Retro Review: Road Games

Cinema Australia Original Content:

Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis in Road Games.

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Directed by Richard Franklin
Written by Everett De Roche
Starring Stacy Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis, Marion Edward, Grant Page

Written by Gavin Bond

Unabashed Aussie film fan Quentin Tarantino pronounced during one of his many interviews on the subject, that “Almost everything that Everett De Roche wrote is one of my favourite films.”

De Roche was an American born screenwriter who after moving to Australia, penned a series of imaginative horror yarns that made their way to the big screen (Snapshot, Harlequin, Long Weekend, Razorback) during the 70’s and 80’s.

Argubaly, his best screenplay was for the 1981 thriller, Road Games.

Apparently producer/director Richard Franklin (Patrick, Brilliant Lies) gave De Roche a copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic film Rear Window as an example of his requested script format.

From there, De Roche crafted a nifty tale of a truckie who believes he has witnessed a series of murders while driving from Eastern Australia to Perth across the Nullabor Plain.

Thanks to the surprisingly witty and literate screenplay and the evocative Aussie outback setting, Road Games proves to be a suspenseful and entertaining Hitchcockian thriller and an underrated Aussie cinematic gem.

Quite contentiously, Franklin and company big wigs decided to cast both major roles to US actors in an effort to, no doubt, gain international appeal. As a result of this casting decision the movie’sbudget ended up at $1.75 million, the highest for an Australian film at the time.

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Road Games stars character actor Stacy Keach (Fat City, The Ninth Configuration) as an ex- pat working as a truck driver down under.

Pat Quid (a wonderfully verbose Keach) sets off on the road in his 16-gear rig with his cargo of raw meat and his trusty pooch Boswell as his only companion.

To relieve the boredom, Quid participates in a series of word “games” with himself or whoever he happens to give a lift to, where he guesses the occupations and persuasions of other travellers on the road.

Things come to a head, however, when Quid hears news reports of a suspected serial killer being on the loose preying on lonely hitchhikers.

Quid then takes it upon himself, with the help of his newly acquainted passenger “Hitch” (played by then 80’s scream Jamie Lee Curtis who controversially replaced Aussie actress Lisa Peers) to pursue, track down and capture the killer.

Director Franklin shows admirable restraint by devoting the first half of this road movie to developing Quid’s character (that explore his eccentricities and paranoia) while building plenty of mystery and slow burn suspense.

The second half of this classily produced but trashy premised genre flick includes a series of impressive stunts and car chases, ably performed by legendary stuntman Grant Page (who also appears in the film in a pivotal supporting role.)

While proceedings do become a little implausible in the drawn out latter stages, Road Games proves to be one of the better “Ozploitation” flicks, and has similarities in style and theme to other celebrated pursuit films like Duel and Race with The Devil.

Throw in a terrific score by Brian May (Mad Max) and a jump-out-of-your seat denouement and you have a giddily entertaining and expertly crafted romp that is well worth revisiting.

You can grab a copy of Road Games here.

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