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8/10
A Definite "Thumbs" Up.
jhclues28 May 2005
Thanks to modern technology, another film noir classic has escaped from Hollywood's vault of too-often-overlooked or forgotten films. Albeit a minor classic, "The Hitch-Hiker," directed by Ida Lupino, is a taut drama notable for it's realism, as well as a haunting performance by William Talman.

Reputedly based on a true incident ("Penned from the headlines"), the story traces the movements of a hitch-hiker, Emmett Myers (Talman), who repays his highway hosts by robbing and murdering them. Initially, we are shown mere glimpses of Myers and his victims, which successfully sets the stage for the introduction of Roy Collins (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy), two friends on their way to a fishing trip in Mexico, when, unawares, they pick up Myers.

What follows is a realistic depiction of what most likely would transpire when ordinary people are suddenly faced with such extraordinary circumstances. And the strength of the film lies in the fact that when Collins and Bowen are kidnapped, held at gunpoint and forced to do the bidding of their captor, they react and behave in a manner that is both consistent with their current state of affairs and believable. There are no feigned heroics or superhuman contrivances that allow the two captives to effect an escape; instead, the story plays out in much the way one would, in reality, expect in such a situation, which, when extrapolated, effectively drives home the true horror of Collin's and Bowen's circumstance.

The lion's share of the credit for the success of this film must go to director Ida Lupino, whose almost documentary-style approach to the story lends it the necessary grit and intensity. She scores double points, as well, for not only delivering a memorable film, but doing so at a time in which few women were afforded the opportunity to perform at such a level behind the camera. Lupino's success no doubt helped pave the way for the likes of Jane Campion, Jodie Foster, Gillian Armstrong, Allison Anders and a host of other women who have since proved that gender alone does not equate to excellence and ability in the director's chair.

In arguably his best performance, character actor William Talman turns in a memorable performance as the sociopath, Myers. Forget your Freddys and Jasons; Talman's portrayal creates the kind of character that nightmares are really made of. Myers is a guy you could pass on the street, or-- yes, even give a lift to if you saw him with his thumb out on the highway-- without giving him a second thought. And that's what makes him so scary; his disguise is that he doesn't have a disguise, and it's so much more effective than having a hockey mask or hands with steel fingers could ever be.

O'Brien and Lovejoy also turn in credible performances, creating characters who, like Talman's Myers, are real. Watching them, you believe that Collins is, indeed, an auto mechanic, and Bowen a draftsman; two friends off together to do some fishing.

The supporting cast includes Jose Torvay (Captain Alvarado); Jean Del Val (Inspector General); Clark Howat (Government Agent); and Natividad Vacio (Jose). The 71 minute running time is perfect for this film; rather than resort to superfluous filler, Lupino stays on task without ever straying, and in the end makes "The Hitch-Hiker" a ride that will leave you wondering what you would do in a like situation, and hoping that you'll never have to find out. It's the magic of the movies.
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Fascinating thriller with a terrific performance from William Talman.
Infofreak25 August 2003
Supposedly the only Film Noir directed by a woman (Ida Lupino of 'High Sierra' and 'On Dangerous Ground'), 'The Hitch-Hiker' is a fascinating thriller that holds your attention from start to finish. Edmond O'Brien ('D.O.A.') and Frank Lovejoy ('in A Lonely Place') play two buddies on a road trip who pick up a hitch-hiker (William Talman, best remembered as Hamilton Berger on the old "Perry Mason" TV show). BIG MISTAKE! He is actually notorious psycho killer Emmett Myers. Talman gives a terrific performance as Myers, a real nasty piece of work with a bum eye so you never know if he's asleep or awake. He holds the men hostage, bullies and provokes them, even uses them as target practice. We've seen many similar plots over the years but I thought this was a fresh and unpredictable. Lupino's direction really suits the material, the tension builds throughout, and Talman is unforgettable. If you like thrillers track this one down. Highly recommended.
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Gem of a B-film-- brutal & creepy
IndieVisibleMan16 September 2000
Warning: Spoilers
THE HITCH-HIKER is based on a true story, which makes it all the more creepy. Well-directed by Ida Lupino; it was powerful without a lotta trappings. Simple story, inexpensive exterior shooting, and tight acting. Starred William Talman (the bungling D.A. of Perry Mason), Frank Lovejoy, and... Edmund O'Brien.

Never was much a fan of the early O'Brien-- he doesn't pull off the toughness he tries for, so I was on-guard for some over-acting from him. No worries this time, for the most part. But TALMAN was the great surprise! Wow! What happened to his career after this film?? He was terrific in this role.

