top of page
  • Benjamin May

The Hitch-Hiker (1953) Review

Roy Collins and Gilbert Bowen are two friends on a fishing trip in Southern California. They've been having a swell time, and are looking forward to reaching San Felipe. Unbeknownst to them, a raving lunatic has been thumbing rides and killing drivers in the area. After they pick up a man named Emmett Myers, they learn all about it- for Myers is the killer. He forces Collins and Bowen on a journey into fear around the State, riding along with and psychologically tormenting the two men all the while. Though the police are on the case, they're running out of time. Will they track Myers down before he makes Collins and Bowen the next two names on his victims list?

Directed by Ida Lupino and written alongside her husband Collier Young, 'The Hitch-Hiker' is a hardboiled potboiler that is tense and thrilling. Though the story comes to a predictable conclusion, the trip there is full of suspense. Lupino and Collier's dialogue is deliciously pulpy, and the back and forth between Myers and his two hostages is a real treat to listen to. From the start to the finish, the film is entertaining, and is a cut above other hostage-based noir thrillers of the 50's- of which there were many. Full of thrills and chills, 'The Hitch-Hiker' will surely provide audiences immense viewing pleasure.

The film boasts arresting cinematography from Nicholas Musuraca that is heavily atmospheric. Primarily confined to the interior of Collins and Bowen's car, Musuraca makes excellent use of the limited space, juxtaposing it against the vast expanse of desert, giving the film a claustrophobic feeling that heightens the narrative's tension. The utilization of light and shadows is sinisterly effective at maintaining the film's tone, and Musuraca's composition of images is striking. Like Edgar G. Ulmer's 'Detour,' 'The Hitch-Hiker' is low budget, but features some incredible visuals that linger in the mind long after the credits have rolled.

As does Leith Stevens' atmospheric and jazzy score, which contributes to the mood of the piece, but never overshadows it. His evocative theme is particularly gripping and used to great effect in the film. Additionally, the minimal set decoration from Harley Miller and Darrell Silvera is impressive, with a roadside shop in a small Californian town being particularly memorable. One would be remiss not to mention Douglas Stuart's tight editing, which holds everything together wonderfully; establishing for the proceedings a steady pace.

'The Hitch-Hiker' stars Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy as Collins and Bowen and William Talman as Myers, giving the performance of his life. Talman is terrific as the cold-blooded psychopath, clearly reveling in the chance to play such a wild character. He is both menacing and unpredictable, a dangerous mixture of a man you can't keep your eyes off. This is not to say that O'Brien and Lovejoy don't do commendable work, because they do. Lovejoy is particularly good, but their roles aren't nearly as interesting or as colorful as Talman's, and there is less they can do with the parts. Talman dominates the movie, and you'll assuredly have a hard time forgetting his performance.

Deftly directed by Ida Lupino, 'The Hitch-Hiker' is a suspenseful noir thriller fans of the genre will love. Featuring stunning cinematography from Nicholas Musuraca and an emotive Leith Stevens score, the film impresses on every level. With a strong screenplay from Lupino and Collier Young full of great dialogue, and boasting three fine central performances from Edmond O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman, 'The Hitch-Hiker' is frighteningly good.


bottom of page