Directed by Alan Rudolph in 1980, Roadie, the first film produced by the late Zalman King, tells the story of a chubby guy from Texas named Travis W. Redfish (Meatloaf). He makes his living as a beer truck driver but fate hands him an interesting twist when a rock band comes through town only to have their truck break down. Travis has got a knack for mechanics and electrical work and he does what any kind soul would do to a rock band in distress: he fixes it for them. He also hits it off with their groupie, Lola Bouillabase (Kaki Hunter).
As he's proven to be a pretty handy guy to have around, the band invite him to come along on their next tour to work as their roadie. He agrees, and of he goes, leaving his quirky inventor dad (Art Carney) and annoying sister, Alice Poo (Rhonda Bates), at home and heading out on the road for all the thrills and kicks that rock n roll entails. The tour takes them on a road trip, where they'll run into a whole lot of actual rock stars playing themselves: Blonde (who cover Johnny Cash's ‘Ring Of Fire'… it's weird), Roy Orbison, Asleep At The Wheel, Hank Williams Jr. and last but not least, Alice Cooper. At each stop along the way, our beer drinking good ol' boy hero proves his worth, highlighted by a scene in which he rigs up a solar powered rig to keep a concert going when some tree huggers try to shut it down for using too much power.
If this sounds like just an excuse to string together a bunch of seemingly unconnected moments connected by the film's central character, that's more or less what it is. There isn't a whole lot of plot here, it's mostly just Travis running into famous people one after the other and getting himself in and out of trouble from one stop on the tour to the next. His relationship with Lola does evolve somewhat as the movie plays out but honestly, there isn't a whole lot of plot here. And yet, the movie is completely watchable. It's not deep, it's never intense and it's not really particularly insightful but it's enjoyable enough as a mix of comedy and road movie clichés set to a pretty decent soundtrack of late seventies and early eighties acts and some classic Roy Orbison thrown in for good measure (and because the writers were fans and wrote a part for him). You can really never have too much Roy Orbison.
The main reason that this movie works? Meatloaf. He just comes across as a likeable guy and while it seems a wasted opportunity not to have him perform a song or two himself in this, his first feature leading role, he plays Travis well. The fact that he grew up in Texas probably helped a bit but he just seems right for the part. He's kind of dumpy looking, not the most handsome guy on the planet. He looks like guy who'd drink a lot of beer and help fix your truck. He's got decent screen presence and handles the more comedic parts well, a fine example being the physical comedy he shows in the scene where a drunken Travis is ushered backstage to have his can of Coors swiped by Debby Harry. He stumbles, looking silly in his cowboy hat, and appears genuinely puzzled as a drunk guy likely would in a situation like that.
The movie might have worked a bit better if some of the concert footage were played uninterrupted. As it stands there are a few scenes where just as the bands get going we have to segue to a plot thread working itself out at the same time. This hurts the flow of the movie in spots. Additionally, some of the comedy is just really, really corny. Meatloaf does it well, but some of the jokes are the kind that will make you groan rather than make you laugh. There's a really enjoyable, fun, free spirited feel to all of this, however, and that keeps it going. It's goofy, no doubt, but it's fun… and where else do you get to see Blondie cover ‘Ring Of Fire' these days?The Blu-ray:
Roadie debuts on Blu-ray framed at a 1.78.1 widescreen aspect ratio in a really nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. There's the odd speck here and there but overall the picture s quite clean and shows very nice color reproduction. Colors are bright and bold without looking artificially boosted or bleeding all over the place. Black levels are nice and strong if sometimes a little closer to dark grey and while the image does look like the product of its time that it is, there's nothing wrong with that. Detail and texture are generally very strong through the stage lights take away from that in some of the live music scenes, Alice Cooper's performance being the most obvious example. There are no obvious problems with compression artifacts nor is there any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. All in all, this is a clean, crisp detailed transfer that does a very nice job of presenting the movie in what would appear to be accurate and film like condition.Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio options are provided in English in your choice of 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 Surround Sound with optional subtitles offered up in English only or so the packaging says. The 5.1 mix is missing. If you select it from the menu or switch to it using your remote, you get silence. The 2.0 track sounds good, however, it's consistent in balance and true to the roots of the movie. The music sounds good, there are no problems with hiss or distortion and all in all, it sounds fine. The 5.1 track though... odd that it's missing.Extras:
The only really substantial extra on the disc is a commentary track from ‘the real Travis Redfish', James Big Bog Medlin and his writing partner Michael Ventura, the two men who wrote the script for this picture. The commentary begins by discussing the actual events that inspired the film, how Big Boy had a column in the L.A. Weekly, and how working as a film critic lead to interviewing Alan Rudolph, who introduced them to Zalman King. They partied, hung out, and wound up making a movie together. It's more complicated than that, of course, but that's the short of it. They talk about the contrast between Meatloaf and the psychic groupie, they elaborate on what they like about the different performances in the movie and generally just tell their story and how this odd little movie came to be. There are a few spots here and there where they clam up but for the most part, it's a very active track. The discussion of how the different music acts came to be in the movie tends to be quite interesting too, particularly when they talk about writing a scene specifically for Roy Orbison and why they wanted him in the movie. Aside from that, we get the great theatrical trailer for the movie, menus and chapter selection. All of the extras on the disc are presented in high definition.
Roadie is goofy. It's fun and perfectly entertaining but it's really goofy. Not that there's any harm in that, because somehow this one works even if it probably shouldn't. Obviously Meatloaf fans are going to get more out of this than those who don't dig the big guy with the killer voice, but there's some interesting time capsule appeal to the picture as well. It never overstays its welcome, it's got a great soundtrack and as far as completely light, superficial entertainment goes, it's a fun way to kill an hour and forty minutes. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray debut for the film offers it up in a very nice transfer with good audio and a commentary well worth listening to because it's jam packed with interesting stories. As a serious movie, nah, don't bother but if you enjoy quirky cult oddities, consider this one recommended.