His villain wasn't one of those super-intelligent, epitome-of-evil psychos. He's not an exotic, like Hannibal Lecter. Nor did Talman act like one of those oh-so-polite sorts. (As if it makes them more menacing to have nice manners when they threaten you. Think "Goldfinger".)

No, Talman was effective as a more true-to-life sort.. the kind that seems more menacing to me as a viewer, because you really might run into this bastard. The only politeness he showed to his victims was to offer them a cigarette. And when he was feeling pleased with himself for nearing the end of his escape, he bought them a beer.

Talman's character was a pushy sadist, but never tried to spice it up by pretending to be nice. His ugly game of target practice was evil-- he held one guy at gunpoint and made him shoot a rifle at his friend, who was forced to hold up a tin can. (I don't think this is too much of a spoiler.)

He wasn't a Brainiac, just had a talent for staying in control, keeping a never-closing vigilante eye (his creepy-looking right eye wouldn't close when he slept, so his hostages never knew when to try anything). He invested all his energy into avoiding capture.

Lovejoy and O'Brien worked well together as the Normal Joes who happened to pick up the wrong guy. Again, because they're more true-to-life, you can identify with them better than a hard-boiled detective.

Realistic location shooting also makes this simple story more powerful. Lupino deserves credit as a film-maker, and I'm glad she's being recognized more and more.
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8/10
A Buried Little Treasure!
bsmith55521 March 2002
"The Hitch-Hiker" is an excellent little independently produced film-noire thriller directed by Ida Lupino. It is essentially a three character story about two pals on a fishing trip (or is it?) who stop to pick up a hitch-hiker whose car has apparently broken down, What they don't realize is that the hitchhiker is a crazed killer.

The two buddies are played by two of the best character actors of the period, Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy. The hitcher, in the role of his career, is played by William Tallman (of TV's Perry Mason fame).

The story covers their trek across the desert back roads of Mexico in an effort to evade the law. Most of the film takes place within the claustrophobic confines of O'Brien's car as he and Lovejoy remain at the mercy of loose cannon Tallman never knowing where or when he might decide to shoot them. Lupino gives us a compact, tense and suspenseful thriller. Shot in black and white, it runs a brief 71 minutes and delivers an excellent drama on a limited budget.

Rarely seen today, this movie is a buried little treasure.
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A motorist's worst nightmare
jhawk-224 July 1999
I saw this movie recently for the first time on Turner Classic Movies. This is a tough and suspenseful little movie. The killer is a truly evil character; no ambiguity about his character as you might expect in a more recent film. It must have been considered a brutal film when it was made, though its mild by today's standards. The location setting in the bleak desert adds to movie's atmosphere and tone. And, it was directed by a woman, rare today, and even more rare in the 50s.

Exciting, fast-paced, and never boring.
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8/10
It actually COULD be you in that car!
Coventry20 October 2006
Usually when movies based on factual events start with a warning that it easily could have happened to you instead of to the characters, you don't pay too much attention to it, as it mostly handles about unlikely situations. Sure you'll wonder how you'd respond or randomly imagine what it would feel like, but in general the true events won't haunt your thoughts for long. In the case of Ida Lupino's "The Hitch-Hiker", this is totally different! Chances are high that once in your life, or maybe even recently, you picked up a hitcher and, after seeing this film, you won't do that again any time soon. That's how much of an impression this excellent film-noir will make on you. This flawlessly acted & directed thriller sustains a uniquely tense atmosphere from start to finish, and this without reverting to explicit violence or dreadful clichés. Inspired by the real-life murder case of Billy Cook, the plot centers on merciless serial killer Emmett Myers, who hitchhikes on the quiet roads of rural America but coldly executes the people that are kind enough to offer him a ride. As the list of casualties dramatically increases and police forces get to close on his tail, Myers hijacks one last car to escape into Mexico. The unfortunate passengers are Roy Collins and Gilbert Bowen, two buddies on their way for a fishing weekend. Myers continuously holds them at gunpoint, even sleeping with one eye open, and makes perfectly clear they aren't supposed to survive the journey. Amazingly realistic in "The Hitch-Hiker" is the depiction of Roy and Gilbert's behavior. Even though they have nothing to lose, they always obey their hijacker and live in fear for him. Perhaps it's because the director is a woman, but there's absolutely no macho nonsense or tough dialogs going on here. Myers is the guy with the gun and certainly not afraid to use it, so you obey his every command. William Talman's performance as the maniac is simply perplexing! With his odd eyes, monotonous voice and overall nihilistic world perspective, he definitely makes one of the scariest villains in the history of film-noir cinema. Top recommendation, don't miss it.
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A brisk and effective thriller
bob the moo9 November 2006
Roy and Gilbert are heading to Mexico on a fishing trip together when they stop to pick up a hitchhiker. Too late they realise that the man has not really run out of petrol but is actually criminal Emmett Myers, who has killed his way across several states and is now using them to continue his getaway from the authorities. With Emmett holding the two friends at gun point, he forces them to drive deeper into Mexico – all the time making it very clear that they are only alive while he needs them alive and not any longer.

