This month, we're exploring sexuality in movies, and because we're weirdos, this category has largely lent itself to the weirdest fringes of cinematic sex. We've discussed alien sex, drill penis sex, Lovecraftian sex, Bigfoot sex, even some PG bestiality and incest.
But today I want to talk about a sex scene that involves two consenting human adults who are not related to one another and who bear no obvious physical abnormalities, and yet, for reasons incomprehensible to me, feels weirder than all of the above.
I'm talking, of course, about Dalton and Doc in Road House.
What is it about this scene that feels so odd? As many times as I've seen Road House (and I've seen Road House many, many times, because I'm a smart person who likes wonderful things), I've never once watched Patrick Swayze and Kelly Lynch humping to Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine" (Patrick Swayze does his best humping to motown) and thought, "Yeah, that seems right."
There are many reasons for this. The biggest red flag is that Dalton spends the entire sex scene wearing slacks and a sweater vest. He fucks Kelly Lynch in a sweater vest, through his trousers. He's also got her pushed up against this rocky fireplace, which is probably the least comfortable surface in his home. (This oddity has evidently struck Bill Murray, as well.) And the placement of his butt in relation to her crotch makes sex seem like something of an impossibility. Are Doc and Dalton having sex here, or are they just air-humping before moving into the bedroom for the real McCoy? I'm pretty sure they're supposed to be having sex, but I'm also pretty sure that is not how humans do sex.
There's also the issue of their facial expressions. Kelly Lynch does this interesting duckface thing while Patrick Swayze kind of scowls into her neck, and then all of a sudden they're laughing, but then they stop laughing just as abruptly. And then, equally suddenly, Dalton's dance-carrying Doc to bed and it's over.
It's a short sex scene, only the length of "These Arms of Mine"'s two and a half minutes, and nothing particularly extraordinary happens here. And yet this scene has stayed with me since childhood, a lingering strangeness that is my first cognitive response whenever I think of Road House, even before I consider the outstanding violence of the climax, the bitchin' score, Sam Elliott's dangerously sexy turn as Wade Garrett or Dalton's iconic shirtless tai chi. I think of all of those things, and I love all of those things, yet behind it all, there is a quiet, unsettled voice reminding me of the way Dalton kind of massages Doc's butt as he carries her.
Maybe the scene stands out because, like Dalton's tai chi, it's a moment of tender serenity in a film packed with badass blue collar violence. Or maybe it's the way we think the sex is over, and then all of a sudden they're doing it on an Aztec blanket on a roof, the second least comfortable surface Dalton could find. Or maybe it's the way the camera then pans to Ben Gazzara watching the whole thing as he smokes a cigar and drinks some brandy while lounging on his cowskin rocking chair.
But mostly, I think it's the sweater vest.