Today’s feature is a rock & roll musical comedy starring Meat Loaf. Buckle up, because it is 1980’s Roadie.
The screenplay for Roadie was written by Michael Ventura and Big Boy Medlin, the latter of whom was a journalist who conceived of the central character, and went on to be an executive at E! Entertainment. Story credit for the film was also given to director Alan Rudolph, who helmed movies like Breakfast of Champions, The Secret Lives of Dentists, and Afterglow, and executive producer Zalman King.
The cinematographer for Roadie was David Myers, who is best known for documentaries like Marjoe and Woodstock, but also shot George Lucas’s debut movie, THX 1138.
The editor for the film was Tom Walls, who also cut Surf Ninjas, Mac And Me, Bachelor Party, and Mortal Thoughts.
Outside of Zalman King, the producers for Roadie included John Pommer, who was a production manager on The Great Santini, Walking Tall, and Paths of Glory, and Carolyn Pfeiffer, who also produced the Vanilla Ice vehicle, Cool As Ice.
The musical score for Roadie was composed by Craig Huxley, who also provided the music for the movie Alligator, wrote the theme song for Walker, Texas Ranger, and provided sound work on Motel Hell and Thriller.
The effects team on Roadie included Mike Moschella (Hook, Wild In The Streets), Joyce Rudolph (Teen Wolf, Hider In The House), John Frazier (White Dog, War of the Roses, Hesher), and Howard Jensen (Ed Wood, Rocky IV).
The cast of the movie is made up of Meat Loaf (Fight Club, Crazy In Alabama, Spice World, The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Kaki Hunter (Porky’s), Art Carney (Last Action Hero, The Late Show), Soul Train producer Don Cornelius, Gailard Sartain (Fried Green Tomatoes, Mississippi Burning), Joe Spano (Hill Street Blues), and Sonny Carl Davis (Evil Bong, Trancers II).
The plot of Roadie is summarized on IMDb as follows:
A young Texas good ol’ boy has a knack with electronic equipment, and that talent gets him a job as a roadie with a raucous traveling rock-and-roll show.
During the introduction of the character of Travis Redfish, the house shown to be his home is the same one prominently featured in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is a nod to his character’s Texan origin.
Roadie is filled with cameos from across the music industry, with screen time given to icons like Roy Orbison, Deborah Harry of Blondie, Alice Cooper, and Hank Williams Jr.. Interestingly, the cameo by Alice Cooper was initially meant for Mick Jagger, who wasn’t available to film.
Roadie received a number of alternate titles for international markets, given that the slang term ‘roadie’ doesn’t translate well. The Spanish-language title was Los Locos Caminos Del Rock (which translates to The Crazy Roads of Rock), while the Italian title was similarly Roadie: Le Strade Del Rock (The Road of Rock).
I couldn’t find a production budget estimate for Roadie, but the financial details I did dig up indicated that it grossed under $5 million in its lifetime theatrical run in the United States, which is unlikely to have been very profitable (if at all), depending on how much money was sunk into it.
The reception to Roadie was generally negative: it currently holds an IMDb user rating of 5.0, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 17% from critics and 56% from audiences.
Roadie is a very strange movie that I’m not quite sure how to classify. It walk and talks like a comedy, but there are no jokes to be found anywhere in this movie. The only attempts at humor come from the honest ignorance of Meat Loaf’s character, or the occasional concussion symptoms. There are also a handful of colorful and outlandish characters, but nothing about them is specifically funny. Meat Loaf’s father watches television, Meat Loaf’s sister has a grating voice, and so on, and so on.
Meat Loaf’s character isn’t even particularly consistent: sometimes he is a child-like simpleton, sometimes he is a wizard-tier engineer capable of fixing extra-terrestrial vehicles, and other times he’s just a brash, conservative asshat. To Meat Loaf’s credit, he sells the portrayal at each one of these turns, but it feels like a bunch of different people rather than a singular character.
The primary love interest of the movie is a 16-year-old aspiring groupie with an obsession with Alice Cooper, and an apparent psychic ability to detect rock songs in radio waves. She is at times purely manipulative, but in other moments a child-like, naive, and honest character. Much like the problem with Meat Loaf’s Travis Redfish, she seems like an entirely different character in any given scene, to the point that the interactions between the two of them are essentially a crapshoot of personalities that could interact in any variety of ways.
Overall, Roadie is a confused, strange movie that rests on top of a very weak screenplay. The music industry cameos are interesting to see, but there isn’t much to the movie outside of that. The final scene, in which Redfish is set to repair a downed UFO, is one of the weirdest shark-jumping conclusions I have ever seen to a movie, but it isn’t nearly enough to save it on the whole. This is an almost entirely forgotten movie, though, and is an interesting deep cut if you happen to stumble across it. It has some redeeming value, but not much. Bad movie fans might give it a shot, but I wouldn’t advise anyone else to seek it out.