Watching Films on TV & Richard Franklin’s Road Games

Stacy Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis, and a possible dingo in Road Games
Stacy Keach, Jamie Lee Curtis, and a possible dingo in Road Games

Although I love going to see movies in a theater there is something wonderful about watching movies played on TV. I think it’s the spontaneous nature of it that I enjoy so much. Usually when I go to a theater there’s planning involved; I have to decide who I’m going with, what I want to see, and if I buy popcorn will share some with me? More times than not, going to see a movie becomes, as I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog, an event. And while this is all good fun, because of the planning involved I usually lay a good deal of pressure on the movie to be worth it all. There’s nothing worse than walking out of a theater feeling disappointed. When you watch a film on TV, the only pressure on the film is that it should be good enough where you don’t feel like changing the channel.

The main channel I look to for watching films on TV is Turner Classic Movies. TCM is fantastic in the way it presents films. There are no commercial interruptions that break up the tension or flow of the film, there is no censorship or unjust editing, and a handful of films presented each night are introduced by a knowledgeable host who will give you a nice background of the film’s importance. My favorite part of TCM though is that due to the high volume of films they air I frequently find myself watching good films that I have previously never heard about. This past Friday TCM showed 1981’s Australian thriller Road Games, a film that I’ve never heard about before but instantly fell in love with.

Road Games was directed by genre favorite Richard Franklin who is most (in)famous for his 1983 sequel to Psycho in which he was able to get Anthony Perkins to reprise his role as Norman Bates. The film stars Stacy Keach as Pat Quid, a possibly hallucinating truck driver, and Jamie Lee Curtis as Hitch, a feminist hitchhiker, and gives the pair a stream of fleeting clues and shadows to chase as they hunt down a probable murderer. Road Games was originally conceived as Rear Window on a highway and although the film is very derivative Franklin is smart enough in how he uses Hitchcock as an inspiration where it doesn’t feel like a either a rip-off or just kind homage. Instead, Road Games plays with the conventions of Hitchcock films to create the next logical step in genre thriller.

The film didn’t do well overseas and is still a rarity here in the United States (a used region 1 DVD of Road Games begins at $35 on Amazon) but was nominated for several awards by the Australian Film Institute upon its initial release. Road Games was nominated for best editing, best cinematography, best score, and actress Marion Edward was nominated for best supporting actress for her role as a suburban motorist who confuses Pat Quid for the killer he’s trying to catch.

What I personally loved about the film was the sound editing. One of the key features in this film is the truck that Pat Quid drives. So much of the horror and the excitement in this film comes from the way the truck is portrayed as this gargantuan machine. There is also a very tense scene which comes later on in the film where Franklin makes good use of a constant banging sound coming from the back of the truck. It’s a good exercise of how sound can be used to breed terror instead of just using sound to shock.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite films that you’ve seen spontaneously?  Have you seen Road Games? Please leave some comments below so that we can continue our discussion on watching films on TV, Road Games, and whether or not you’re going to split this popcorn with me.

-Jet Fuel Blogger, Lucas Sifuentes

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