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Road Games – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Quite possibly the most underseen film during Jamie Lee Curtis’ legendary horror run in the late 1970s/early 1980s that gave her the moniker of being THE scream queen, is 1981’s Road Games. Richard Franklin’s Australian film is a cult classic and has yet to see United States representation on the Blu-ray format. Umbrella Entertainment in Australia saw a very nice release a few years back, but now, Scream Factory is trouting out a brand new Collector’s Edition of the film to put up alongside the other Jamie Lee Curtis classics in their vault; The Fog, Halloween II, Virus and the out of print Terror Train (Though now available from Scorpion Releasing as a Ronin Flix exclusive). Road Games is loaded with some new interviews and bonus features as well as some old ones. Sadly no new Jamie Lee stuff on the disc, but Stacy Keach lent himself for a new interview. You’ll be able to grab this one very soon as it releases on Tuesday, November 12th. You can grab one ordering from Shout! Factory’s site or the Amazon link in the review (Which Why So Blu receives a minuscule percentage of off of the purchase).

Film

Stacy Keach is Pat Quid, a lone trucker who plays games to keep his sanity on long hauls through the desolate Australian Outback. Jamie Lee Curtis is a free-spirited hitchhiker looking for excitement with a game of her own. And somewhere up ahead is a maniac in a van whose game may be butchering young women along the highway. But when the killer decides to raise the stakes, Quid’s game becomes personal … and the rules of this road are about to take some very deadly turns.

This movie may have its attention due to being an early horror film with Jamie Lee Curtis as a co-star during her run of Halloween-The Fog-Prom Night-Terror Train, but its much more than just a footnote. In fact, one could argue its better than most of the films I just mentioned. Richard Franklin produces a terrific thriller set on the backroads of the Outback that delivers chills, jumps and some disturbing moments of horror.

Franklin was a student of Hitchcock and turns in an almost thesis for the master’s methods with an Australian spin on them right here in Road Games. Its almost like he’s making the 1980s version the Steven Spielberg film Duel. Its no surprise that Franklin would be the guy hired to play against the odds and direct the sequel to Psycho. And shocking everyone, he pulled it off. The talents here on display almost work as an audition reel for that job. He even has Janet Leigh’s daughter cast in it.

Jamie Lee Curtis feels like she’s given something a little different here (Though she’s a a hitchhiker like she was in the fog). She’s completely a supporting character despite the film trying to sell you on her being the star (But, she is the draw). No, there’s no question that this is Stacy Keach’s film. He’s a generous performer and really gels with Jamie Lee Curtis and never lets her not have her moments or know that she can command the movie when need be. Keach is also quite compelling and quite terrific in the film. Typically, someone like Keach feels like a career should have been just character actor and side superiority roles, but we lucked out that he was given plenty of leads throughout the 70s and 80s.

Road Games is a movie you surely should seek out. Its a terrific horror/thriller movie and even if you’re not into horror movies but a film person, you should get a kick out of it. The movie is made with great technique and plenty of ambition that no matter what genre you fancy or don’t, Road Games will get your respect. Its perhaps the least seen of the Jamie Lee Curtis horror films she did during her “run”, but is easily one of the tops and perhaps the ONE you should see above the others (Though, I’d say The Fog is that one, but if you’re going with the non-Carpenter bunch…).

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: There isn’t information available on this release regarding the transfer for the film, but one could assume its coming from the same as the Umbrella Blu-ray from 2016. That was a 4K transfer from an original release print. If anything maybe Shout Factory has done maybe a tiny tinker her or there that isn’t noticeable. The film is in pretty good shape, with terrific details and a very filmic appearance and sort of sun baked during day scenes. The nighttime stuff works quite lovely. It has a very low budget Australian feel to it, but to Franklin’s credit as a director and does so much more with so little compared to others.

Depth:  Spacing is pretty decent thanks to the hands off approach here, with good smooth movements and confident camera dollies and zooms.

Black Levels: Blacks are decently handled and deep without being too consuming. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are a bit on the neutral side here, with some scenes pumping more vividness than others, but there aren’t really any bursting colors in the mix to really stand out.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a little warm with a little bit of washout and consistent from start to finish. Facial features and textures are well discernible from any reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA (The back of the case lists a 5.1 track, but only the mono is found on the disc)

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This mono tracks is more than decent, but one that you could hope for a little more from. Nonetheless it does a bit more than “gets the job done”. There are some solid nuances in the mix, which is well balanced. Effects do pull some decent loud and low effectiveness when it needs to.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and plenty audible throughout with a little bit of analog sourcing (vinyl hiss) present as a nice almost backing layer.

Extras

Road Games – Collector’s Edition features reversible cover art showcasing the original poster.

Audio Commentary

  • With cinematographer Vincent Monton, production coordinator Helen Watts and costume designer Aphrodite Kondos, moderated by filmmaker Mark Hartley
  • With producer/director Richard Franklin

Australian Long Haul (HD, 13:25) – An interview with actor Stacy Keach. “One of the most adventurous movies I’ve ever done” Keach proclaims as he discusses the challenges of making the film from having to fight the Australian film board to let Jamie Lee Curtis star in the film, the exotic bugs they battled on set and more.

1980 Script Read with Producer/Director Richard Franklin and Actors Stacy Keach and Marion Edwards (HD, 1:56:30) – This reach took place in 1980 and is audio only.

Composer Brian May Music Demos Accompanied By Stills and Poster Gallery (HD, 4:15) 

Kangaroo Hitchcock: The Making of Road Games (SD, 20:23) – The retrospective document featured on the Anchor Bay DVD.

Uncut Interviews From Mark Hartley’s Documentary Not Quite Hollywood (SD, 1:03:19) – Features interviews from the 2008 documentary with Jamie Lee Curtis, Stacy Keach, Richard Franklin, Everett DeRoche and Vincent Monton.

Vintage Lecture on The Making of Road Games (SD, 2:10:22) – VHS sourced from a full lecture, in pretty decent shape and sound given the source and age.

Audio Interview with Producer/Director Richard Franklin (HD, 23:28) – This interview goes over his career starting with college at USC (Mentions being classmates with John Carpenter who he describes as “funny”). It sounds as if it was carried out in front of an audience. Just a solid Q&A session.

Vintage Profile on Producer/Director Richard Franklin (SD, 24:35) – This is an episode of an old Australian program that works as a biography and interview with the director on his career with different focuses on his films that were made at the time.

Audio Interview with Actor Stacy Keach (HD, 9:10) – This phone interview (Just on Keach’s end) was carried out for the Australian Blu-ray release back in 2016.

Audio Interview with Actor Grant Page (HD, 32:48) – Another phone interview for the 2016 Australian Blu-ray.

Gallery of Stills, Production Shots, Storyboards and Promotional Material (HD, 32:13)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:11)

Summary

Road Games is a terrific, unique thriller that is a wonderful showcase of Stacy Keach’s prowess and shows what a wonderful addition Jamie Lee Curtis could be to a film in her follow to Halloween. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray of the film features a similar audio and video quality to the Australian release from three years ago (Except the lack of the 5.1 track that is oddly listed but missing). There are some nice new extras to go along with the ones from that Umbrella release. Its really damn impressive how much archival and in depth material exists for this little movie. We are very lucky. A definite pick up.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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