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THE HITCH-HIKER

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    Horace Cordier
    Senior Member

  • The Hitch-Hiker



    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: October 15th, 2013.
    Director: Ida Lupino
    Cast: Edmund O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy, Wiliam Tallman
    Year: 1953
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    The name Ida Lupino may be forgotten by most except for the most ardent cinephiles but she remains one of the most fascinating figures in cinema history. An actress and director in an era when women were pretty much kept exclusively in front of the camera, Lupino had a long and fascinating career. In addition to starring and directing in a couple of TWILIGHT ZONE episodes and working as an actress in 50's films like Don Siegel's PRIVATE HELL 36, she's responsible for one of the great noirs of the 1950's - THE HITCH-HIKER.

    Made outside of the studio system, THE HITCH-HIKER is an unusually gritty and cold hearted entry in the noir canon. Essentially a three-hander about two buddies named Roy (Edmund O'Brien) and Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy) on a fishing trip down to Mexico who encounter a homicidal maniac - the title character - and are forced at gunpoint to help him make his getaway, THE HITCH-HIKER doesn't spend a lot of time on narrative or plot. Call it the stripped down and minimalist road movie from hell.

    The star of this show is William Talman as roadway slayer Emmett Meyers. Once our two everymen pick him up it's all spectacularly downhill from there. As soon as his butt is parked in the backseat Myers pulls a gun and it's "Do what I say or die" time. As he forces the two men to drive him across the Baja peninsula and into Mexico for his getaway plan he makes a point of terrorizing them for his own twisted kicks. One of the most compelling aspects of the film is the level of sadism shown by the killer. Meyers plays sick psychological games with his two unwilling victims and even forces them to do things to each other that are extremely dangerous. The entire film is one very tense game of cat and mouse between Myers and his two captives. Gilbert is the less emotional of the two victims and seems better equipped to take effective advantage of Myers when the inevitable slip-up occurs but the killer's droopy and disfigured eyelid provides a bizarre obstacle. Turns out that one can never tell if the killer is asleep or not!

    The police have been tracking the hitchhiker and as the three drive for the border the audience is given repeated newscasts on the car radio. This helps amp up the tension as the movie heads to the tense conclusion. At under seventy-five minutes this is a brutally efficient film. Aside from a short speech about "suckers" where Meyers shows his contempt for civilized men, the evil in his character is mostly shown through Talman's incredible physical performance. With his gruff voice, disheveled hair, drooping eye and menacing gun he's both a terrifying creation and a completely believable one. This is no garish boogeyman or super suave assassin. He's a petty and mentally stunted creep who derives all of his power from a gun.

    Lupino has a very terse visual style as a director but makes great use of the desolate California locales used in the film. Dusty roads and vast expanses of empty space on the roads suit the film and subject matter perfectly. There is also terrific use of light and shadow throughout the movie - most notably in a sequence that takes place on the docks.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Kino had some help with this transfer from the Library Of Congress but the end result is about the same as most other kino titles - the 1080p avc encoded-full frame transfer looks nicely film like with no visible digital tampering. Black levels are solid - crucial for a B&W film with many night sequences, and there is no sign of DNR. Image clarity is very good as well. Specks and minor print damage appear occasionally but are never a real hindrance.

    Audio is a decent Linear PCM 2.0 mono track that is well balanced if a little thin. Occasional anomalies like pops and crackles pop up once in a while but they are minor. There are no subtitles.

    Extras consist solely of a still gallery featuring primarily lobby cards and some Kino trailers for other films like WHITE ZOMBIE.

    The Final Word:

    The very toughest and most minimalist of film noirs dealing in particularly rough territory, THE HITCH-HIKER comes highly recommended to those with an eye for the edgiest fare the genre has to offer. Talman's unforgettable bad guy alone makes this a must see.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















    • Paul L
      #1
      Paul L
      Scholar of Sleaze
      Paul L commented
      Editing a comment
      I watched this the other week. I'd forgotten how good this film is. It's a solid presentation of the film, sadly bereft of contextual material but definitely worth purchasing, nonetheless.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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