Terrible Movies for Troubled Times: Road House edition
The 80’s cult classic really doesn’t get enough credit for just how weird it is.
For a very long time, I assumed Road House was a short, simple movie with a plot summed up by the poster. Bouncer gets hired to clean up rowdy bar, lots of good fisticuffs, the grimy element within the bar fights back, there is sure to be some sexy bar patron he falls in love with, lots of darkly lit scenes, yadda, yadda, yadda.
No one ever told me anything different. People would say, “Oh, you haven’t seen Road House? You should really see it.” But nobody ever said, “Check it out, people get killed by taxidermy, a monster truck gets involved, Ben Gazzara lives in a mansion across a pond from where the dude lives in the most improbable loft apartment of all time, nothing about the love story makes sense, every scene in the bar is brightly lit AF, the fight scenes are painfully bad, and Swayze does fake tai chi shirtless.” I learned all of these things a year ago when I watched Road House for the first time.
Whether you’re a Road House neophyte or a veteran, here’s hoping these facts about the movie enhance future viewings.
Firstly, something most people know by now, but it bears repeating. Whenever Road House is on in the wild, Bill Murray calls Kelly Lynch’s husband, screenwriter Mitch Glazer, to say, “Kelly’s having sex with Patrick Swayze right now. They’re doing it. He’s throwing her against the rocks.” Murray’s dedication to this practice has seen him call Glazer from Russia. This story was first reported in 2012. Here’s hoping it’s still going on.
The running time for Road House is 1 hour and 54 minutes, which feels like a solid twenty minutes too long to this writer. However, the original edit came in at a whopping 3 hours and 20 minutes. Some of what was lost appeared in the trailer. Fans of the movie will notice most of the lines here aren’t in the final cut.
In addition to the now missing scenes found in the trailer, the original edit expounded upon the bartender and Sam Elliott’s character Wade Garrett. It also included Swayze’s character Dalton taking out every single henchman in the final confrontation. In the final cut, he is shown taking out the last three.
Dalton has racked up quite a lot of injuries in his job as a “cooler” (fancy word for bouncer). The official total is two gunshot wounds, four stainless steel screws, nine knife wounds, and thirty-one broken bones. Naturally, none of that phased him.
The scene where the monster truck (Bigfoot 7) is driven through the dealership cost $500,000 to shoot.
The fight scene between Patrick Swayze’s Dalton and Jimmy, played by Marshall R. Teague, took five days to film. It has been reported that the men initially did get along, but then bonded over the fact they both wanted to actually hit and kick one another. While the fight was choreographed, the punches were not pulled. They did 72 takes of that fight over those five days. In the end, Swayze had a broken rib and damaged knee—2.5 oz of fluid was drained out of the joint.
However, that injury wound up working to Swayze’s advantage. He’d chosen Road House feeling it would be another box office smash like Dirty Dancing. It wasn’t. Because of his knee injury, he had to turn down Tango & Cash and Predator 2. Both flopped. Instead, Swayze took Ghost (1990), because it wasn’t a physically demanding role. It worked out well for him.
Marshall Teague also got a surprise bonus out of the climactic fight scene. He took his mother to the premiere, and when his character says to Dalton, “I used to f—k guys like you in prison,” his mother jumped up and shouted, “That’s my boy!”
Famously, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, who holds nine black belts, trained the actors in Road House, and it has been claimed that the actors did their own stunt work. Urquirdez was so impressed by Swayze he tried to convince him to become a competitive kickboxer.
Julie Michaels, who plays Denise, is a dedicated martial artist. She would go on to become a professional stuntwoman after a career changing scene in Point Break (1991), where she attacks Keanu Reeves while nude. She continues to train with Urquidez to this day.
Any number of movies are bad movies, but it takes something special, something like Road House, to excel at being bad. Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson’s book, The Official Razzie Movie Guide, honored Road House as one of “The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.” The movie was also honored by Mike Nelson of MST3K by becoming the first film to get the RiffTrax treatment. He had named it one of the cheesiest movies of all time in his book Mike Nelson’s Movie Megacheese.
Interestingly enough, former UFC champ Ronda Rousey was once linked to a Road House reboot, but the project never really pushed through.