Ida Lupino, Hollywood's sole female filmmaker of the 1950s, directs an all-male cast in a taut, 70-minute thriller. Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O'Brien are two war buddies taking a break from the wives for a Mexican fishing t... more »rip; a hitchhiker they pick up turns out to be a crazed killer wanted in nine states (William Talman, later the perennially defeated district attorney on Perry Mason) who forces them at gunpoint to drive him through the desert. Talman's Everett Myers is a fascinatingly abstract creation, filmed by Lupino first as a discorporate flurry of hands and feet, then as a satanic figure whose grinning, key-lighted face seems to float by itself in space. With his paralyzed right eye (he sleeps with it wide open), Myers may represent the return of the fascist evil the two men confronted during the war; he may also represent something inherently violent in the American male that, having been liberated by the war, has to be faced down and defeated by the two vets before they can return to a normal life. Lupino's use of the desert setting, rich with associations of nuclear devastation, seems to look forward to the science fiction films that would flourish later in the decade. --Dave Kehr« less
"The DVD version of the film "The Hitch-Hiker" offered for sale by the Roan Group does not play on various DVD players. Roan is aware of this problem, but does not advertise it. I have (unfortunately) purchased two copies of this DVD and in each case, the DVD freezes after the first few seconds of the standard introductory warning.The film itself is an important noir by an important actress and director, Ida Lupino. It is well worth seeing, but buying it from the Roan Group will not necessarily give you the opportunity to view it. Buy it from KINO if you want to see it."
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.""
Douglas Doepke | Claremont, CA United States | 12/07/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sure, the script seldom rises above potboiler status and the locations are familiar from a thousand Lone Pine cowboy shoots. Still, this unpretentious little suspenser really delivers the goods that will keep you on edge. The cast of three is outstanding. Was there ever a more low-key performer than Frank Lovejoy or anyone better at representing Joe Average. Edmond O'Brien calibrates as usual, making a credible companion to the laidback Lovejoy. Then there's William Talman in his pre-Perry Mason days, scaring the heck out of everyone with his bug-eyed psycho bit -- too bad he gave up the nuthouse for TV and a steady payday. Put a gun in Talman's hand and pack all three into a tight little car traveling to nowhere and you have a good view of 1950's middle-class nightmare. Hats off to pioneering woman director Ida Lupino for getting the most out of a boilerplate special. Potential buyers could do a lot worse."
Horrible copy of a good movie !
Brad Lloyd | Tulsa, Oklahoma | 04/01/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I believe Alpha Videos spent more time and money on the boxing cover of this good film noir movie than they did on the clean up of it ! The movie starts off very splotchy during the credits, cleans up a little bit but goes in and out of bad and very bad on the sound and picture. The ending scene is so dark, I have no idea what is going on. Alpha should be ashamed of themselves for putting this garbage out! I guess at this price I got what I paid for!! "
Tight, tough, terrific
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 03/26/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The only film noir directed by a woman, Ida Lupino's Hitch-Hiker benefits from her great decision to pare the movie down to its final length of 71 minutes. This makes it a tightly wound thriller that does exactly what it should---and makes you wish she had directed more films in the same genre.Two middle class working guys go on a fishing trip and make the mistake of picking up a wacko hitch-hiker, convincingly played by William Tallman, who quickly proceeds to force the two at gunpoint to take him to a remote town in southern California where he can hide out safely, he thinks. The wacko is a convicted killer who's wanted in a few states for murdering unsuspecting motorists.The interplay of the three characters is what gives the film its punch and is a powerful, non-cliched take on why you should never pick up a stranger. This is also one of the first American films to feature characters speaking in Spanish (although a brief scene, it lends some intrigue; the Spanish is not translated), that unfortunately contrasts with the Mexican police officials whose English is so perfect you know they're American actors. Nevertheless, this is a great entry in the film noir canon and worthy of seeing, if not owning, if you're a film noir buff."