Roadgames is one of the more notable Ozploitation movies. Directed by Richard Franklin, who at the time was called “the Australian Alfred Hitchcock”—which I think is being a bit too kind to him. Franklin also directed Patrick, which along with Mad Max was one of the first films to really break out of Australia and make some money overseas. Franklin went to the US, and since there was this Hitchcock comparison going around, he ended up directing Psycho II.
The film is basically built around the idea of “Rear Window on the road.” The writer Everett D. Roche worked with Franklin on Patrick, and Franklin then gave Roche the Rear Window script and suggested they make their own version. As it’s a big country, Australian films almost always have some kind of “road movie” aspect.
Stacey Keach plays an American truck driver called Quid who is traveling through Australia, who then starts to suspect that another driver in a green van is a serial killer. Keach picks up a hitchhiker played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have much to do in it, and that’s a shame as she’s a really good actress with a pretty large range. This was still during her scream queen period. Franklin himself says he kind of screwed up with Curtis, who kind of disappears for much of the action in the the movie after hooking up with Keach to track down the killer.
Almost a third of the budget was from Avco Embassy, a good independent studio, which wanted some big-name American actors in the film. Because of Australia’s rules about using homegrown talent, there was a lot of hassle with the union about bringing in in Keach and Curtis, and in the end they could have used an Australian actress anyway, as not much was done with Curtis. Keach is pretty good, as always. He had started on his comeback at this point, having just done the hit The Long Riders. Franklin wanted Sean Connery, but he was too expensive.
It’s an OK film, but very overrated; it’s definitely not quite the classic that some people make it out to be. Allegedly it’s Quentin Tarantino’s favourite Ozploitation film, and he is a very big fan of Franklin. Tarantino is such a sick and twisted individual that he thinks Psycho II is better than Psycho! (Tarantino also thinks Gus van Sant’s Psycho remake is better, because it’s “more real”…). It’s a decent, effective thriller, but not more than that It is well shot, but Franklin doesn’t have as much style as Hitchcock, or De Palma, for that matter.
The film didn’t end up doing that well since they sold it as more of a slasher movie when it really was more of a thriller, much the same happened with Psycho II.
The extras include all of the long interviews on Roadgames from the Not Quite Hollywood documentary plus an audio commentary with the director and film historian Perry Martin, another audio commentary with the cinematographer, costume designer, production secretary and filmmaker Mark Hartley; a third new audio commentary with writers and programmers Anna Bogutskaya and Olivia Howe; Kangaroo Hitchcock, an archival making-of; ideo interviews with Keach and Franklin; audio interviews with Franklin, Keach and stunt coordinator Grant Page; a lengthy lecture on the film with Franklin, co-producer Barbi Taylor and composer Brian May; demos of May’s score; an audio recording of the pre-production readthrough; one of Franklin’s early shorts; the original theatrical trailer; image gallery; and a huge 80-page book with essays, archival interviews, an overview of contemporary critical responses and other goodies.