Road Games (1981)

Synopsis:

In Australia, trucker Pat Quid (Stacy Keach, The Long Riders) teams up with a hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween) to capture a serial killer.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“… it’s Q-U-I-D. ‘D’ as in death to young girls, you cretin!”

When we think of filmmakers who have been influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma always comes to mind. But Aussie director Richard Franklin was a huge Hitch fanboy too — if you like Hitchcock, there is a good chance that you will enjoy some of Franklin’s films. Road Games has all the hallmarks of a solid Hitch facsimile: naughty black humor, the ordinary man wrongly-accused of a crime, etc.

Authentically sinister and almost uncomfortably funny, Road Games takes place across deserted roads in Australia and director Franklin imbues the film with a papable sense of isolation. A game of cat-and-mouse (or dingo-and-bush-rat) ensues between hero and villain that leads to a quirky and nightmarish finale.

Everett De Roche (Long Weekend), who wrote the script, described the movie as “Rear Window in a vehicle.” Road Games not only channels Hitchcock’s Rea Window, but also North by Northwest, Psycho and Frenzy (specifically the way the movie constantly links food, sex, and murder). I absolutely loved the fact that the movie doesn’t rush things, which is also a nod to Hitchcock’s slow-burn style.

The theatrical poster and synopsis suggest violence and mayhem, but nothing could be further from the truth. Trust me, this is a rather old-fashioned thriller closer to the classic thrillers of yesterday than to the violent slashers of the 1980s.

Road Games is very laid back — the emphasis is more on thrills than on violence. The movie doesn’t show a single drop of blood — the film is rated PG — and minus the ending, which was a last-minute addition requested by the producers (totally unnecessary, I must add), violence occurs off the screen. The climax, which takes place at one really odd location, is funny, suspenseful, and satisfying.

Stacy Keach is perfect as the average man confronted with extraordinary circumstances. Keach’s Quid is a flawed, but very likable person. It’s a reactive character and Keach is especially good at acting with his eyes.

Jamie Lee Curtis is “Hitch” (another clever homage to Hitchcock), Keach’s unlikely sidekick (she’s Grace Kelly to Keach’s Jimmy Stewart). Keach and Curtis have great chemistry and it is fun to see them reinvent the Master of Suspense’s traditional hero & heroine. Grant Page (Stunt Rock) is simply terrifying as the vicious serial killer (Page was also the stunt coordinator). And the grungy pooch is a scene-stealer!

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Watching it late at night, I felt like I had taken a ride down the subconscious of the Aussie landscape (I’ve never been to Australia — it’s on my bucket list, though). The fact that the ride was filled with humor and thrills made it all the sweeter. Anyhow, Road Games is a minimalist and fun thriller, tailor-made for Hitchcock aficionados. P.S. The Anchor Bay DVD (R1) contains a nice 20-minute documentary titled, Kangaroo Hitchcock: The Making of Road Games. Color, 101 minutes, Rated PG.

P.S. This is my contribution to The Blizzard of Oz Blogathon, hosted by The Midnite Drive-In.

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25 responses to “Road Games (1981)

  1. You’ve made me want to see this film immediately–I am a huge Hitchcock fan AND a Jamie Lee Curtis fan, and love all of DePalma’s homages starring Nancy Allen, Melanie Griffith, etc. This seems right up my alley!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m gonna skim this one as I’ve been meaning to see it for blooming ages. That amazing cover art work freaks me out so I keep putting it off for a day when I’m in mood for something brutal! BUT then as a spied through my fingers hoping to not hit any tiny spoilers I spotted this line.
    “The fact that the ride was filled with humor and thrills made it all the sweeter. Anyhow, Road Games is a minimalist and fun thriller, tailor-made for Hitchcock aficionados.”
    And you know what I hadn’t expected that at all, especially for what I had imagined. I will move it up my watch list schedule. I’ll pop back when I see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For whatever reason, I had no interest in this when it was first released in theaters, but now that I’ve read your review, and knowing it’s Hitchcock-like, I’ll definitely track it down…I’m very intrigued to see how it parallels the Hitchcock films you mentioned. (I never knew it was filmed in Australia, either, which makes it even more interesting).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the poster and trailer suggest yet another cheap slasher film. In fact, Stacy Keach complained that the producers didn’t do a good job advertising the film.

      Like

  4. This is one of the movies that I have wanted to see that were briefly touched on in the “Not Quite Hollywood” video I referenced in my Road Warrior review. I wanted to see it then, and I want to see it even more now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve always been a fan of Stacy Keach and, in particular, think he is very good in slyly comedic roles. I’ve never seen Road Games but now I think I need to. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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