Hitch-Hiker [1953]

Ida Lupino, Hollywood's sole female filmmaker of the 1950s, directs an all-male cast in a taut, 70-minute thriller. Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O'Brien are two war buddies taking a break from the wives for a Mexican fishing trip; a hitchhiker they pick up turns out to be a crazed killer wanted in nine states (William Talman, later the perennially defeated district attorney on Perry Mason) who forces them at gunpoint to drive him through the desert. Talman's Everett Myers is a fascinatingly abstract creation, filmed by Lupino first as a discorporate flurry of hands and feet, then as a satanic figure whose grinning, key-lighted face seems to float by itself in space. With his paralyzed right eye (he sleeps with it wide open), Myers may represent the return of the fascist evil the two men confronted during the war; he may also represent something inherently violent in the American male that, having been liberated by the war, has to be faced down and defeated by the two vets before they can return to a normal life. Lupino's use of the desert setting, rich with associations of nuclear devastation, seems to look forward to the science fiction films that would flourish later in the decade. --Dave Kehr

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