Theatrical film poster
|Directed by||Richard Franklin|
|Produced by||Richard Franklin|
|Screenplay by||Everett De Roche|
|Music by||Brian May|
|Edited by||Edward McQueen-Mason|
Roadgames (also known as Road Games) is a 1981 Australian horror-thriller film directed by Richard Franklin and starring Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. The film follows a truck driver travelling across Australia who, along with the help of a hitchhiker, seeks to track down a serial killer who is butchering women and dumping their dismembered bodies along desolate highways.
The film opens on truck driver Patrick Quid (Stacy Keach) as he pulls into a motel for the night. Quid notices a man in a green van checking in with a female hitchhiker he had passed earlier because the trucking company policy forbids it. Nevertheless, Quid is upset at the man for taking the last room in the motel and picking up the attractive hitcher. In the motel, the hitcher strums a guitar naked on the bed, while the unidentified man unpacks a new guitar string. He winds the string around his gloved hands and uses it to strangle the woman.
Quid wakes the next morning in his truck. His pet dingo sniffs relentlessly at the garbage outside the motel, and Quid notices the van driver watching the dingo from the window of the motel room. Quid picks up a load of pigs from Universal Meats. He sets off for Perth with his load and passes various characters on the road: a nagging wife and her family, a cautious man hauling a sailboat, and a station wagon crammed full of toy balls. He repeatedly passes by another female hitchhiker.
The wife creates a roadblock by streaming pink paper across the highway. When Quid stops at the sight of it, she climbs into his cab and orders Quid to catch up with her husband who left her at the side of the road. They play What's My Line? to pass the time. The woman informs Quid about the grisly murder of a woman, and his nonchalant answers start to disturb her. She suspects that he might be the serial killer from the news. Quid stops the truck when he sees the green van parked along the road. Its driver has several trash bags and an esky. He appears to be burying the bags. When the van driver notices Quid watching him through binoculars, he abandons his work and drives away.
At a roadhouse, the van driver assaults Quid's dingo while he is inside. Quid gives chase, but he encounters the slow driving boat owner who refuses to let Quid pass. Eventually, Quid destroys the boat, but the green van is too far off to catch.
Quid picks up the female hitchhiker, Pamela Rushworth (Jamie Lee Curtis), that he has passed before. She gradually reveals that she is the daughter of a powerful American diplomat. Quid urges Pamela to let her father know that she is alright. The duo eagerly discuss the serial killer. At a service station, they notice the green van parked near the restroom. Quid sees a pair of feet in the toilet stall, and he thinks he has the killer cornered. Pamela investigates the green van while Quid tries to get the man to exit the stall. As Pamela reaches for the esky inside the van, she realizes that the driver is sleeping on the floor. In the restroom, a biker emerges from the stall and rushes outside. Quid rushes outside to see that the green van is gone.
When he catches up to the van, it appears that Pamela is happily in the passenger seat. Later that night, Quid notices the van parked off the side of the road, and pulls over to investigate. He hears people giggling in the bushes nearby and assumes that Pamela and the van driver are engaged in sexual intercourse. When he breaks into the van to investigate, he finds that the esky only contains food so he rests his suspicions.
Quid arrives at the outskirts of Perth, and while reporting to the weigh station, sees the green van. The proximity of several police cars revives his suspicions, and he follows the van through the streets of Perth, trailed by the police. Eventually the van reaches a dead end, and Quid's truck becomes stuck in the narrow alleys.
The van driver approaches Quid's truck and attempts to strangle Quid with a garrotte, but Quid manages to disarm him. When Quid starts to strangle the van driver with the same weapon, the police arrive and falsely assume that Quid is the killer. Upon freeing a gagged and bound Pamela from the van, the police learn that Quid is innocent, and Pamela's actual captor is caught whilst trying to escape through the crowd.
When Quid finally delivers the meat shipment, he relates to Pamela that earlier after he had found his trailer door open and discovered the load weight a few kilos over, he had presumed that the van driver had killed her and disposed of her inside his trailer. Back at the meat facility, a woman cleaning out the back of the trailer is brushed by a guitar string hanging from the ceiling and, on pulling it, gets a nasty surprise as a human head, presumably that of the murder victim, falls from above and lands in her soap bucket.
