The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

The Hitch-Hiker
Director: Ida Lupino
Writer: Collier Young, Ida Lupino, Robert L. Joseph, Daniel Mainwaring
Cast: Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman, José Torvay, Sam Hayes, Wendell Niles, Jean Del Val, Clark Howat, Natividad Vacío
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 20.9.2019

Roy (Edmond O’Brien) and Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy) are on their way to go fishing in Mexico. Just after the border, they pick up a hitch-hiker, Emmett (William Talman). This turns out to be a very bad decision as Emmett is a murderer on the run – and he now forces Roy and Gilbert to ensure his flight by driving ever further into Mexico. Meanwhile Roy and Gilbert try every trick in the book to escape Emmett.

The Hitch-Hiker had been on my watch list for a while, so when it was included in this year’s /slash Filmfestival’s focus on female horror filmmakers, I jumped at the chance. And while I’m not completely enthusiastic about the film, I’m glad to have caught up with a film that is rightfully considered a classic.

The film poster showing two men sitting in the front seats of a car, a gun pointed at them from the backseat.

The Hitch-Hiker was included in the festival as, basically, the first horror film made by a woman. Now, I’d say it’s debatable whether it really is a horror film, although, it certainly has elements of a slasher. But in the end that isn’t really important anyway if you ask me. It’s just a pretty good film, no matter the genre.

It’s not perfect – there are some lengths, although the film has a pretty short runtime, and I am not sure whether some of it is a little too familiar through today’s lense and was novel at the time, or whether there was a certain tropiness to it in 1953 already, but it did make the film sometimes a little less effective.

Emmett (William Talman) threatening Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy) and Roy (Edmond O'Brien) with a gun.

That being said, it is an excellently acted and beautifully shot film that does manage to create tension and make you invested in the characters. Gilbert and Roy’s friendship is wonderfully characterized and even if there’s a slightly paternalistic touch to how insistently the film touts the importance of friendship, that’s something I could live with.

It’s easy to see why the film is considered part of the cinematic canon in general and not just the canon of female filmmakers.

Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy) holding a litttle girl in a grocery story while Emmett (William Talman) talks.

Summarizing: If you’re interested in movie history, it’s a must.

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