For Reel

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
November 16, 2014, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ida Lupino
4.5 Stars
The Hitch-HikerThe first (only?) film noir directed by a woman, The Hitch-Hiker is spare and relentless, with the tension grinding oppressively on the audience for the entirety of its brief running time. As was often the case with film noir, the primary concern is the creeping of violence into the everyday. The entire ad campaign (as well as an opening title card) emphasized that the audience might be susceptible to the same terrors that they would see on screen. Like Detour or Out of the Past, there is a fatalistic element–the heroes have little will to exert over the greater forces in play. Perhaps the most disturbing articulation of this concept are the scenes in which the victims (Edmond O’Brien & Frank Lovejoy) consider escaping while their captor (the terrifying William Talman) sleeps. The problem is that Talman’s paralyzed eye remains open at all times, making it impossible to know whether he’s conscious or not. For a film about a hostage situation, it’s surprising how few escapes are attempted–they are along for the ride, not expecting a merciful conclusion but simply sapped of their will to fight. No matter what they do, he’s always watching.

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