornel Wilde) as a top employee. Jefty also hires Lily (Ida Lupino of Private Hell 36), upon whom he is struck, as a singer in the club. Jefty seems to think of Lily as his girlfriend even though they've apparently never even kissed, a problem she does not have with Pete, who succumbs to her charms, and vice versa, to the strains of Wagnerian opera on the radio. Clueless Jefty plans to marry Lily, and doesn't take it well when he discovers where her true feelings lie. Before long, he comes up with a plan for revenge ... Road House is one of those twisted melodramas that might have amounted to more than an entertaining time passer with a little more care and a much better script, but it never plumbs below the surface. One very amusing aspect of the film is Lily's "singing." Lupino's voice is not dubbed, and is absolutely awful, although she's a good enough actress to put over a number like "The Right Kind of Lovin'." In real life, the soused patrons of the club would have been tearing the gal to figurative shreds, but only in Hollywood can there be a rapt audience for someone with no talent. As waitress Suzie (Celeste Holm) says of Lily: "She does more without a voice than anybody I've ever heard." The real howler comes when Wagner plays on the radio and Lily tells Pete -- not without a trace of irony -- that her father told her that someday she'd sing at the Met! Lupino is swell, Wilde [The Naked Prey] is suitably manly and handsome and generally good, Holm has little to do (although she is billed above the title with her three more important co-stars) and adds little nuance to her role, and the picture is stolen by a splendid Widmark as the spoiled little boy in a man's body. Those viewers looking for possible homoeroticism in the relationship between Jefty and Pete should look elsewhere -- it's easy to imagine but it really isn't there, in my opinion.
Verdict: Once you get past Ida's singing, this is fun if distinctly minor. **1/2.