The opening caption informs us that this is based on a true story and also tries to engage the audience by pointing out how the couple in the car could have been you (or the people across the aisle). Really though it needn't have bothered with either because the caption doesn't add a great deal. It may be based on a true story but it didn't seem like it was interested in this beyond using the facts as a frame for the story and personally I didn't think it needed to try and put me into the car because Ida Lupino did that well enough by herself. The story is simple and it is to the director's credit that she holds it together so well. Yes it is short by modern standards but she should not lessen how well she has brought out a constant sense of tension whether it be in the tight confines of the car or in the desperate bleak openness of the desert.

She is helped by a strong trio of performances from actors who appear to be punching above their weights. Although they haven't a huge amount of depth in their characters they do convince in the realms of tension and fear. The friendship between O'Brien and Lovejoy is solid and helps to support the slightly weak element of the script which is that they never seem to even considering leaving the other for even a second. Talman is memorable in the title role, easily building a screen of menace before allowing the cracks to show.

A pretty good film then. It trades on atmosphere and tension, both of which Ida Lupino works with really well. The actors maybe don't have depth to trade on but they respond well to the tone of delivery and give suitably good performances.
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7/10
no melodrama
funkyfry28 August 2007
Ida Lupino's "The Hitch-Hiker" is like a B-movie bullet coming at the audience. No fat. No melodrama. Nobody trying to get home in time to save the crippled kid. Just a lean and mean treat – as the police-style narration promises us, 70 minutes of "true" crime suspense.

The plot is as straight and narrow as they come. Two war buddies (Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O'Brien) decide to detour south to the Mexican border to make their vacation more interesting (possibly a nudie show or two) and get far more action than they bargained for when they pick up a psychotic prison escapee (William Talman) who holds them hostage. The film's big gimmick is the fact that the hitch-hiker has one paralyzed eye, so that the two hostages can't tell when he's sleeping or awake to make a break for freedom. Considering how cheap this device sounds it actually works extremely well under the direction of Lupino and Talman's performance. As he tries to make his way to freedom across the Mexican deserts, the hitch-hiker drags these two All-American types with him and engages in sadistic games for his own amusement like having one of them hold a tin can while the other shoots it out of his hand with a rifle. After trying to escape together several times the hitch-hiker makes the film's most profound statement by taunting the 2 friends "you could have escaped if you didn't worry about each other" (or words to that effect).

Apparently there is some controversy over whether this film should be called a "film noir". It's been in the public domain for many years and has been included on a lot of "film noir" collections sold at bargain prices, and presumably some viewers have been disappointed by this film's lack of the usual things you see in a "film noir". Now first of all their complaints should be directed at the people who labeled the DVD instead of the people who made the movie 20 years before the term "film noir" even existed. Now is this just a semantic question? Yes and no. Ultimately it doesn't matter what we call the film. It's a suspense film, basically. In other words a film with a more or less set outcome where the audience spends the whole time worrying about "how" and not "what". There seems to be a disturbing trend with this film and some others, that I've gathered over the years reading comments, to hold these movies to some kind of extrinsic standard, a set of values totally alien to the film itself. The film does not have a "femme fatale". OK, it doesn't have any women period. It has no dark semi-Gothic melodrama. Perhaps most noticeably it does not take place in the dimly lit alleyways of urban America. Hence some "film noir fans" have chosen to deride the movie for its perceived deficiencies and to declare it lacking based on a strange confluence of out-of-control marketing (the chronic use of the word "noir" to sell videos) and narrow genre rules for a "genre" that never actually existed. Still others seem to stray in the opposite direction, considering any film "noir" that employs expressionistic photographic devices that were in common usage far back in the silent era. Instead of all this we should look at the film for what it is and only consider it in terms of "noir" as far as it helps us to understand the piece in relation to contemporary films of the 40s and 50s.

