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The Hitch-Hiker

The Hitch-Hiker (1953) is the first film noir ever directed by a woman, Ida Lupino. Only about 70 minutes long, the story follows Roy and Gilbert (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy), two pals who've crossed into Mexico to do some fishing. There they pick up hitchhiker Emmett Myers (William Talman), a sadistic sociopath on the run and wanted for a string of murders. Myers, gun always at the ready, takes Roy and Gilbert on a hellish road trip to Santa Rosalía, where he plans to catch a ferry across the Gulf of California and back into the States. Their trip lasts about three days, and you'd expect Roy and Gilbert would be able to get away at some point, but Myers has a bum eye, see, which won't shut, so these hapless fishing buddies are watched by Myers even while the psycho sleeps.

Not among the greatest of films noir, it's still a fun flick, which goes by quickly. The ending is predictable and lacks the hard-hitting punch I wanted. But the anxiety their trip induces leading up to that point is enough to keep your eyes fixed on the screen, and Talman played the creepy noir psychopath with flair. Considering it was directed by a woman, I was unprepared to not see any actresses in leading roles. Actually, there were just a couple of women/girls in the whole picture, and they were given only a few feeble lines. Also, since Lupino had a hand in developing the script, I'm surprised she didn't push for a story about a guy-gal pair instead of two guys. Who knows, maybe she did. But a guy and gal at gunpoint surely would've been more gripping, and likely more interesting and memorable as a first noir directed by a woman.


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