I picked this film up on the basis of director Richard Franklin's other work. I really enjoyed both his sequels to Psycho and FX. Psycho II in particular is a film I've always had a great deal of fondness for. I love that film's playful sense of black humour and the way it builds on the original film rather than rehashing it. Road Games was made in 1981 and was at the time the most expensive film ever made in Australia (though you won't notice looking at it). Franklin was a graduate from University of Southern California and was good friends with John Carpenter. He initially hoped to get Sean Connery for the lead but the budget couldn't stretch. However Carpenter did recommend Jamie Lee Cutis to him, while they were working on The Fog, and she took a small but key role in the film.
sees Stacy Keach play a truck driver called Pat Quid who is hauling a
lorry full of frozen meat through the Australian outback. To pass the
time he likes playing little games with himself, like imagining the
lives of other drivers. When he hears on the radio that a serial killer
is on the loose he begins to grow suspicious of the driver of a green
van who always seems to be in front of him. The longer he travels the
more sure he becomes that the driver of the green van IS the killer. He
enlists the help of Pamela (Jamie Lee Curtis), a young hitchhiker who he
picks up, and together they try and gather some concrete evidence.
However, when Pamela mysteriously disappears Quid is forced to prove his
own innocence to the authorities. Will he save Pamela in time? Is he right about the man in the green van?
The film is very much a Hitchcock homage and the plot plays out like a variation on Rear Window. Quid is a curious voyeur just like Jimmy Stewart's character in Rear Window only he's not as powerless. Rather than being confined to a room with a broken leg, he's
only confined to a truck cabin and a single stretch of highway. However
he's also on his own for much of the film with only his pet dingo to
keep his sanity alive!
thing I will say is that the poster for the film completely missells
what it is. Don't get me wrong it's a great poster but it leads you to
think that you're going to see a slasher with loads of gory murders and
you don't. Everything is very restrained and beyond some slightly lurid
conversations between Curtis and Keach it's all pretty tame. I actually enjoyed
this approach in an old fashioned sort of way because it leaves it
completely up to the viewer to imagine what's going on (including
whether Quid is right about the green van man being the killer).
only real weak point of the film is that the end gets a little messy.
Essentially, all the drivers that Quid has met on his journey turn up at
the end and testify to the police how much of a dangerous lunatic he is.
Apparently Franklin ran out of money and couldn't film all the bits he
wanted that would have tied them back into the story. As such, they sort
of appear out of nowhere which is a bit of shame.
Keach really holds
the film together and he and Curtis have great chemistry. Much like
Lauren Hutton in John Carpenter's Someone's Watching Me Keach spends a lot of the film on his own talking to himself which
should be annoying but it's not. Keach makes Quid a thoroughly likeable
and quirky character and you're always rooting for him however desperate
he gets. I love the fact that he constantly feels the need to correct
people about his profession - "Listen lady, just because I drive it
truck, it does not make me a truck driver." I will warn any
potential viewers that despite being second billed Curtis doesn't appear
for a great deal of the film. However she makes the most of her small
scenes. Her character of Pamela (or 'Hitch' as Quid nicknames her) makes
a great counter foil to Quid and I liked the lack of any sexual tension between the two.
in all Road Games is a decent little thriller. Sure it's more witty
than scary but it's a fun film all the same. Any fans of Hitchcock's
thrillers will feel right at home with this. If you want a little blood
stick with The Hitcher but if you want some mystery and old fashioned storytelling try this one out.