The most unusual aspect of the film in my opinion is its total lack of dramatic pretense aka melodrama. The meat of the film is in the 2 men's relationship and the way that the criminal interloper throws that friendship into relief. Superficially speaking they are "innocent" while he is "guilty". But what's interesting in the film is the way that the mere presence of this evil person brings out the weakness and corruption of the 2 friends. The hitch-hiker's comment about how the 2 men could have escaped separately but were held back by their friendship implies, as do many of his off-hand insulting comments, that the 2 men are soft and corrupted by civilization and that the hitch-hiker himself is a stronger man because he does anything he wants to do. However when one of them asks him "have you ever had a gun pointed at you" it's a subtle reminder that both of these men are war veterans and that they might have a much greater understanding of power and fear than the criminal could ever possess. In this way the film addresses broader issues of the post-war American man in terms of how he sees himself and how others in society may see him. It digs into the insecurity that the domestication and suburbanization of the post-war culture brought to many veterans. And as far as I'm concerned this is prime film noir territory.

So if you're strictly interested in traditional tough guys like Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe, or if you insist on the standard "good girl vs. bad girl" melodrama (aka "femme fatale") then you probably won't get what you're looking for from this movie. But if you're interested in the broader themes of the corruptive influence of civilization that many "noir" films explore then this film is a novel way to see these themes expressed. It's a very well-made film – although not hugely ambitious, when taken on its own terms the film does have something to say about modern life.
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9/10
Cruelty and Terror in it's purest form
howdymax31 December 2000
Two old army buddies (Edmund O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy) take off on a fishing trip from California to the Mexican coast. At the same time, a fugitive serial killer (William Tallman) is hitch-hiking and killing his way across the country. They intersect in the desert, just before the Mexican border. He hijacks and holds them hostage on an odyssey into hell. We follow them deeper and deeper into the beautiful, but hostile desert as Tallman seems to outwit the authorities time and again. They become more and more terrified as he becomes more and more psycho. He displays a kind of pure malice and cruelty that makes your skin crawl. Example: He forces one of the buddies to shoot the glass out of the other's hand. His evil character has a drooping right eye. While preparing to sleep around a campfire, he dares the captives to guess whether he is awake or asleep. They guess wrong - he kills them. The viewer takes this trip across the desert with them, all the way to their final destination, and the climax of this exciting film. It is easy to see why Ida Lupino, was considered one of the premier film noir directors. Her concept of the fishing buddies, courageous, proud, but terrified reaches right down into our guts. But it is her balanced vision of the evil, intelligent, unpredictable killer that defines the film. This is a keeper. If you like it - and how could you not - try Split Second. There is a curious coincidence between these two films. Both were directed by famous and respected actors. This by Ida Lupino and the other by Dick Powell.
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8/10
The Tense True Story of a Man and a Gun and a Car
claudio_carvalho13 April 2012
While traveling in a fishing trip to San Felipe, the draftsman Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy) and his friend, the garage owner Roy Collins (Edmond O'Brien) give a ride to a stranger. Sooner they learn that the man is the psychopath serial-killer Emmett Myers (William Talman), who has escaped from prison and wants to reach Santa Rosalia in Mexico. The sadistic criminal also tells them that he will kill them in the end of the line.

"The Hitch-Hiker" is a thriller that discloses the tense true story of a man and a gun and a car with two friends that intend to spend a couple of days together fishing. Ida Lupino is the sole female director in Hollywood in this genre and "The Hitch-Hiker" is the one of the seven classic film-noirs produced by a minor studio ("The Filmmakers") that have been chosen by the National Film Registry that is the United States National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of the US Congress. William Talman is very impressive in the role of a criminal that never closes his right eye. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Mundo Odeia-me" ("The World Hate Me")
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8/10
An excellent suspense thriller that works!
gitrich2 November 1998
Directed by Ida Lupino, this tension filled suspense movie is absolutely outstanding. Edmond O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman star in a story about two companions, O'Brien and Lovejoy, heading out for a hunting trip only to be side tracked by a sadistic killer. Bill Talman's performance is especially effective as the bad guy in this film. Good luck trying to find it in video or on television. I have not seen it since the early 1950's. It was tied up in legal problems for many years and may still be.
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7/10
Ex-Convict Myers Suspect In Hitch-Hike Atrocities
Spikeopath5 February 2011
Out of RKO Radio Pictures, The Hitch-Hiker is directed by Ida Lupino and jointly adapted to the screen by Lupino, Collier Young and Daniel Mainwaring. It stars Edmond O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy & William Talman. Nicholas Musuraca photographs the film and Leith Stevens scores the music.

"This is the true story of a man and a gun and a car. The gun belonged to the man. The car might have been yours, or that young couple across the aisle. What you will see in the next seventy minutes could have happened to you. For the facts are actual".

