Year of Release: 1953
Director: Ida Lupino
Screenplay: Ida Lupino and Collier Young
Starring: Edmond O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman
Running Time: 71 minutes
Genre: film noir, crime, drama, thriller
Two friends (O'Brien and Lovejoy) are on the road heading for a weekend's fishing. However, they make the mistake of stopping to pick up a hitch-hiker (Talman) who turns out to be a gun-toting psychopath who has already left a string of bodies in his wake as he tries to avoid the pursuing authorities.
This tense psychological thriller is notable for being apparently the first major American film noir directed by a woman. Lupino had already had a successful career as an actress, before turning to writing, directing and producing movies, and, by the time of The Hitch-Hiker, had directed a number of social issue dramas, dealing with some controversial topics. This was a departure from her usual work for being a straight-forward thriller and featuring an almost entirely all-male cast. Written by Lupino and her then-husband Collier Young, and based on the story of real-life serial killer Billy Cook, this movie does not waste a minute of it's brief run-time. From the dark, claustrophobic interior of the car, to the sun-drenched, bleak, lonely desert, the movie presents a mesmerising battle of wills. This is not an action film, it's about masculinity in crisis, the two men held hostage are just ordinary middle-aged guys, who throughout the ordeal are forced to re-examine themselves and each other. William Talman is well cast as the repulsive, contemptuous killer who never closes his right eye, even when he's asleep.