Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ida Lupino|
|Produced by||Collier Young|
|Screenplay by||Ida Lupino
|Music by||Leith Stevens|
|Editing by||Douglas Stewart|
|Distributed by||RKO Pictures|
|Running time||71 minutes|
The movie was written by Robert L. Joseph, Lupino, and her husband Collier Young, based on a story by blacklisted Out of the Past screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring (who did not receive screen credit). The film is based on the true story of psychopathic murderer Billy Cook.
In 1998, The Hitch-Hiker was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."
Two men (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) on a fishing trip pick up a hitchhiker named Emmett Myers (William Talman), who turns out to be a psychopath who has committed multiple murders. Police believe Myers is traveling alone, so he holds the two men hostage to avoid detection as he flees towards the Mexican border. Meanwhile, the men try to plot their escape from the violent, paranoid Myers.
- Edmond O'Brien as Roy Collins
- Frank Lovejoy as Gilbert Bowen
- William Talman as Emmett Myers
- José Torvay as Captain Alvarado
- Wendell Niles as Himself
- Jean Del Val as Inspector General
- Clark Howat as Government Agent
- Natividad Vacío as Jose
- Rodney Bell as William Johnson
- Nacho Galindo as Proprietor
- Collier Young, husband of director Ida Lupino and the co-writer of the screenplay, makes an uncredited appearance in the film as a Mexican peasant.
In California in 1950, Billy Cook murdered a family of five and a traveling salesman, then kidnapped Deputy Sheriff Homer Waldrip from Blythe, California and ordered him to drive into the desert where he tied Deputy Waldrip up with blanket strips and took his police cruiser, leaving Waldrip to die.
Waldrip got loose, however, walked to the main road and was picked up and taken back to Blythe. Cook was tried, convicted and sentenced to the gas chamber. On December 12, 1952, Cook was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison in California.
The Hitch-Hiker went into production on 24 June 1952 and wrapped in late July. Location shooting took place in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine and Big Pine, California. Working titles for the film were "The Difference" and "The Persuader".
Director Ida Lupino was a noted actress who began directing when Elmer Clifton got sick and couldn't finish the film he was directing for Filmakers Inc., the company started by Lupino and her husband Collier Young to make low-budget issue-oriented movies. Lupino stepped in to finish the film, and went on to direct her own projects. The Hitch-Hiker was her first hard-paced fast-moving picture after four "woman's" films about social issues.
Lupino interviewed the two prospectors that Billy Cook had held hostage, and got releases from them and from Cook as well, so that she could integrate parts of Cook's life into the script. To appease the censors at the Hays Office, however, she reduced the number of deaths to three.
The Hitch-Hiker premiered in Boston on 20 March 1953 and immediately went into general release. It was marketed with the tagline: When was the last time you invited death into your car?
A.H. Weiler, the film critic for the New York Times, gave The Hitch-Hiker a mixed review on its initial release. The acting, direction, and use of locations were praised, but the plot was deemed to be predictable.
Film critic Dennis Schwartz wrote of the film, "It's a pleasure to watch the action unfold without resorting to clichés. Talman's performance as a sadistic sleaze was powerful. His random crime spree strikes at the heart of middle-class America's insecurity about there being no place free of crime."
Critic John Krewson lauded the work of Ida Lupino, and wrote, "As a screenwriter and director, Lupino had an eye for the emotional truth hidden within the taboo or mundane, making a series of B-styled pictures which featured sympathetic, honest portrayals of such controversial subjects as unmarried mothers, bigamy, and rape...in The Hitch-Hiker, arguably Lupino's best film and the only true noir directed by a woman, two utterly average middle-class American men are held at gunpoint and slowly psychologically broken by a serial killer. In addition to her critical but compassionate sensibility, Lupino had a great filmmaker's eye, using the starkly beautiful street scenes in Not Wanted and the gorgeous, ever-present loneliness of empty highways in The Hitch-Hiker to set her characters apart.
Time Out Film Guide wrote of the film, "Absolutely assured in her creation of the bleak, noir atmosphere – whether in the claustrophobic confines of the car, or lost in the arid expanses of the desert – Lupino never relaxes the tension for one moment. Yet her emotional sensitivity is also upfront: charting the changes in the menaced men's relationship as they bicker about how to deal with their captor, stressing that only through friendship can they survive. Taut, tough, and entirely without macho-glorification, it's a gem, with first-class performances from its three protagonists, deftly characterised without resort to cliché."
While most films noir were filmed in claustrophobic cities, The Hitch-Hiker was filmed on location in the desert southwestern United States, mostly in wilderness and small villages. Critics Bob Porfiero and Alain Silver, in a review and analysis of the film, praised Lupino's use of shooting locations. They wrote, "The Hitch-Hiker's desert locale, although not so graphically dark as a cityscape at night, isolates the protagonists in a milieu as uninviting and potentially deadly as any in film noir."
- The Hitch-Hiker at the American Film Institute Catalog.
- Miller, Frank. Turner Classic Movies, "The Hitch-Hiker (1953) There's Death in his upraised Thumb!", film article, no date. Accessed: July 31, 2013.
- TCM Overview
- IMDb Filming locations
- TCM Notes
- IMDb Ida Lupino
- A.H. Weiler (1953-04-30), "The Hitch-Hiker at the Holiday", The New York Times, "...in selecting the rocky, dusty Mexican wasteland as a setting, the producers have added a graphic inflection to the helplessness of the victims."
- Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, review, December 11, 2004. Last accessed: February 1, 2008.
- Krewson, John. Onion A.V. Club, DVD review, March 29, 2002. Last accessed: April 23, 2008.
- Time Out Film Guide. Film review, 2008. Last accessed: April 23, 2008.
- Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, film noir analysis by Bob Porfiero and Alain Silver, page 130, 3rd edition, 1992. New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Hitch-Hiker.|
- The Hitch-Hiker at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Hitch-Hiker at the Internet Movie Database
- The Hitch-Hiker at allmovie
- The Hitch-Hiker at the TCM Movie Database
- The Hitch-Hiker is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- The Hitch-Hiker information site and DVD/Blue-ray review at DVD Beaver (includes images)
- The Hitch-Hiker at Prairie Ghosts (Billy Cook information)
- The Hitch-Hiker film at YouTube