• Road Games (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: November 12th, 2019.
    Director: Richard Franklin
    Cast: Stacy Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis, Grant Page
    Year: 1981
    Purchase From Shout! Factory

    Road Games – Movie Review:

    Directed by Richard Franklin and written by Everett De Roche, 1981’s Road Games stars Stacy Keach as a truck driver named Pat Quid. He’s an American working in Australia and he keeps his mind busy on those long stretches of open road by playing different games and talking to his pet dingo. When hauling his latest load, a truck full of meat, he picks up a middle aged woman left at the side of the road by her husband. As they talk, she tells him of police reports about a killer operating in the area – and shortly after Quid spies a green van pulled off the road, its driver (Grant Page) burying a large garbage bag out in the desert. Quid recognizes the van and its driver from his stay at a hotel the night before.

    As his journey continues, Quid picks up another hitchhiker, a pretty young woman who he dubs Hitch (Jamie Lee Curtis). They hit it off but after she disappears rather quickly, he becomes certain that the killer has taken her. Confident that he’s got this figured out, Quid sets out to make things right, while the cops close in on him based on the fact that his own odd behavior has them suspecting he might actually be the culprit himself.

    An odd hybrid that fuses quirky, sometimes almost slapstick style comedy, with Hitchcockian thrills and the odd Mad Max inspired car wreck chaos, Road Games is one ridiculously entertaining film. At an hour and forty minutes in length it feels right in terms of its running time and its pacing. Franklin is savvy enough to let us get to know Quid and Hitch, as well as a few of the other supporting players, through the dialogue that occurs naturally over the course of their conversations. This lets us into their heads a bit and makes them more interesting to watch without over explaining things and allowing a palpable sense of mystery to run rampant through the picture.

    Of course, the fact that the performances are as fun as they are in this picture certainly doesn’t hurt either. Jamie Lee Curtis is underused in some ways but she’s really good in her part. She’s got the right mix of sex appeal and genuine charm that you can easily see why Quid would take a liking to her Hitch. Grant Page as the supposed killer doesn’t get much in the way of dialogue here, but the famous Australian stunt man/actor certainly looks right for the part. He’s shaggy and disheveled looking and he’s made up in such a way and uses his body language in such a way that, yeah, there’s something suspicious about the guy. The real star of the show, however, is Keach. He’s excellent in the part, able to handle the comedic side of his character with ease but also able to turn things up and get serious when the movie calls for it. This is really hammered home in the film’s last twenty-minutes or so, where Franklin deftly ramps up the intensity in the picture.

    Road Games – Blu-ray Review:

    Shout! Factory brings Road Game to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc sourced from a 4k scan of a release print using the transfer from the previous Blu-ray release from Umbrella as its base. For this reason, the image is fairly grainy and the contrast is a bit on the hot side, but all in all this is a pretty solid image given what there was to work with. Detail isn’t ever reference quality but it is solid throughout and it definitely offers a noticeable step up from what DVD would have been able to provide. Skin tones are also fine and there are no noticeable issues with either edge enhancement problems or obnoxious noise reduction.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track on the disc, in the film’s native English, is solid. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Quality here is good, besting the Umbrella release which only had a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix on it. Dialogue crisp and clean and the score sound good. Sound effects have some power behind them and the no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.

    Extra features start off with an all new audio commentary featuring cinematographer Vincent Monton, production coordinator Helen Watts and costume designer Aphrodite Kondos that is moderated By filmmaker Mark Hartley (director of Not Quite Hollywood). They talk about the controversy that arose around the casting of two American actors in an Australian film, working with Richard Franklin, shooting car interiors and the trickiness of doing that, Franklin’s attitude towards working with the crew and how the director preferred the preparation to the actual shooting of the film. They also discuss having access to the highway for shooting only sporadically, the use of a Mercedes truck in the film, the very specific placement of the ‘hoochie koochie’ doll in the movie, how Franklin wanted Cliff Robertson to be involved in the film and how they turned down Mel Gibson for the movie, shooting on location in a roadhouse, staging and shooting a truck chase in the middle of a desert, how the film works as ‘Bogey and Bacall on the road’ (Curtis is quoted as having said this to Hartley), Franklin’s tendency to not shoot a lot of coverage so as to avoid re-editing and plenty more. No dead air here, just lots of great stories about the making of the picture. This track is excellent.

    There are a few new featurettes here too, starting with the thirteen-minute Australian Long Haul, which is an interview with leading man Stacy Keach. It’s a great talk wherein Keach talks about the troubles of dealing with the Australian film board, the locations used, what it was like working on Australia (bugs!), working with Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Franklin and more.

    Also included is a nearly two-hour Script Read with Franklin, Keach and Marion Edwards. This thing runs just a few minutes short of the two-hour mark and it’s audio only but it is an interesting and authentic time capsule the documents the pre-production process for the film. Is it something you’ll go to more than once? Probably not, but it’s important that it be included here.

    Shout! Factory also offers up a four-minute selection of composer Brian May’s music demos that play out over a poster and still gallery.

    A bunch of extras from the Umbrella release are carried over here as well, starting with the commentary track from director Richard Franklin (initially recorded for the long out of print Anchor Bay DVD release of the movie). Here Franklin talks about what drew him to the project, shooting the film out in the Australian outback, his thoughts on Everett De Roche’s script, working with the various cast members on the picture and with Keach and Curtis in particular and quite a bit more.

    There’s also an assortment of audio interviews, the first of which is with Grant Page and runs thirty-three minutes. Here Page talks about working on the film as both an actor and as a stunt coordinator. He shares some interesting stories about working with Franklin on the picture as well as what it was like being cast alongside some of the other performers. Speaking of which, Stacy Keach talks for ten minutes about working on the film, his thoughts on Franklin’s directing style, how much he really likes this picture, acting alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and more. An archival interview with Franklin is also found here, clocking in at twenty-four minutes. This piece features the man talking about how he got into filmmaking in the first place, some of highlights of his career behind the camera and a fair bit more. Some interesting footage from different projects he was involved with plays out underneath this piece, originally recorded back in 1981.

    Moving right along, we find over an hours’ worth of uncut interviews originally shot for the documentary Not Quite Hollywood. Franklin, Keach and Page pop up here again but so too do writer Everett De Roche and leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis. Everyone looks back on this one pretty fondly and all involved seem to have enjoyed working together on the film even if it wasn’t always the easiest shoot to be on. In the aptly titled Road Games Lecture we get two hours and eleven minutes with Franklin where he speaks to an audience alongside co-producer Barbi Taylor and composer Brian May about the intricacies of making Road Games. Franklin covers some of the same ground here as in the other pieces he was involved with but getting May and Taylor on board ensures that there’s enough new material included here to make it worthwhile for fans of the film. Also, worth checking out is the twenty-one minute long Kangaroo Hitchcock: The Making Of Road Games featurette. Carried over from the aforementioned Anchor Bay DVD, here Franklin talks about the Hitchcock connection, casting the picture and more while Keach chimes in with his thoughts on his character, his co-stars and the film in general.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, animated menus and chapter selection. It’s also worth mentioning that the disc comes packaged with some nice reversible cover art and, for its first pressing at least a collectible slip cover.

    Road Games – The Final Word:

    Road Games is clever, it’s funny and, particularly in its last half hour Road Games is quite tense. Keach and Curtis are great in the lead roles and there are some fun supporting players thrown into the mix for good measure. Franklin directs with style but keeps the pacing deliberate and controlled. Shout! Factory gives the film a very strong special edition Blu-ray release on a disc stacked with extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Road Games Blu-ray screen caps!