The above opening salvo from the film is not without merit, tho due to the Hays Office requirements Lupino had to tone down her initial plans for the film. The story is based on the true story of murderer Billy Cook, who in 1950 posed as a hitch-hiker and murdered a family of five and a travelling salesman. The film picks up with the aftermath of that, where Cook then kidnapped two friends out hunting and forced them at gunpoint to drive him across the border into Mexico. Lupino researched her subject well, even interviewing the principals in the kidnapping.

Something of a cult favourite these days, The Hitch-Hiker is a brisk, lean and tight film showing how to get the maximum amount of suspense out of the simplest of set-ups. Practically a three character piece, the film thrives on claustrophobia and an impending sense of dread. Even when the characters come out of the confines of the car, we still feel stifled during the sequences that feature the men out in the desert. There's a sense of desolation in the landscape that marries up with the emotional state of our two kidnapped men. It's fine work by Lupino, who never lets the mood slip. She in turn is aided considerably by her writers and Musuraca's photography. The former cleverly only lets the kidnapped men's personalities unfold once they are seized by Talman's psychopath, the latter brings film noir agoraphobia to the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, location: A place that was often shown to be gorgeous in many a fine Western in the 50s.

All three lead actors do good work under Lupino's direction, with Talman particularly menacing, all lazy eye and snarly grins. While Stevens' music sits nicely with the tone of the story. Credit Lupino, too, for not letting her male driven movie contain any machismo posturing, or heaven forbid, testosterone fuelled bravado. Where the film does fall down is with its rather anti-climatic finale. For although the real life finale involving Billy Cook was genuinely mundane, the film's ending is also a bit of a damp squib. It's one of those cases where some poetic licence wouldn't have gone amiss. Still, it's far from a deal breaker, the film remains a taut and moodily enjoyable experience. 7.5/10
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Talman apparently impressed at least one viewer.
parryisle34 April 2001
William Talman once mentioned this film in a personal interview. He was driving in Los Angeles in an open convertible and stopped at a stop light. A fellow in another convertible looked over at him and asked, "You're the hitch hiker, aren't you?" Talman shook his head indicating that he was. The other driver then left his car and went over and slapped Talman in the face. Talman, when relating this story, said, "You know, I never won an academy award but I guess that was about as close as I ever will come to one."
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9/10
Never to pick up a hitcher
jcholguin23 January 2002
I never knew that William Talman could be such a killer. His character Emmett Myers, hitch-hiker killer is so opposite his most famous character D.A. Hamilton Burger from the Perry Mason series that I was fascinated. Meyers's right eyelid was paralyzed and could not close. When he was holding Edmond O'Brien & Frank Lovejoy captive in the Mexican desert late at night, as a human being he needed to sleep. Now, how could he hold his prisoners captive while sleeping? That is what O'Brien & Lovejoy were wondering. But, that eye could not close, was Myers really asleep or just pretending, after all, Meyers just kept looking at them with this eye. The first time it happen late at night, it wasn't worth the chance that he was pretending. Director Lupino does an excellent job of suspense with this scene. It happens a second time. This time it was worth a try, maybe he really was asleep? Would it be worth the gamble of my life? When you see this movie, you be the judge, is he pretending sleep or really awake?
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9/10
Terrific creepy performance by William Talman
mgmax6 January 2000
At one time actually thought lost, now this minor classic is on video (who says these aren't the good old days?). William Talman, who is mainly remembered as Perry Mason's dullish adversary/stooge on the TV show for years and years, gives a powerful and creepy performance as an insolent psychopath who holds two men hostage through a long road trip around the desert southwest and Mexico. Loosely based on a true story, there's not much more to it than that-- but it's tense and well-crafted all the way through, and deserves its reputation as Lupino's best movie.
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White-Knuckler
dougdoepke8 September 2017
Though I've seen the suspenser before, I still had a sweat bucket handy for this latest go-round. Great job all-around. It's the kind of B-movie old movie fans savor, that is, if you don't mind your knuckles turning white. Talman delivers a career performance as the psychotic hitchhiker Emmett Myers. He'd just as soon shoot you as shake your hand. So who do you suppose average guys Lovejoy and O'Brien give a ride to.

That's it, the whole story--- two nice guys at the mercy of an escaped lunatic with neither a tree nor a girl in sight. But the suspense seldom lets up. Sure, a critical eye could wonder why the two hostages don't try to turn the tables more than they do. Wisely, however, the script suggests that neither wants to endanger the other with a false move. Besides, Talman's one scary dude. Producer Lupino better have three of the industry's best actors because their interaction's the whole story. Fortunately she got them.