- Stacy Keach as Quid
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Pamela ("Hitch")
- Marion Edward as Frita
- Grant Page as The Killer
While making the film Patrick Richard Franklin gave Everett De Roche a copy of Rear Window as an example of how he wanted the script typed. De Roche loved the content of the script and expressed his desire to write a film with a similar plot but set on a moving vehicle. He developed the idea with Franklin in Fiji, where the latter was co-producing The Blue Lagoon (1980). De Roche wrote the first draft of Road Games over a period of 8 days in a hotel, with Franklin visiting periodically during breaks in the production of Blue Lagoon.
Shot on location in the Nullarbor Plain and in Melbourne, the budget of $1.75 million was the highest ever for an Australian film at that time. Avco Embassy paid $500,000 for all rights outside Australia, and the balance came from the Greater Union, the Australian Film Commission, the Victorian Film Corporation, and the Western Australian Film Council.
Australian actress Lisa Peers was cast to play opposite him, but the US distributors insisted on an American co-star, so Franklin cast Jamie Lee Curtis. The film ran into trouble with Actors Equity when the Melbourne branch of the union approved the importation of Curtis, but the Sydney branch opposed it. "We found ourselves as the ping-pong ball in a game of politics between Melbourne and Sydney, and it nearly resulted in the film closing down," said Franklin. Franklin later acknowledged wishing he had increased the size of Curtis' part to take more advantage of her.
Road Games was a box office bomb in Australia upon its June 1981 release. It was released theatrically in the United States in November 1981, and similarly did not perform as well as originally expected, which Franklin blamed on its marketing as a slasher film. However, it did lead to Franklin landing the job of directing Psycho II in 1983.
Variety gave the film a positive review, calling it "an above-average suspenser." The New York Times, however, gave the film a middling review, saying: "Although Road Games was made in Australia, the Outback might as well be the New Jersey Turnpike." Time Out gave the film a positive review, saying: "It's precisely its pretensions which make this a surprisingly agreeable cross of angst-ridden '70s road movie with Hitchcockian thriller... Effective as a string of cinematic shocks, the movie manages a good number of coups, with its cargo of raw meat, use of Jamie Lee's association with endless knife-flicks, and the ever-so-slightly surreal placing of figures in a vast landscape, making for an endearing horror pic."
(1981 AFI Awards)
|Best Supporting Actress||Marion Edward||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Vincent Monton||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Edward McQueen-Mason||Nominated|
|Best Original Music Score||Brian May||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best International Film||Nominated|
|Best DVD Classic Film Release||Nominated|
The film was first released on VHS in Australia by Star Video in the early 1980s. In the US, the first VHS release was handled by Embassy Home Entertainment and later in the 1990s by Nelson Entertainment. Roadgames was first released on DVD in the United States on 10 June 2003 by Anchor Bay Entertainment, this release has long gone out of print with copies running at $85 on Amazon.com. In Australia, Umbrella Entertainment released a special edition DVD in 2004–this DVD is also no-longer in print. In April 2016, it was announced that Umbrella would release a new 4k restoration of the film for the first time on Blu-ray disc.
- Stratton 1990, pp. 261-62.
- "Interview with Richard Franklin", Signet, 15 September 1995 Archived 1 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine accessed 18 November 2012
- Stratton 1990, p. 261.
- Scott Murray, "Richard Franklin: Director/Producer", Senses of Cinema, 12 July 2008 accessed 26 October 2012
- Stratton 1990, p. 262.
- Kangaroo Hitchcock: The Making of Roadgames (2003). Anchor Bay Entertainment.
- Interview with Richard Franklin, Mondo Stump, originally published in Eros Magazine Vol 3 No 1 (2003), Canberra accessed 15 October 2012
- Staff (31 December 1980). "Review: 'Road Games'". Variety. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
- Mitgang, Herbert (8 February 1982). "KEACH IN AUSTRALIAN 'ROAD GAMES'". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- R.M. "Roadgames, directed by Richard Franklin". Time Out. London. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
- Curtis, Jamie Lee; Keach, Stacy; McLean, Greg; and Quentin Tarantino (2008). Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (Documentary). City Films Worldwide.
- "Road Games". Amazon.com. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- ""Road Games" to receive 4k Blu-ray treatment from Umbrella Entertainment!". Fangoria. 8 April 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- Stratton, David (1990). The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 978-0-73290-250-6.