The Hitch-Hiker (1953)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1953.  RKO Radio Pictures, The Filmakers.  Screenplay by Collier Young, Ida Lupino, adaptation by Robert L. Joseph.  Cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca.  Produced by Collier Young.  Music by Leith Stevens.  Production Design by Albert S. D’Agostino, Walter E. Keller.  Film Editing by Douglas Stewart.

This efficient thriller might be the best of the films that actress Ida Lupino directed. It stars Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy as two buddies on a fishing trip who are taken off course when an escaped convict (William Talman) insinuates himself into their backseat. The criminal with crazed eyes sticks a gun in his escorts’ faces and directs the voyage towards the Mexican border, where he is planning to make his getaway and, he makes it clear, tie up loose ends. Lupino keeps the action firmly on track, balancing exciting set pieces and tough guy conversations without ever letting one overpower the other, creating genuine terror through the unapologetic portrayal of the villain that is far grittier than the usual bad guys in movies of the era. Talman’s Emmett Myers isn’t the misguided poet with a broken soul who spent his childhood in the care of a priest played by Spencer Tracy, he’s actually a psychopath with no moral conscience, and once we are convinced of his inability to do the right thing, we’re hooked into a tense ride that never lets up until the exciting finale.

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