During December (and probably well into January), I was going to be re-watching all of the James Bond films, in order, including the ones I'm not fond of. I was going to start on the 1st, except that Netflix has Dr. No on long wait right now. Grrrr. They are messing up my grand plan! The question then becomes, do I start with From Russia with Love and come back to Dr. No when I can get a copy? Or wait? Come on, Netflix, it's not like it's an obscure flick!
So, instead, I got Road House (1948), with Richard Widmark, Cornell Wilde, and Ida Lupino. I had mixed feelings about this film. I really loved the first half. The first half of this film great. Then we had a courtroom scene (yawn), and then the movie lost momentum and tension for me and sort of wandered around until it finally ended. This does seem to happen with a lot of noir movies of this time period. I had the same split feelings for They Drive By Night. First half is great, second half... not so much. Probably, not coincidentally, has a courtroom. I know there's a few other films too, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.
The first half of the film is tense, sexy, and intriguing. I loved Cornell Wilde as the sensible business partner in Richard Widmark's business. He's the one who manages the finances, looks after Widmark, and in general really keeps the road house of the movie's title running smoothly. I loved the scene where he meets Ida Lupino's character, a singer from Chicago that Widmark's brought back to sing at the road house. It was beautifully filmed, with smart dialogue. Ida Lupino was also great as the singer who both Wilde and Widmark fall for. And I loved Celeste Holm as the fourth member of the group. She might be my favorite character in this movie. Of course, this film is very early in Widmark's career, which means his character's not playing with a full deck, and his character's full psychotic rage will come into play. I much prefer Widmark's later films where he's playing heroes, or morally ambiguous shady characters. But he sure can play violent-crazy like nobody's business when he wants to.
Unfortunately, the second half of the film lacked all the real tension of the first half and seemed to depend instead on the audience being worried about what Widmark will do. That isn't enough for me, and where I wasn't sure where the first half was going (I admit, I had not actually read the Netflix DVD sleeve which gives the plot synopsis before watching the movie, so I did not know what it was about or where it was going), the second half was predictable and just made me roll my eyes. But the first half sure was entertaining!