The Hitch-Hiker (1953): Desert Noir

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)Two ordinary Joes driving to Mexico on a fishing trip are waylaid by a serial killer on the run (RKO 71 mins). Directed by actress Ida Lupino and based on a true story adapted by maverick writer Daniel Mainwaring. Cinematography by veteran noir cameraman Nicholas Musuraca.

Usually billed nowadays as the only film noir directed by a woman, this b-noir starts out well but fails to develop sufficient tension and a flat ending disappoints.  Lupino’s direction is adequate, but the strong opening noir-lit scenes of urban hijack and murder would be largely the work of Musuraca. Even Musuraca seems to lose it in the open spaces of the Mexican desert where most of the subsequent action is played out.

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Star-billing is given to Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy as the hostages, but they are constrained by their largely passive roles, and it is b-noir regular, William Talman, in a memorable portrayal as the psychotic killer, who holds the picture together.  The desperado’s savage menace and barely contained hysteria is entirely convincing, and it is this that saves the movie from obscurity.

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