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Richard Franklin’s Roadgames (1981) transposes Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) to the desolate highways that girdle the remote Australian outback. In place of James Stewart’s apartment Franklin gives viewers the cab of Stacy Keach’s truck. In place of Grace Kelly Franklin casts Jamie Lee Curtis. Many of the narrative beats are the same, just dressed differently.

The static voyeurism of Rear Window is supplanted by the kinetic voyeurism of life on the road. Keach, as a character in constant motion, sees more of the world but with less context. Rear Window, with its single setting, presents a tapestry of images all glanced from a static point. In Roadgames the point of perspective is constantly changing, therefore negating the tapestry effect. Instead Roadgames takes its images and episodes in sequence. The modernist reflexivity of Hitchcock has evolved into the post-modern reflexivity of Richard Franklin.

Franklin’s film also utilizes tropes from the giallo in how the filmmaker dresses and codifies the film’s serial killer. It’s an operation of unifying similar but distinct styles into a uniquely Australian context. Richard Franklin’s aesthetic operation is not too dissimilar from Brian De Palma’s work in how he connects Hitchcock to the giallo tradition.

The fundamental difference between Franklin’s film and those of De Palma and Hitchcock is that Franklin never foregrounds the inherent psycho-sexual aspects of the genre. Instead Franklin opts to portray the events of his film as something of a pulpy adventure. Keach’s character Quid is no neurotic; he’s a tough guy who quotes poetry. Quid is a hero from the tradition of John Huston’s manly adventure dramas, not the flawed and tortured soul one associates with thriller pictures.

The film that results from these unique genre fusions is a taught and suspenseful thriller that’s more fun than it is frightening. Keach excels at playing off-beat tough guys and really carries Roadgames in a way no other actor probably could. It’s definitely a film where Richard Franklin is working at his best. This one is an all-time classic.