Two friends on a fishing trip pick up a stranded motorist who turns out to be a psychotic escaped convict. This sociopath has already murdered other good Samaritans in his efforts to evade authorities. He sadistically taunts and threatens the two men and perversely delights in telling them that he has them both marked for death sometime before the end of the trip. His destination is a ferryboat in Baja, California, which he hopes will help him get to the mainland. The hostages hope to stay alive long enough to escape or be rescued by Mexican authorities.
Running Time: 71 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: Approved
Classic film noir has a certain set of conventions - one often seen is the protagonist making some chance error that seems to open up a Pandora‘s Box of trouble;then FATE begins its relentless pursuit of the character until he is stamped out or left whimpering like a baby.
In The Hitch-Hiker, we see this convention played out as two friends (Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy) head down to the Baja for a little fishing;well, that’s what they told their wives, but once there they seem attracted to the bright lights of the red light district and head towards it like flies to honey. Before they can get there, they pick up what appears to be a stranded motorist who turns out to be their worst nightmare.
The hitch-hiker is Emmett Myers (William Talman), a fugitive who started his spree in Kansas and has killed several people hitching his way down to where the two guys pick him up.
The Hitch-Hiker is interesting because it was directed by Ida Lupino, a woman who had played girls from the wrong side of the tracks since the 30s and had gotten the studios angry by refusing roles she thought were cast off by big name actresses like Bette Davis, to whom she was often compared.
Lupino never made the first echelon of great actresses, but I always liked her performances. Two especially memorable are Road House and Lust for Gold. Anyway, Lupino branched out from acting and got behind the camera, which was very unusual for its time. She could possibly be thought of as breaking the glass ceiling for the women who have broken into directing since, like Kathryn Bigelow.
The best part of the movie has to be the hitch-hiker’s performance. Talman’s character has a twisted, stony grimace and an injured eye that stays open all the time, even when he’s sleeping. Talman does not try to imbue the character with much sympathy, he just plays it straight, well as straight as a sociopath can be. One interesting interlude concerns the hitch-hiker covering one guy with his revolver while making him shoot a tin can out of the other guy’s hand with a .22 they brought along for sport.
As the movie progresses, the guys are trying to figure out how to overpower the hitch-hiker without much success. I mean, how do you get the drop on a guy who never seems to sleep? Meanwhile, they are getting ever closer to their destination - a destination that could be final, for them.
The cinematography is excellent, with lensing by Nicholas Musuraca (Out of the Past). Lots of dark shadows and dramatic angles, the score is also good at keeping the tension mounting. The big weakness with the movie is the script. Although it has some pretty good exchanges of dialog, the storyline proceeds linearly from A to Z without a single twist or surprise. The camera pretty much stays with the three companions, with cutaways at intervals to the police searching for the fugitive. No love interest, no femme fatale. By the time it plays out to the end, you’ve already guessed it.
The Hitch-Hiker is available on DVD from a company that publishes public domain works for around six bucks. I would only recommend it for film noir completists or fans of the work of Ida Lupino.
A better film to see famed character actor Edmond O’Brien do his noir chops is DOA
Thanks for reading! (written by www.epinions.com)
The Hitch-Hiker is an excellent little independently produced film-noire thriller directed by Ida Lupino. It is about two pals on a fishing trip who stop to pick up a hitch-hiker whose car has apparently broken down, What they don't realize is that the hitchhiker is a crazed killer. The movie is exciting and keeps you hooked untill the very end. written by Johnny 5 "Movie Guru"
Robert L. Joseph
Edmond O'Brien ... Roy Collins
Frank Lovejoy ... Gilbert Bowen
William Talman ... Emmett Myers
José Torvay ... Captain Alvarado (as Jose Torvay)
Sam Hayes ... Himself (Radio Broadcaster)
Wendell Niles ... Himself (as Wendel Niles)
Jean Del Val ... Inspector General
Clark Howat ... Government Agent
Natividad Vacío ... Jose (as Natividad Vacio)
National Film Preservation Board
National Film Registry
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