Roadgames (1981)

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Released 27-Sep-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Director
Featurette-Making Of-Kangaroo Hitchcock
Gallery-Promo Images and Posters
Storyboards
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Long Weekend, Harlequin, Turkey Shoot
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 100:38
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Franklin
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Stacy Keach
Jamie Lee Curtis
Marion Edward
Grant Page
Thaddeus Smith
Alan Hopgood
John Murphy
Bill Stacey
Robert Thompson
Colin Vancao
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Brian May


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, barely
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Quid (Stacy Keach) is a long haul driver who fancies himself as a learned man, "I may drive a truck, but I'm not a Truck Driver" being his motto. Keeping him company on the road is his trusty dingo, to whom he verbalises all manner of flights of fancy to keep his job from boring him to death. Every motorist he passes is given a label and has a story made up about their lives based on the moments Quid can see through their window. Sneezy Rider, Captain Careful, and the "frugal" family being some of the many folks he labels in his travels.

    Sleeping in his truck one night before a long haul across the Nullarbor, towing meat from Melbourne to Perth, Quid notices a van driver (Grant Page) pull into a hotel with a hitchhiker he had seen along the road in his previous day's travels. At an unusually early hour of the morning the next day he notices the stranger peering out the window, keeping an eye on the garbage outside the hotel. When an unwanted hitchhiker lets him know about reports of a serial killer on the highways, Quid begins to think the van driver may be that killer. His suspicions are raised further each time he passes the van driver, who always seems to be doing something suspicious and is carefully guarding an esky - one that in Quid's mind could well contain the remains of a certain hitchhiker.

    Along the way, Quid picks up a hitchhiker (Jamie Lee Curtis) who he nicknames "Hitch" (an obvious homage to Alfred Hitchcock whose influence is visible throughout the film). She happily discusses the how, where and why of the possibility that the van driver is indeed a serial killer in between all manner of time-wasting road trip games.

    As the days wear on and Quid becomes ever more tired from under sleeping and staring at the same road, he ultimately ends up raising suspicion that he is the killer and has to set out to prove his innocence.

    Director Richard Franklin cheerfully describes Roadgames as "Rear Window in a truck". That assessment is dead-on. Thankfully Roadgames doesn't just ape the Hitchcock classic, it adds its own unique dimension to the story, the confines and madness of the open road (building on the isolation themes of Rear Window), and that story is told remarkably well (arguably second only to Hitchcock's own storytelling). No surprises that Franklin followed Roadgames with the unexpectedly good Psycho II.

    The original marketing of Roadgames makes the film out to be yet another late 70s/early 80s slasher flick. Don't be fooled, this is one of the finest thrillers Australia has produced (possibly the finest, if it weren't for Long Weekend).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video looks good without being great. The video appears to have been converted to PAL from an NTSC source, as there is a slight judder to the image and interlacing artefacts can be seen if the video is paused. The image is a little soft throughout, which is likely due to it being interlaced and blown up from an NTSC to PAL resolution. Mild grain is present throughout the feature, though it is never distracting. The shadow detail in the video is fair, but far from great, and the many night time scenes look reasonable rather than great.

    The colours are a little bit pale throughout.

    There are no obvious compression artefacts visible in the transfer. There is, however, a mild telecine wobble visible at the start of the film. The print used for the transfer appears to be very clean. A handful of film artefacts are visible during the movie, though nothing bigger than a speck of dust.

    No subtitles are present for the feature.

    This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs at 57:01 but was not noticeable on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps) audio track is present for the film.

    The audio is quite soft, but well mixed - just at a low level. There are a few noticeable crackles during the loudest parts of the movie (such as at around 17:35), though they aren't terribly distracting. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. There are no real problems with the audio sync, although post-recorded ADR looping is occasionally noticeable.

    The film features a great score from Australia's Brian May (no, not that one), which mixes harmonica into a full orchestral score to create a mood of isolation that would seem right at home in any western - a perfect feel for a long drive across the Nullarbor.

    There is no noticeable surround or subwoofer usage.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary with Director Richard Franklin

    An excellent commentary by Richard Franklin, recorded for the film's US release. With some prompting from the US DVD Producer, Franklin candidly discusses where Roadgames fits in the film financing puzzle, the production experience, the casting and how certain effects and shots were done. The commentary strikes an unusually good balance between the technical and the trivial, making it an engaging listen.

Kangaroo Hitchcock Making Of Featurette (20:11)

    An excellent "Making Of" featurette, made for the film's DVD release, that covers the production experience (particularly interesting as this was the first Australian film pre-sold to a US distributor before filming began, which brought with it all manner of unusual production circumstances), the Hitchcock influence in the film, and the film's reception. The featurette includes plenty of recent interviews with the late Richard Franklin and Stacy Keach, who both appear to be relishing the opportunity to talk about the film.

Posters and Stills Gallery

    A wide assortment of promotional stills and a couple of posters.

Storyboards Gallery

    One of the many things Richard Franklin talks about in the making of was how he learnt the art of storyboarding, which was an unusual artefact for an Australian film at the time, by studying Alfred Hitchcock's production style. 6 of these storyboards, from the opening of the film, are presented here.

Theatrical Trailer

    A sensationalist trailer that mismarkets the film as a slasher flick and also gives away a major component of the ending.

Umbrella Trailers

    Trailers for other Aussie classics from the era, Harlequin, Turkey Shoot and Long Weekend.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Anchor Bay release features all the same extras found on the Region 4 release, save for the trailers for other films, and includes Talent Bios (which could just as easily be read from IMDB) and a PDF Copy of the Screenplay and Story Treatment. These PDFs put the Region 1 edition a nose ahead in comparison.

Summary

    A true Australian classic. A Hitchcockian thriller set on a road in the middle of nowhere.

    The video transfer is reasonable, but at the same time a little disappointing in that it is a slightly fuzzy conversion form NTSC. The audio is limited by the original material, but sounds decent. The extras are good in number and well worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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