Two inspired touches-having Myers (Talman) unable to close one eye gives him a subtly gruesome appearance, plus filming in a hellish desert perfectly mirrors the situation. The lonely traveling car is like a one-way trip to Hades. I doubt that any film has gotten more out of a dollar-eighty budget than this little suspense gem. I love it when a cheap-jack production like this delivers more goods than the Technicolor biggies of the day. Thanks be to the versatile Ida Lupino and her company of three outsized talents for this minor triumph.
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8/10
Sterling crime flick with lashings of suspense and terror
fertilecelluloid27 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Ida Lupino's "The Hitch-Hiker", her own personal favorite, is a sterling crime flick with lashings of suspense and terror. Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy are fishing buddies heading to Mexico who pick up a murderous hitch-hiker, William Talman. As they are tormented and humiliated on the road by the ugly miscreant, the police attach themselves to their tail, insuring an inevitable confrontation. Lupino's film is dark and gritty, and boasts a lot of moody location shooting. O'Brien and Lovejoy are totally convincing as Talman's victims, conveying the complexity of the unenviable situation they find themselves in. Talman, who could have played the father of Arch Hall Jr. in "The Sadist", fills his murderous, angry character with three dimensions, permitting us a view of his cold, uncaring backstory. Cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca is bold and atmospheric, brilliantly capturing the film's dark, dusty journey and the unpleasant aspects of endless desert. Not what I would call a horror film, it is a gritty film noir directed with amazing assurance.
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7/10
Forget The Hitcher...
Leofwine_draca1 April 2015
...THE HITCH-HIKER is the original, '50s-made hitchhiking nightmare film. It's a straightforward three-hander in which a couple of buddies (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) are accosted by a manic serial killer (William Talman), who forces them to drive him to Mexico in order for him to escape the authorities.

This is a low budget, black and white suspense thriller that has more tension in it than a dozen recent movies. The low budget works in its favour, with tight camera angles making for a claustrophobic viewing experience. Actress Ida Lupino certainly knows what she's doing behind the camera as she rarely puts a foot wrong here: the pacing is exact and the performances are excellent.

While O'Brien and Lovejoy ground the movie playing the two protagonists, but in reality this is Talman's turn. He gives a pitch perfect turn as the creepy villain, one that would pave the way for later screen psychos like Robert Mitchum's character in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Talman's acting is the stuff of brilliance, and he alone makes the film worth watching. The rest of it is the icing on the cake.
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8/10
Making the Most from the Basics of Fear and Helplessness
secondtake17 July 2009
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Making the Most from the Basics of Fear and Helplessness

Truly low budget and yet a fully-realized, well acted, well directed drama. It's tense, the location work in Mexico is fabulous (and dusty and forlorn), and the basic plot is chilling.

Director Ida Lupino proves that she, like Orson Welles, can make a top tier movie with the cards stacked against her. While not cinematically daring or original (like Welles), The Hitch- Hiker is tough, smart, stark, and compelling. It has no gaps, no gaffes, and except for one American cop seen a couple brief times, no sorry acting. And the end is a thrilling rush that makes the steady build-up of worry all the more necessary.

There are three main actors involved, and all three play their roles with gritty realism. You want to shout at them sometimes to do something different, but you know that you might not if you were in their shoes. That things eventually go wrong is inevitable, but it makes sense.

Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca (Spiral Staircase and Clash by Night) deserves some of the kudos here for making an ordinary scenario work visually. And the tight script helps, too, so tight that many scenes have little or no dialog, and Lupino gets co-credit for the writing. It's interesting that such a male movie, dominated by men to the point that there are essentially no women in it at all, was directed by a woman. But clearly she knows what the threat of violence can bring to an innocent person, and how escape and survival is not easy at gunpoint.
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7/10
Taut Thriller from a Woman Director's POV
evanston_dad31 December 2017
Two buddies played by Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy pick up a hitch hiker who happens to be a psychopath on the run in this tense, no-nonsense thriller from director Ida Lupino.

This is the kind of film noir without an ounce of fat on it. It's about the two men trying to get away, and that's it. At one point, the killer tells them that he's going to do away with them, it's just a matter of when, so there's a ticking clock quality that adds suspense on top of that already created by the scenario of two average guys who find themselves in a bad situation.

Lupino proves herself to be a fantastic director, and the film's best asset is its fluid movement from one nail biting scene to another. She keeps things humming along, and the film, already pretty short to begin with, feels far shorter than it actually is.

