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The Hitch-Hiker (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on October 18, 2013

Old pals Roy Collins (Edmond O’Brien) and Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy) are enjoying some time away from the stresses of home, taking a detour from their planned trip in the mountains to go fishing in Mexico.  Their vacation turns into nightmare when they pick up a hitch-hiker… escaped convict Emmett Myers (William Talman), a desperate murderer trying to make it to Santa Rosalita.  With his pistol constantly at their backs, Myers forces them to take him there, with a promise of death at the end of the journey.

Famously known as the only film noir directed by a woman, Ida Lupino’s tight, gritty thriller holds up perfectly well on its own.  Although O’Brien and Lovejoy are both fine in their roles, it’s Talman who makes this movie so irresistible.  In a genre loaded with dangerous characters, Talman’s portrayal of Myers comes off as one of the most menacing villains of noir.  He never lets his guard down, even sleeping with one eye open.  He commands and controls every move that his hostages make.  There is no doubt that he will pull that trigger — a trigger that his finger rarely leaves — if needed.  He sadistically toys with Collins’s life, and the only thing that seems to make him smile is reasserting his power.

The plot is as simple as can be, but the film is gripping in its details and execution.  Tense and claustrophobic, with more than capable photography by Nicholas Musuraca and a heavy score by Leith Stevens.  Rating: Great (89)


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