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The Hitchhiker
The Hitchhiker
Actor: Edmund O'Brian; Frank Lovejoy; William Tallman
Director: Ida Lupino
2002     1hr 12min


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Movie Details

Actor: Edmund O'Brian; Frank Lovejoy; William Tallman
Director: Ida Lupino
Studio: Miracle Pictures
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 02/02/2002
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 1hr 12min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0

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Movie Reviews

Riveting Noir Thriller. Lupino's Best.
Interplanetary Funksmanship | Vanilla Suburbs, USA | 10/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Hitch-hiker" is a largely forgotten and overlooked gem in the thriller/film-noir genre. It is also Ida Lupino's best directorial effort for the big screen. For years, Lupino graced the silver screen as an actress, most notably in "They Drive by Night" and "High Sierra" (both with Bogart). In the late 1940s, Lupino formed her own production company, The Filmakers with producer/writer husband Collier Young.

The movie follows a pair of war vets, Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy who get some R and R from their wives to go fishing, and sneak off to Mexicali to troll for dames along the way. As you might well guess, they pick up even worse trouble in the form of hitchhiker Emmett Myers, played with a menacing edge by William Talman.

Myers forces the two to provide safe passage in their beat-up car down the Baja California peninsula to Santa Rosalia, where he can catch a ferry to the Mexico mainland.

The ride along the way is a harrowing trip, the suspense notched up by Young and Collier's excellent screenwriting. Daniel Mainwaring adds a lot of excellent noir dialogue in his uncredited contribution.

While O'Brien gives his usual competent good guy performance, Lovejoy and Talman really make this movie. Lovejoy gives this movie its heart: We sympathize with his character when he attempts to protect and reassure a little Mexican girl when the three stop at a dry goods store to stock up on groceries. Talman plays the killer Myers a bit off-kilter, his lean, elongated figure dominating the other two, his lazy, all-seeing eye holding them hostage while Myers yet sleeps. Talman's powerful performance looks forward to Rutger Hauer's portrayal in Robert Harmon's 1984 "The Hitcher" and Dennis Hopper in most everything he's been in since "Blue Velvet."

What most rings true with "The Hitch-hiker" is Lupino's use of actual shooting locations as opposed to set backdrops, and the cinema verite feel she gives in having her Mexican actors -- most importantly, the DF trooper who hunts down Myers -- speak in Spanish, without subtitles and without caricature. It almost has a documentary feel.

But what really makes this movie gel is RKO's sterling crew, which Lupino hired to put this movie together. One of the reasons this movie has more of a 1940s than 1950s feel is the unparalleled cinematography of Nicholas Musaraca, who was cameraman for many of RKO's best productions, most notably "Cat People" and "Out of the Past" (both directed by Jacques Tourneur). Who else but Musaraca could make a workaday Plymouth sedan appear so dominating and intimidating at it looms over the lonely dirt roads of the Mexican back country?

Musaraca's use of key lighting and deep shadows to heighten the tension really have you sitting on the edge of your seat, as does Leith Stevens' brass-heavy scoring, brimming over with trumpets as a counterpart to the car's horn and string basses portending doom with what legendary movie composer David Raksin called "fifthboding."

C. Bakaleinikoff, the great unsung conductor of RKO's soundtracks, directs with his characteristic Sturm und Drang he used in "Out of the Past" and Hitchcock's "Notorious" (1946).

Sound technicians Roy Meadows and Clem Portman mix the score, sound effects and dialogue superbly, employing a rich bass and a full, robust midrange. Characteristic of 1940s and 50s sound, you can identify every line of dialogue without any neck craning. Compare that with today's special effects extravaganzas, full of Foley effects and swoosh and clang aural graituity, in which most whispers are yet barely audible. Try as they might, today's Hollywood still can't produce a film comparable in technical consistency to the old studio system.

Personally, I rank "The Hitch-hiker" in my Top 10 favorite noir movies of all time. It belongs in such august company as "Double Indemnity," "DOA," "White Heat" and "Out of the Past.""
Tough Psychological Noir
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 04/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Ida Lupino, an accomplished actress and the only female director then functioning in major films, reportedly called "The Hitchhiker" her personal favorite of those she directed. The choice would be understandable in view of the taut quality that this low budget thriller assumes.

"The Hitchhiker" has been referred to as film noir and does not disappoint on that score, but the focus has not been nearly strong enough on the psychological element. It is tough psychological noir at its finest with the two victims engaging in a cat and mouse continuing strategy game with their lives on the line.

Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy are two close friends living in the border town of El Centro, California near the Mexican border. When they decide to unwind by journeying into Mexico for some fishing they obtain far more than they bargained for in the presence of William Tallman, a fine character actor receiving his foremost film opportunity in Lupino's low budget gem.

The vacationers agree to give Tallman a ride after he explains that his car needs gas and he is in a jam. Moments after he slips into the back seat the putative Good Samaritans learn that they are Tallman's latest victims. A ruthless killer, his latest murder was perpetrated after a man picked him up when he was hitchhiking!

The 1953 film was based on a true case involving a ruthless killer who was ultimately apprehended and executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison. It was written by top RKO professional Daniel Mainwaring, who penned one of the greatest film noir screenplays at his home studio with the 1947 classic "Out of the Past" starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. The McCarthy anti-Communist witch-hunt affected Mainwaring and RKO's studio head, the neurotic recluse Howard Hughes, refused to provide the screenwriter with credit for an effort that ranks with the tops in the genre, including "Out of the Past."

The film has little violence for a film noir selection, save exchanges of punches. Tallman's victims occurred in his bloody past. O'Brien and Lovejoy are forced to endure a situation in which a blood thirsty killer who hates humanity, including himself, can fire on them at any given moment and put their lives in a past tense status.

What escalates the tension all the more and provides confusion and indecision for O'Brien and Lovejoy is that Tallman has an affliction where one eye remains permanently open. As a result his victims are unaware of whether he is asleep or awake during the long evenings as they contemplate attempting to escape. On one occasion an attempt almost succeeds, but when O'Brien injures a leg and stumbles in a joint attempt to flee, his faithful friend returns to assist him and Tallman catches up with them.

The battle of wits revealed shrewdly in Mainwaring's taut script exists on the one hand between Tallman's two victims and the killer. It exists as well from Tallman's standpoint as he seeks to determine the fate of his victims. The other psychological confrontation exists between police authority and Tallman as the Federal Bureau of Investigation seeks to assist local Mexican authorities.

A shrewd touch employed by Lupino and Mainwaring involves the efforts by police to obscure where they really believe Tallman to be by feeding misleading information to the news media to communicate. At one point a smug Tallman believes he has outsmarted authorities when news reports reveal that he is believed to be somewhere in the U.S. Such stories are planted to confuse Tallman as well as to increase the chances of keeping O'Brien and Lovejoy alive.

To provide a greater measure of realism Lupino used two of the top Los Angeles radio news commentators from the period in Sam Hayes, the famous "Richfield Reporter", and the highly popular Wendell Niles."
The Hitchiker 1953
rusty ford | Central Oregon | 08/12/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Don't waste your money! The video quality is so horrible it is unwatchable! Just like it was recorded with a camera set-up in front off a TV screen, in fact the movie isn't even centered on the screen!

I saw his movie on TCM recently and it was wonderful. I really liked it, so I wanted a copy for myself , but was very dissapointed with the quality of what was sent,"