Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Hitch-Hiker


It’s probably a good thing that this film had faded from memory when my friend Chris and I, and tens of thousands of other hippies, stuck out our thumbs with nothing but our backpacks and high hopes back in the late 1960s. Back then, people would still stop for you, and sometimes take you quite a distance. (Our record was from Fort Worth, Texas, to San Mateo, California, in about twenty-four hours, which included a two-hour stop in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, when the temperature topped 115 degrees!) These days when I see a hitcher, I wonder if anybody stops anymore.

This film noir was co-written and directed by Ida Lupino, who is generally recognized as the first woman who was really able to defy the paternalistic society of film directors (which still exists today) and make films with some regularity. She made B-movies, seven of them, at the beginning of her directing career in 1949. Most of them look pretty trashy, but I assume that no one ever offered her something like The Informer. She had to take the crumbs that fell from the Big Guys’ tables. Then even that dried up in 1953, shortly after this one opened. (She made one more feature, The Bigamist. I’d like to see it.) Fortunately, the new medium of television was just opening up, and they needed directors. She did a ton of TV work until 1968.

A lot of people like this one, but I have to say I found it fairly tedious. Frank Lovejoy and Edmond O’Brien are friends setting out on a fishing trip when they pick up Hamilton Burger. He has been driven homicidally crazy after losing his one hundredth case to Perry Mason … No, wait that’s William Talman, the actor who played the losingest District Attorney in America. We’ve already seen him kill four other Good Samaritans, and he quickly tells them he intends to kill them, too, as soon as they take him further south in Mexico. So they set out on a road trip, while the cops of two countries try to find them. And that’s basically it. The bad guy is unrelentingly, boringly bad, forever snarling demands of the good guys, and the good guys can’t seem to figure out a way to deal with this dope. The bad guy has one eye that never closes, enabling him to sleep with his head erect and his gun pointed unwaveringly at his victims. Yeah, right. I didn’t believe it for a second.