The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

The Hitch-Hiker (1953) Front Cover DVD

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The Hitch-Hiker (1953) Back Cover DVD

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Two men (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) from El Centro, California are driving toward a planned fishing trip at the Mexican town of San Felipe on the Gulf of California. Just south of Mexicali, they pick up a hitchhiker named Emmett Myers (William Talman), whose stolen car has apparently run out of gas. Myers turns out to be a psychopath who has committed multiple murders while hitch-hiking between Illinois and Southern California, and has managed to slip into Mexico at Mexicali. To evade the pursuing authorities, Myers forces the two men at gunpoint to journey deep into the heart of the Baja California Peninsula, toward the town of Santa Rosal?a, where he plans to take a ferry across the Gulf of California.

Meanwhile, the men try to plot their escape from the violent, paranoid Myers. They try tactics such as sabotaging their car and leaving clues (like an engraved wedding ring) at various points on their journey. One man badly twists his ankle during an escape attempt. The sadistic Myers physically and mentally torments the men, forcing them to continue on foot and mocking their loyalty to each other by claiming that they could have escaped separately if they embraced Myers' each-man-for-himself ethos.

Arriving at Santa Rosal?a, Myers tries to conceal his identity by forcing one of the men to wear his clothes. Myers, upon discovering that the regular ferry to Guaymas has burned down, hires a fishing boat. However, while he is awaiting the fisherman, locals discover his status as a wanted murderer and contact authorities. Police surround the pier and, after some confusion over Myers' identity, take him into custody following a brief scuffle in which the boastful Myers is revealed to be a coward.

The film ends with the weary friends agreeing to give statements to police.

The Hitch-Hiker is a 1953 film noir directed by Ida Lupino. Lupino moved into directing almost by accident. She and her husband, Collier Young, had created Filmways to produce low-budget films on issues that interested them. Their first outing, Not Wanted (1949), dealt with illegitimacy, questioning the social stigma on unwed mothers and their children. Originally this film was to have been directed by Hollywood veteran Elmer Clifton, but when he developed heart trouble three days into the shoot, Lupino stepped in, with him sitting on the sidelines to offer advice. She gave him credit for the film, but at Young's urging continued directing on subsequent Filmways productions.

After four women's pictures, Lupino took a different approach with TheHitch-hiker. The story was based on real-life serial killer William Cook, who killed six people who picked him up as he hitched his way across the American Southwest and Mexico in 1950. He was captured after taking two prospectors hostage and sent to the gas chamber in 1952.

Lupino interviewed one of the hostages and obtained releases from both hostages and Cook himself. She then peppered the screenplay with elements of Cook's life, including his abusive childhood and a genetic deformity that made it impossible for him to close his right eye. To appease the Production Code, which objected to film versions of recent crimes, she reduced the body count from six to three, eliminating the three children Cook had murdered. But changing the kidnapped prospectors to businessmen off on an innocent fishing trip was entirely her idea. It allowed her to explore the gradual breakdown of two men living a solid, middle-class existence who are suddenly confronted with the killer's uncontrollable psychotic rage.


Edmond O'Brien as Roy Collins
Frank Lovejoy as Gilbert Bowen
William Talman as Emmett Myers
Jos? Torvay as Captain Alvarado
Wendell Niles as Himself
Jean Del Val as Inspector General
Clark Howat as Government Agent
Natividad Vac?o as Jose
Rodney Bell as William Johnson
Nacho Galindo as Jose Abarrotes - Store Proprietor
Martin Garralaga as Bartender
Collier Young as Sleeping Mexican Peon

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