Road Games: An Australian Thriller That’s More Eccentric Than Its Marketing Lets On

by Rachel Bellwoar

Pat Quid (Stacy Keach) isn’t a truck driver but he does drive trucks, which is why he’s assigned to transport some meat over to Perth. There’s a meat strike going on and Quid isn’t supposed to pick up hitch hikers. His dingo, Boswell, keeps him company instead, but after passing Hitch (Jamie Lee Curtis) twice he decides to give her a ride. Someone’s been killing hitchhikers and Quid has a theory it might be one of the drivers he’s been passing on the Nullarbor Plain. Filled with memorable characters, creative stunts, a thoughtful lead performance by Keach, and innovative direction by Richard Franklin (whose experiments with sound pay off), Road Games is a road thriller that’s not afraid to get personal and is much more eccentric than its marketing lets on.

Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray combines featurettes from past home video releases (including Anchor Bay’s and Umbrella Entertainment’s) with new ones recorded for this release. As a result, you get to hear from a lot of different voices involved in the production with Shout! clearly dating all of the featurettes, so you know when they were filmed. There’s a new interview with Keach. Curtis appears in one of the uncut interviews from Mark Hartley‘s documentary, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!, and there are various interviews with Franklin over the years. An audio interview from 2001 looks at Franklin’s career up until Road Games, while a profile on him includes clips from Homicide and Patrick.

Between the new commentary with Hartley, director of photography Vincent Monton, production coordinator Helen Watts, and costume designer Aphrodite Kondos, and the old one with Franklin and Perry Martin (Anchor Bay’s DVD producer), there are a few conflicting stories that make both commentaries worth your time. A few anecdotes come up more than once yet anytime you think you’ve heard all there is to know about Road Games, a new piece of information crops up, like the difficult time they had finding a hoochie coochie doll for the mirror of Quid’s truck. While Franklin disliked stopping filming for tea breaks, Morton explains why they were necessary and, refreshingly, Franklin acknowledges some of the spots in the film that have met with contention, like why the killer’s first victim doesn’t react to the guitar string coming down.

Franklin’s love of Hitchcock comes up often, but that’s clear enough when you’re watching the movie. There are two scenes in particular in Road Games that aren’t shy about taking inspiration from Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In that movie James Stewart’s character is stuck in his apartment with a broken leg and decides to watch his neighbors with a pair of binoculars (a lot of TV shows and movies have used this premise since and if you’ve seen the trailer for the new Amy Adams movie, The Woman in the Window, that’s another spin on this tale). In taking Rear Window on the road, Franklin and screenwriter Everett de Roche bring something new to the concept (Quid and the man he suspects are much more aware of each other in this film as well) and if it weren’t for an early scene where Quid is parked and sees a figure in a motel window, watching Boswell sniff the trash, I probably wouldn’t have made the connection right away.

The other scene that’s straight out of Hitchcock is when Hitch goes investigating, much like Grace Kelly does in Rear Window, while Quid acts as lookout. Unlike James Stewart, Quid doesn’t have the excuse of a cast to explain why he’s the lookout, but the scene sets him apart him as a different character.

Given all the content included on this disk, the collector’s edition treatment wasn’t wasted on Road Games. It’s a great movie, both technically and in terms of entertainment value, and it’s available now on Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory.

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