|Available at Amazon.com|
Boorish and alcoholic Walter (Franco Nero), along with his wife Eve, are on a hunting vacation in the mountains of California. When the pair aren’t arguing, they seem determined at getting the upper hand by making snide comments about each other to anyone who will listen. That all changes when Eve picks up a hitchhiker. Adam (David Hess) seems nice enough at first, but when he lets his true nature shine through, Walter tries to throw him out of the car. It is then that Adam pulls his gun, and lets them in on the truth – he is a murderous bank-robber on the run with two million dollars cash!
Walter and Eve, their vacation now a nightmarish road trip to Hell, must abide by Adam’s demands and threats of assault against Eve. When Adam learns that Walter is a two-bit journalist, he proposes that Walter interview him and write a book about their kidnapping, but notes that in order for the book to sell it is going to need plenty of sex and violence. Adam then proceeds to deliver both in spades, and as Walter and Eve become completely unnerved things take an even more sinister turn when Adam’s two accomplices show up!
Tormenting, torture, and murder take to the highways with this gleeful slice of seventies cinema, with memorable character actor David Hess (Last House on the Left) essentially reprising his role as Krug, much to the dismay of his chosen victims. Hess gives another no-holds-barred performance here with a psychotic energy that threatens to escape from the picture, and you’re never quite sure what he is going to do next or how far he will go. Whether it is blowing away whoever threatens him or his constant threats of sexual violence, Hess seems to have no boundary as to what he is willing to do on screen, and that ever-present danger seeps out of every frame.
Held at gunpoint for a majority of the picture are Franco Nero and Corinne Clery (of The Story of O fame), who create a great back-and-forth chemistry with David Hess, and make the long sequences with them just driving worth watching. For those who know Nero only as the gunslinger Django and watching him control of any situation, seeing him turn transform into a drunken louse with no control is a bit shocking. Nero pulls off the role exceptionally well, especially as the film progresses and things become desperate. Italian beauty Clery provides almost all of the film’s prerequisite full frontal nudity, as well as the backbone of courage that the story needs and the only likable character in the entire movie.
Bringing everything together is director Pasquale Festa Campanile, who flawlessly turns the mountains of Italy into the mountains of Northern California. Campanile also helped to write the screenplay, which is based on the novel The Violence And The Fury by Peter Kane. Campanile keeps the film going at a gingerly pace as he moves the characters from one set piece and tense moment to the next. He also provides all the nasty violence, including a key sequence in which two cops are blown away, and lurid sex, which shamelessly wallows in misogyny, that the audiences of the time could want. Campanile, through a mix of twists and turns, also manages to keep the audience guessing as to who will make it to the end credits.
While watching characters drive around may not be the most exciting thing to film, things get interesting quick when Campanile introduces a nail-biting chase sequence that seems practically lifted from Steven Spielberg’s Duel. This sequence, with daredevil stunt drivers ramming into each other while barreling along a steep cliff, is a great reminder of how things should be done when it comes to chases, and Campanile captures it perfectly. Riding shotgun with Campanile through this and every other scene is yet another great soundtrack from Ennio Morricone, who dusts the screen with a rambling country-tinged score that works marvels in setting the tone.
As far as dangerous cinema goes, there isn’t a whole lot more that you could ask for from this movie. Hitch-Hike is the kind of pure drive-in entertainment that is meant to shock, titillate, and keep you wondering just how far it will go, and as a bonus throws a keen public service announcement into the bargain. While other classic hitchhiker films have overshadowed this one, most notably 1986’s The Hitchhiker, those looking for an undiscovered gem from the vaults of yesteryear would do well to check this one out.
Blue Underground proves itself once again with a great restoration and transfer, providing an uncut and uncensored print with an anamorphic widescreen presentation. The English soundtrack is present in its original mono format.
The Devil Thumbs A Ride – This seventeen minute featurette includes recently recorded interviews with all three stars as they take a highly enjoyable look back on the movie.
Trailer – The original theatrical trailer.
Need some reassurance there are still great and nasty films waiting to be found and brought into the light? Look no further than Hitch-Hike, for you will surely have to reexamine your top ten exploitation flicks after watching it.
Blue Underground presents Hitch-Hike. Directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile. Starring Franco Nero, David Hess, Corinne Clery. Written by Ottavio Jemma, Pasquale Festa Campanile. Running time: 104 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: April 29, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.