Road Games – tape 296

This tape opens with the end of News at Ten, and some Thames News.

Then, we have Road Games. It’s presented as part of an Australia 200 season. This was an early film by director Richard Franklin who would later make the excellent Psycho II.

It’s a film I vaguely remember watching, but perhaps I know it more by reputation. Stacy Keach plays Quid, a truck driver in Australia, travelling with his pet dingo. When we first meet him, he’s sleeping in his truck outside a full motel, inside which we appear to see a woman strangled, although it’s only implied, and we don’t see any of the faces involved.

As he’s driving, he observes the cars he passes, and hears on the news about a ‘possible Jack the Ripper style murderer’. I wonder if that will become significant.

He reluctantly picks up a middle-aged woman as a hitchhiker when she blocks the road with toilet paper – she’s been left on the road by her husband. She notices a man digging a hole, and Keach recognises it as the same man with a green van he saw at the motel at the start of the movie. Coupled with talk of a killer, he’s immediately suspicious, which freaks out the woman, who he drops off at the nearest roadhouse. He glimpses the green van again, and makes chase, but is prevented from pursuing by a man towing his boat.

Then, he meets Jamie Lee Curtis on the road, and decides to pick her up, since it’s the third time he’s seen her on the road.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Hitch

He calls her Hitch, not only an obvious pun on hitchhiker, but also a reference to Hitchcock – almost compulsory in thrillers of the 80s (see also the works of Brian De Palma). They talk about the man in the green van – she’s seen him too – and speculate over his motivations. These scenes are rather spoiled by the necessity to pan and scan the picture – nicely composed two-shots of Keach and Curtis in the cab become tiresome slow pans across the frame. Here’s a particularly egregious example, especially since this entire shot could have been framed entirely without pans.

As the film progresses, you realise that the Hitchcock homage goes deeper than the name – with its oddly recurring cast of drivers and cars, with Keach observing them all, and a suspicious man trying to bury things, it’s clear that the film is borrowing heavily from Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window.

There’s even a scene where Curtis goes investigating in the green van while Keach keeps the killer busy elsewhere – but it’s given a twist here as the man Keach thinks is the killer is actually another man.

All this leads to a final act where it’s clear Keach is becoming more and more in the frame for whatever is going on, Curtis’ fate is uncertain, and it leads to a great low-speed chase through the narrower and narrower streets of Perth.

Great fun.

And that’s all there is on this tape.

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One comment

  1. This is a very fine Ozploitation movie, and Franklin was a genuine student of Hitchcock (worked for him, etc) so he had more right than many to imitate his style. As you note, the low speed car chase is ingenious and surprisingly suspenseful.

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