Cinema Slueth – The Hitch-Hiker

For review of all TV Shows / Movies in which the cast of Perry Mason TV Show acted in (Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, William Hopper and others), go here.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A tense true story of a man, a gun and a car making one think it could actually be you with the man in that car. Certainly a buried treasure and a terrific B-movie by one of the genius directors we get to see.

The Hitch-Hiker is a 1952 American film noir thriller directed by Ida Lupino, produced by Collier Young and released by RKO Radio Pictures. Lupino and Young co-wrote the screenplay, an ex-husband and wife couple. It was based on a story by Daniel Mainwaring which was adapted by Robert L. Joseph. The film stars Edmund O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman in the lead.

Two friends – Roy Collins (portrayed by Edmund O’Brien) and Gilbert Bowen (portrayed by Frank Lovejoy) – are driving to southern California on a fishing trip, when they pick up Emmet Myers (portrayed by William Talman). But Myers pulls a gun on them and holds them hostage. The drive from there on becomes a ride of terror, fear, and danger for the two friends.

William Talman portrays the role of Emmet Myers, a psychopathic killer in the film. Having seen him as Los Angeles District Attorney Hamilton Burger on the CBS television series Perry Mason, I couldn’t believe how cruel he could act. He literally made me shiver and shake. This was 5 years before his stint on Perry Mason.

Edmund O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy have already had made their mark on Radio in several shows by the time of this filming. O’Brien was known for playing the title roles in both Yours Truly, Jonny Dollar and Pete Kelly’s Blues. While Lovejoy was Chicago Star’s newspaper man Randy Stone on Night Beat and several episodes for The Whistler and Suspense.

Surprisingly though two of the greatest radio legends had very little to speak for in this film. But just by their body language, eye signals and facial expressions they conveyed a lot making that more powerful than speech. They are indeed great actors on screen too.

The Hitch-Hiker was the first American mainstream film noir directed by a woman. This was a fictionalized version of Billy Cool murder spree. The film was released with a tag line “When was the last time you invited death into your car?”.

Most of the story involves just three men and their talented acting skills to make Lupino-Young’s script come to life. The filming took place in wide regions of Southern California, but it came out as oppressive as it could be, and creating claustrophobia in the viewers.

Opening Credits have a prologue about the movie.

The craziness of Emmet Myers and the game that he plays with Collins and Bowen makes one wonder how the men even survived. The sheer insanity and psychopathy in Myers turns up the fear level a lot in the story.

A tense true story of a man, a gun and a car making one think it could actually be you with the man in that car. Certainly a buried treasure and a terrific B-movie by one of the genius directors we get to see.

Spoiler Alerts:

Movie Trivia:

  1. Writer Mainwaring didn’t receive film credits as he was on the Hollywood blacklist at that time.
  2. The radio announcer we hear when Collins turns on the radio in the car was Wendell Niles, who was the famous radio announcer during the American golden age of radio. He played himself here. We also see Sam Hayes as the radio broadcaster.

Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

  1. The Mexican Police Car’s door reads between “POLÍCIA DEL D.F.” and “POLÍCIA” between scenes.
  2. When the three of them are sheltering in the mountains, the scene with an aeroplane passing over is shown. We can see some kind of thread on the screen attached to the camera perhaps. (See at the bottom of the pic).

3. After Emmett Myers and Roy Collins switch clothes Myers is seen wearing a khaki colored baseball cap in addition to the shirt, jacket and trousers previously worn by Roy Collins. Prior to the clothing switch Collins was not wearing a cap of any kind. In fact that was the first time any one of the three had worn a cap at all.

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