Grade: A-
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7/10
Asphalt And Fear
slokes13 October 2017
This solid chillfest presents what happens when two ordinary men take an unlucky road trip and meet up with the title character, a merciless killer with a taste for sadism.

Collins (Edmond O'Brien) and Bowen (Frank Lovejoy) are war buddies who take off for a planned fishing trip to Mexico when they pick up Emmett Myers (William Talman), standing beside a stopped car. But Myers isn't the owner of the car, whom he murdered some distance away. He's a serial killer who sees Collins and Bowen as his next victims, as soon as he gets clear of the U. S. He wastes no time pulling his revolver and telling them the score:

"You guys are gonna die, that's all. It's just a question of when."

Director/co-writer Ida Lupino puts you in the car with the two doomed men, making every pit stop into a nail-biting exploration of how people deal with madness-induced pressure.

There are three enjoyable anomalies worth considering along the ride. Two of them are much commented upon: the fact a glamorous film actress is at the helm of such a hard film, with no female speaking parts in English and informed throughout by a kind of Hemingway tough-guy sensibility; and the fact the heavy is played so absorbingly by Talman, that future law-and-order foil to TV's Perry Mason.

The third: Of the two actors playing the prisoners, the one with the biggest name, O'Brien, who made such an impression three years prior as a similarly put-upon innocent in "D. O. A.", is something of a second banana here. Lovejoy's character is the one who employs patience and courage. He's got a wife and children, and as Myers taunts, "Just keep thinking' how nice it'll be to see 'em again."

Lovejoy and Talman, not to mention Lupino, deserved more chances to stretch themselves as effectively as they do here. All three put up stellar work.

Lupino and husband co-writer Collier Young set a quick tempo, punctuated by Myers' sneering jibes at his fellow travelers. No attempt is made at making him sympathetic, yet his terse, flat commands keep you riveted.

When he relaxes, he's even more unlikable. He mocks Collins and Bowen for being "soft" and even brags later on how one of them might have gotten away if they weren't that way.

"You kept thinking' about each other, so you missed some chances," he says.

You get the feeling Myers enjoys torturing the pair even more than he does the prospect of killing them. His fleering eyes, even with his right eyelid always half-closed, tell all you want to know about him.

The film moves even more quickly than its 71-minute running time suggests. Occasionally there are breaks in the action while we see an American fed talk strategy with a Mexican police commander (Jean Del Val, recognizable as the first actor seen speaking in "Casablanca.") This feels a bit canned, though, as do the radio bulletins telling of Myers' progress whenever he tunes in. The climax comes off a bit flat, too.

But "The Hitch-Hiker" entertains with its strong tension and its lack of gushiness or fat. This is a man's movie, no less manly for being the product of a woman who knew what men like, and how to deliver same.
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8/10
Without A Hitch
writers_reign19 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Ida Lupino was woefully underrated in all three areas - actress/writer/director in which she functioned in Hollywood. She appeared in - and enhanced - some great movies, Moontide, Roadhouse, The Big Knife, then became a writer/director on several major TV shows, plus a handful of low-budget but well-made feature films like The Hitch-Hiker. Coming in at 71 minutes, in black and white, 85 per cent of the running time involves only three actors, William Talman, Frank Lovejoy and Edmond O'Brian. If O'Brian is the class act, a gifted Shakespearean veteran who could turn his hand to anything, the other two are not overshadowed by any means and the ensemble playing is a joy to watch as is Lupino's inventive framing and use of shadow and light. A minor gem.
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opened eye
RResende25 February 2012
Road trip films are a very powerful genre because they convey a deep sense of oppositions merged to create a vision of unity. This something that, apart from this sub-genre, maybe only western can create so aptly, but with western we are always attached to the meaning of the films: western film is viscerally linked to a certain American vision of values, moral and ethics, and its Italian connection, to cinema itself, meta-narrative.

But the road-trip is free from so many conventions. They come in all shapes and sizes. So you can produce a road-trip movie in anyway, without being forced to obey the laws of a genre, because in the end, it's not one.

So we have the Bonnie and Clyde, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, My blueberry nights. Each a very shiny light in its own cinematic galaxy. Each creates its own rules.

But what works all the time as a key element in these films, and what it shares with western, is how it invites the filmmaker to shoot wilderness, wide spaces, infinite roads, to portrait solitude, inner voyages, personal dramas. That's the one thing that makes the film live or die.

This one lives. I have a growing admiration for Ida Lupino. A woman in the job mostly done by men. Giving us new versions of masculine genres. Feminine intimate calculation placed against (and over) men's intuitions and symbols. This is a film with no relevant female characters. She delivers, I think, a kind of deeper version of this genre, specially compared with the generality of films done in these days, when the medium was not so developed as to allow emotion to be shown from such an inside point of view.

