Thursday, December 22, 2016

Road Movie (1974) Road Noir

Via, The Road, La Strada, the ancient conduit of Civilization. Updated to circa 1974. The place, Arena Diner Truck Stop, meadowlands shithole, halfway between Newark and Jersey Shity, New Jersey.

Road Movie, a Neo Noir no one has heard of, was directed by Joseph Strick (one of the directors of The Savage Eye (1959), and director of The Big Break (1953),Tropic of Cancer (1970)). Strick was a Braddock Pennsylvania native, who has had a successful career primarily as a documentary filmmaker. The Savage Eye which won 1960 BAFTA Flaherty Documentary Award is often considered to be part of the cinema vérité movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The film was credited as being written by Judith Rascoe (Who'll Stop the Rain (1978)), and by Joseph Strick (story). Cinematography by was by Don Lenzer (Woodstock (1970), Street Scenes (1970)). The excellent melange of blues and country music was by Stanley Myers (The Deer Hunter (1978).

The film stars Regina Baff (Escape from Alcatraz (1979)), Robert Drivas (Cool Hand Luke (1967), Route 66 (TV Series)), Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)), David Bauer (Dark of the Sun (1968), Diamonds Are Forever (1971)), David Challis, Rodney Cleghorn, Beatrice Colen, Rik Colitti, Eileen Dietz, Laura Esterman and the great American road.

Janice (Baff) is a whore. Started young.A born slut. Teeny Bopper with hot pants. Arcade photo booth. Janice nude under her coat. Taking nudie shots of her pink canoe. Prints sell to perves. Caught! Taken to the office. Owner threats to call the cops. Janice tells him "I got one good reason why we shouldn't go to the cops" and she opened her coat giving the owner an eye full and Janice does it with the creep, does it all right in the office. A new career launched.

photo booth stripper

Road Movie has an opening credit sequence that beautifully captures vignettes along the transient mileposts in the lives of modern teamsters. The film begins with a tearied eye Janice. She's arguing in a car with a john or her pimp. He kicks her out at the Arena Diner Truckstop. He tells her she'll have to work trucks. A highway hooker.

Janice (Regina Baff)

dumped at the diner

She goes into the diner. She heads for the ladies room. She straightens her wig. She freshens up. She then heads back out into the lot. She's a bitch. She's a survivor. She'll sell her ass to truckers.

selling her ass

Rolling out of the lot in their Peterbilt with a reefer load of beef, are veteran driver Gill (Robert Drivas) jaded, divorced, woman beater, and Hank (Barry Bostwick) greenhorn trying to follow in his trucker father's wheel tracks, two independent truckers. Gill spots Janice and tells her they are headed to Chicago. Janice says a hundred, Gill counters fifty.

Gill (Robert Drivas)

"A hundred dollars".
Janice hops in the sleeper, a ride for a ride, a cooze for the cruise. During the trip West, Hank gets friendly. Gill gets rough, and Janice gets revenge.

Hank (Barry Bostwick) and Janice

Hank: She was something...
Gill: for a whore.
Hank: You can't get around that.

Revenge for Janice is monkeying around with the reefer unit on the truck, losing the refrigeration means they got to dump their load for a loss at the nearest meat locker in Pittsburgh. Janice tells them she can get them a load through her mob connections. Of course the road ahead spiral curves into downtown Noirsville.


Road Movie is a great primer on independent truckers, on all the crapola they steer around and all the hoops they drive through. It's also a depressing 1974 ride through the decaying industrial neighborhoods and the sign polluted retail strips of American cities. We get drive bys of the strip mines of coal country, the refineries, junk strewn lots, auto salvage graveyards, chain link fences netting windrows of trash and desperate roadside attractions. The film evokes both the Classic Noirs Detour (1945) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953).

Regina Baff's Femme Fatale Janice is a spunky piece of work. She is audacious, bitter, destitute, hair triggered and self sufficient. Baff really displays her acting chops as she's degraded, beat up, pushed around, bares her straight razor claw during a mugging, offers her body to highway weigh station officers, and shows her dogged ferocity when Gill finally casts her off. Baff's Janice is the soul mate to Ann Savage's Vera.

Robert Drivas' rough edged Gill has the "life's a bitch and then you die" mantra of a life on autopilot, he wants to own nothing to nobody. Barry Bostwick's gentle Hank is the romantic, a dreamer, the down homeboy trying to follow a dream. Both are convincing.

Road Movie is a nice Noir slice of the 70's, the cinematography, music, the sound design, even the diegetic sound of holy roller radio preachers shucking bleeding heart of Jesus statues that actually squirt blood, while the ephemera of cast off americana kitsch constantly rolls past our view is both depressingly bleak and amusingly entertaining. Screenshots are from the Image Entertainment DVD. 7/10.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Интересное кино. Жаль на русский не перевели. Девку жаль.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Anyone remember this place at 4990 US Hwy 11? It was Dr. Childress Snake & Monkey Farm just north of New Market, Virginia. There were never any cars there, but as a kid in early 70s, I begged my mom to let me go in and she finally did. She waited in the car.
    Dr. Childress sat behind the entry admission window, which was kind of like that of a creepy movie theater. She was an older woman, with long straight blond hair, and I envision Tiger King's Carole Baskin when I picture her now. I thought she looked tired and she just stared blankly without emotion as she took my dollar and let me in.
    Inside I wandered on my own, through what was basically a warehouse crammed full of small cages with monkeys of all species and sizes. The largest was a baboon, who yawned and bared his teeth when I looked at him. I don't much remember the snakes.
    After satisfying my morbid curiosity, I never had the desire to return, but each time I drove by thereafter, which was many a time, I thought of Dr. Childress sitting in her ticket booth waiting for her next customer and another dollar. Today I can't find anything about her or that place.

    1. No unfortunately, but there was a similar roadside attraction called "The Snake Pit"with hand painted signs along I-90 in Montana. Nice story by the way.

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