Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So here’s a perfectly enjoyable forgotten classic from the mid-70s for all of you to enjoy. It’s that rarest of 70s exploitation films: one that is actually really well-made. If it stumbles slightly at the end, it still has a pretty major lead over most of its peers.
The film follows Franco Nero and Corinne Clery as a squabbling couple on vacation in the southwestern United States. After a long evening spent hunting, arguing, singing campfire songs, fighting, sleeping, and then yelling at each other, Clery decides to pick up a hitch hiker (David Hess) to give her someone she won’t necessarily hate to talk to for a while. Unfortunately, as any exploitation aficionado could have told her, allowing the vicious rapist/murderer from Last House on the Left into your car isn’t really the smartest move one could make. This is especially the case when you just heard a quick snippet of radio news about three bank robbers running loose in the area (after stealing a massive $2 million from the bank, no less -- what bank is this, exactly?). Sure enough, he’s soon got a gun pulled on them, forcing them to take him to the Mexican border where he can make his escape with the frankly ridiculous amount of money that was in the bank, and to keep himself occupied on the drive he’s just being as boorish a passenger as one could find. He delivers some brutal beatings to Nero, he drinks most of his whiskey, he molests Clery every chance he gets, and just in general behaves in a way very contrary to making anyone want to pick up a hitch hiker again.

There aren’t very many movies made today that are as unrelentingly mean-spirited as this, and the ones that do (such as Eden Lake or Shuttle) tend to screw it up with idiotic plot contrivances. While Hitch-Hike does have one rather goofy bit near the end, it isn’t something that really harms the film in any way. What we do get is a tight and clever script, three great acting jobs (Nero shines here as a miserable alcoholic, not really all that much of a change from the grizzled spaghetti western roles he’s more famous for, and Hess is as horrid and vile as one would imagine him to be), and a great score by Ennio Morricone. In checking director Pasquale Campanile’s filmography to see if he had made any other films I had seen, I found he mostly made movies with titles like Sex Machine and X-Rated Girl, which both explains why I hadn’t seen anything else he did, and why this one was so overtly sexual. Not only does Hess molest Clery repeatedly, but at one point she even goads him into forcing himself on her while her husband is tied up and forced to watch, effectively using Hess as a weapon against her husband.

There’s also a couple great small moments to the film, my favorite being when Nero and Hess are screaming at each other in the car, and right in the middle of the argument Hess hands Nero the bottle of whiskey, and Nero takes a drink and says “thank you” prompting a nice “you’re welcome” from Hess. And then immediately back to arguing. Awesome.

It’s a great, dark film that does its very best to remind us what we enjoy so much in exploitation movies; it’s sleazy, it’s violent, and it eagerly goes far beyond the boundaries of what a more mainstream film (then or now) would have managed. The DVD is pretty cheap too, so you’ve got no excuse not to check it out. It’s a shame that this isn’t a more famous film than it is, it’s much better than 90% of the grind house fare out there.

Rating: ****

P.S. Be careful with that trailer. Despite being on Youtube, there is some nudity.

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