So here we have a film of tension, instead of violence. The promise of the next thing that will happen is always superior to the perspective of actually seeing that. And that's what builds the shape of the film: the next thing. Talman gives us a very fair version for his typical character, more remarkable if we think it was still given when Brando hadn't broken the rules for cinema acting. And naturally, a film like this necessarily depends in important parts on the performance of the actors.

So this is a film of sketched but unfulfilled actions, tension as opposed to realizations. The promise of the next landscape, the next town always mirrors the evaluation of the situation by each of the 3 characters. That's why our bad guy keeps one eye always apparently opened, even when asleep.

My opinion: 3/5
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7/10
Sleeping With One Eye Open
seymourblack-18 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This cautionary tale about the dangers of picking up hitch-hikers was famously the first film noir to be directed by a woman (Ida Lupino) and its story is remarkably tense and gripping throughout. The fact that it has a short running time, a lively pace and a no-nonsense style of delivering the action, adds to the urgency of what's happening on-screen and emphasises that the events taking place have a momentum all of their own and that they're propelling the hitch-hiker's helpless victims towards a dreadful fate that they have no hope of escaping.

Roy Collins (Edmond O'Brien) and Gilbert Bowen (Frank Lovejoy) are a couple of guys from Arizona who plan to enjoy a short fishing vacation in Mexico but en route they see a man at the side of the road and offer him a lift. Almost as soon as he's seated in the car, the stranger, who is Emmett Myers (William Talman), pulls a gun on the men and wants them to take him through the Mexican desert to Santa Rosalia where he intends to catch a ferry. It soon becomes apparent that Myers is a serial killer who's on the run from the police and a radio report that they hear during their journey confirms that the police don't know his current whereabouts.

When night falls and the men settle down to sleep, Myers informs his hostages that, due to a deformity of his eyelid, his right eye remains open when he's sleeping and so they should forget about trying to escape because he's likely to see and kill them if they attempt anything like that. Knowing what a ruthless killer Myers is, Roy and Gil don't make any attempt to escape that night

The journey across the desert becomes increasingly difficult and Myers gets very agitated when the car horn starts to blast continuously and is upset again later when one of the tyres is punctured. In his more composed moments he shouts orders at his terrified captives and tells them that they're soft and that he's superior to them because he simply takes whatever he wants. In the rare opportunities that they get, Roy and Gil try to discuss an escape plan but this causes disagreements between them. Because of this and Myers' promise that he's going to kill them as soon as they arrive at Santa Rosalia, their need for some way out of their predicament becomes increasingly desperate.

This movie is intended to create an atmosphere of fear and this is successfully achieved because:-

1. its story is inspired by real-life events.

2. the ruthlessness of the killer is powerfully portrayed at the very beginning of the film.

3. Myers' shooting skills are demonstrated to his victims at an early stage of their journey.

4. his practice of sleeping with one eye open is extremely creepy.

Furthermore, locating the victims' ordeal in the claustrophobic confines of a car and the isolation of long empty desert roads highlights the fact that there's no easy escape from Roy and Gil's hellish ordeal.

Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy are very convincing in their roles as a couple of ordinary middle-class friends and William Talman is absolutely sensational as Myers, who is the personification of pure evil. With its punchy dialogue, moody visual style and intensely threatening atmosphere, "The Hitch-Hiker" is an incredibly strong, riveting and memorable crime thriller.
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9/10
Lupino Genius - Hitchhiker
arthur_tafero12 May 2019
Ida Lupino was a very good actress, but she was even a better director and movie executive. She really understood all the elements of film and film noir and put them into this masterpiece made for chump change. The twenty best films of the 21st century that feature suspense and tension (Speed and others), cannot come close to this film. Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy give outstanding performances; with Lovejoy doing his best work ever in this film. The real star of the film, however, is the underrated actor William Talman, in the best work of his career (and one that deserved an Oscar nomination) as the psycho killer. It was a shame that Hollywood at this time considered this genre subpar and not worthy of Academy Awards, when in fact, several mediocre films received much higher praise (like the sappy The Greatest Show On Earth and the corny An American in Paris). This is a perfect film for a film professor of Cinema 101 to use as an example of how to create suspense and hold it for an hour. How to keep tension for an hour is not an easy feat to achieve, and it is seldom found in the vast majority of films. But Lupino did it; not just once, but several times after this great effort. A film not to be missed by any serious film buff.
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