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DVD Review

Roadgames (1981)


Starring: Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 15
Available 03 March 2008

Quid is minding his own business, driving his truck full of meat, when he is witness to a strange event. He thinks nothing of it until reports of missing and dismembers young girls start to come over his radio. Convinced that he was witness to the killer disposing of a body, Quid becomes determined to catch him. Along the way he picks up a young girl, Hitch, whose subsequent disappearance puts him under suspicion as the killer. Now, with time running out, Quid must find the killer and clear his name. The killer, however, has other ideas…

Roadgames (1981) was directed by Richard Franklin and nominated for six awards. The film was the successor to his earlier psychological drama Patrick (1978). His inclusion of two American actors was an attempt to gain greater acceptance with an American audience.

Inevitably, parallels will be drawn between this and Duel (1971), Spielberg’s superb psychological road movie, and indeed there are some similarities in the way that the story is shown from one mans perspective - though Franklin has further extended this to include a little black humour and constructed the whole thing more like a homage to Hitchcock. This is more Rear Window (1954) than Duel.

The road is usually presented as a metaphor of the path which the protagonists use to either run to or run away from something in their lives. Quid (Stacy Keach) appears to be trying to find that frontier mentality that has long since disappeared from America; he even acts like he has the invulnerability of a John Wayne when chasing the killer.

Though the audience can see, by the reaction of the police and the town’s people, that Quid is way out of his depth, he seems oblivious to this fact. The more he chases Smith/Jones (Grant Page) the more the authorities think that he is the killer by virtue of him being the outsider - a character always worthy of suspicion. The desert road offers both the hope of freedom and liberation in its wide open spaces, whilst at the same time actually constricts his freedom of movement. Quid, whether he likes it or not, is destined to confront the killer.

His position is further eroded as he has not had his normal stop-over, so there is always the suspicion that the whole thing is a product of paranoia brought about by sleep deprivation. Certain that the police are looking for him he transforms from gung-ho vigilante to frightened man on the run from both the authorities and the killer.

Unlike Quid, his temporary ally in his quest Hitch, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is not a seeker but a runner and not a very truthful one at that. When they first meet she says that her mother is dead, but then proceeds to call her. The ending is suitably enigmatic as to leave open her complicity in the abduction and murder of the other girls.

This is an odd but successful feature which should be enjoyed by any fan of Australian movies. Keach plays his part well and for what its worth, as she not in it a lot, so does Curtis. Personally, I felt that the film bottled out in the end. The whole thing is constructed to put Quid in the frame for the murders only for the thing to have a semi happy ending.

The print is okay, but nothing special and certainly does not do the Australian wilderness justice, but what really lets the package down is its lack of extras; you get one theatrical trailer and that’s it.

So an interesting, if flawed, film.


Charles Packer

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