film fatales #204: the blue caftan (maryam touzani, 2022)
music friday: 1987

geezer cinema/film fatales #205: the hitch-hiker (ida lupino, 1953)

Ida Lupino gets credit for being a woman director in Hollywood when there were no such things. I'm behind the times with Lupino ... this is the first of her directed movies I've seen, and I only saw one movie that she acted in (High Sierra, which I watched recently).

The Hitch-Hiker is compact (71 minutes). Lupino wastes no time, there is no flab, nor is there time to think too hard about what you are seeing. In short, it's effective for what it is attempting. It's a noir without a femme fatale, and ironically the only noir directed by a woman. The best noirs (Double Indemnity and The Night of the Hunter, to name two) are as good as the best films of any genre. It does seem to me that the genre has a reputation that is a bit elevated, though. If you make a spare, inexpensive film with a touch of style, your movie will be highly regarded. A movie like, say, Kansas City Confidential is fine, but that's all it is (and it should go without saying that "fine" is not a pejorative).

So The Hitch-Hiker is a good movie, but its status may be high in part because Lupino directed it, and it's an underexposed noir.

For boomers, the highlight of The Hitch-Hiker is probably William Talman as the title character. This hitch-hiker is a vicious killer, while Talman became best known for his years playing district attorney Hamilton Burger on the old Perry Mason television series. Talman is indeed ferocious here, with a droopy eye that adds menace. Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy are two friends who pick up Talman, to their regret. The movie I was most reminded of was Detour, which is the best of all the cheapie Grade-Z noirs. The Hitch-Hiker is nowhere near as good as Detour, but it's a worthy addition to your noir viewing.


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