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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While driving across lonely, misty, rain-streaked California backroads en route to Santa Barbara to visit her sister, nice middle-aged lady Clair (Cloris Leachman) decides to give handsome young hitchhiker Miles (Michael Brandon) a lift to San Francisco. Unbeknownst to Clair, Miles is really a volatile and dangerously unpredictable psychopath who's eager to get out of town as fast as possible because he just murdered his shamelessly flirtatious harlot stepmother (a memorably smoldering cameo by enticing brunette hottie Sherry Jackson of "Bare Knuckles" and "The Mini-Skirt Mob"). Meanwhile, gruff homicide detective Henry Darrow gives dogged chase. Tautly directed by Gordon ("Scream and Scream Again") Hessler, with a jittery score by Gil ("A Cold Night's Death") Melle, a pleasingly terse and to the point sense of streamlined narrative economy, and an especially harrowing conclusion, this gripping and suspenseful made-for-TV "danger on the road" thriller does the trick with spot-on satisfying brevity and effectiveness. Moreover, the performances are uniformly sound: Brandon delivers a genuinely chilling and convincing portrayal of the frighteningly unstable Miles, Leachman is excellent as usual (and at the time was acting in a slew of TV movies in both lead and secondary roles), and the ubiquitous Cameron Mitchell pops up as a helpful police captain. Tight, tense and absorbing, "Hitchhike!" is well worth picking up.
Distraught over a failing relationship, classical music loving Cloris
Leachman (as Claire Stevens) leaves her Los Angeles area apartment for
an annual visit with her sister's family in San Francisco. On the
freeway entrance, Ms. Leachman picks up an attractive young
hitch-hiker. He turns out to be moody Michael Brandon (as Keith Miles),
who has just stabbed a woman entering his bed for sex. The woman was
Mr. Brandon's latest in a string of sexy step-mothers...
While driving to San Francisco, Leachman and Brandon flesh out each other's emotional needs. Multi-awarded for "The Last Picture Show" (1971), Leachman plays the attractive spinster role so well, and this one's no exception; she is terrific. Brandon is a perfect match; balancing his character's human and inhumane traits, he makes the ride believable. Adeptly led by director Gordon Hessler, the ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" crew holds interest and excitement.
****** Hitchhike! (2/23/74) Gordon Hessler ~ Cloris Leachman, Michael Brandon, Henry Darrow, Cameron Mitchell
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