I've been waiting for a DVD release of Richard Franklin's Road Games. I've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting....It'd gotten to the point where I was convinced that either the film wasn't as good as I remembered it to be, or that some tragic fate had bestowed itself upon whatever prints of the film remained, rendering a remastering impossible. Happily, the case was none of the above. Apparently, Road Games had been quietly queued up on the Anchor Bay development list for some time, and it fell completely below my radar. Road Games is also every bit as good as I remembered it to be, and then some.
Quid (Keach) is an American ex-patriot living in Australia and working as a freelance truck driver. He's a tremendously complex (and lonely) man whose days are spent chatting up his dingo dog, reciting poetry, and analyzing and nick-naming his highway brethren as they pass him by. While on a stop-over in Melbourne, Quid spies a man and woman in a green van pulling into a motel. He recognizes the woman as a hitchhiker he and Bosley (his dingo) had passed hours before. When the man takes the last vacancy, Quid is forced to spend yet another night in his cab, only to awaken to the sound of garbage trucks and a growling dingo, tearing at a bag on the curb. Quid catches a glimpse of the man from the night before looking down at the garbage with great interest, but when a call from a meat packing plant sets him back on the long road between Melbourne and Perth, it's back to business, and he and Bosley take to the barren stretch of southwestern highway. When Quid sees the van again, however, the driver is now digging a hole in the middle of the desert, with a cooler and several small trash bags by his side. The man catches Quid spying on him, throws his gear back in the van, and speeds off. During the long and lonely drive, Quid's imagination goes into high gear, as he begins to imagine what it is this man is hiding. When news hits that the dismembered remains of several young women have been found scattered across the continent, Quid is convinced that the man in the van is the culprit. As Quid plays detective and tries to gather evidence against the mysterious "Mr. Smith or Jones", the van driver turns the tables on the nosey trucker and soon the evidence is pointing back to Quid himself!
Road Games is director Franklin's heartfelt homage to his personal hero, Alfred Hitchcock. The film could easily be described as Rear Window on wheels, and this was Everett De Roche's intention when he wrote the film after Franklin gave him a copy of Rear Window to watch for another collaboration between the two; 1978's Patrick. Franklin, in turn, filmed De Roche's screenplay as though he were the master himself, using the full arsenal of Hitchcockian tools and tricks like exaggerated depth of field, split focusing, and a particularly cool scene in which Quid has a conversation with himself while driving that's lifted right from Psycho. Franklin does all this without apology, and while it certainly doesn't make Road Games a unique film in tone or story, it does make it an exceptionally entertaining and satisfying bit of old fashioned suspense in a time where slasher films ruled the roost in the horror genre.
The DVD from Anchor Bay presents the film in a crisp widescreen transfer (enhanced for 16x9 televisions) that's solid throughout. The disc also features a very entertaining and informative commentary with Franklin (moderated by Perry Martin), a short making-of featurette that features interviews with Franklin and star Keach, the original theatrical trailer, storyboards, stills gallery, and talent bios.
Road Games is a fun and suspenseful little thriller that features a great script and flawless performances by Keach and Curtis (whose role here is very small but integral to the outcome of the film) all guided masterfully by Franklin. Fans of old fashioned thrillers should add this one to their must see lists!!