THE HITCH-HIKER (1953) B/W 71m dir: Ida Lupino
w/Edmund O'Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman, Jose Torvay
Two men on a fishing trip are waylaid and held by a desperate fugitive. Excellent, spellbinding drama, tense and exciting.
Director Lupino is, of course, better known as an actress in films. A few of the many movies she acted in are THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), HIGH SIERRA (1941), LADIES IN RETIREMENT (1941), THE HARD WAY (1943), and THE BIGAMIST (1953), the last of which she both starred in and directed.
From Film Fatales: Independent Women Directors by Judith M. Redding and Victoria A. Brownworth:
"A quarter century ago women were directing few feature-length films in the United States. Lupino, in many respects, is the female director who links the past of studio-driven Hollywood to the present of female independent filmmakers. She certainly had the drive and ambition to be a major director and one to be reckoned with, but unlike the nineties, where it is not unusual for a well-known actor (Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand) to turn to directing while also maintaining a solid acting career, in the forties, fifties, and sixties, this was not done --- especially in Hollywood, where even the roles stars were allowed to play were controlled by the iron fists of the studio moguls. It is evidence of Lupino's amazing drive and talent that she was able to circumvent that system enough to direct even a single film.
"The films she did direct, however, are extraordinary. She portrays women and issues vital to women in a starkly social-realist style. In addition, she turns the tables on presentations of men, serving up portraits of vulnerability entirely at odds with the standard role of men in films then (and even now). The Hitchhiker (1953), Lupino's personal favorite among her feature films (and the first film noir directed by a woman), is a chilling tale based on the true story of a young California serial killer. Two men on a fishing trip to Mexico (Edmund O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) pick up a hitchhiker, a simple response to another guy down on his luck. But this small act turns their vacation into the stuff of nightmare. O'Brien and Lovejoy were tough-guy actors of the era, yet in The Hitchhiker they become vulnerable, terrified by their innocent but deadly wrong choice. William Talman plays the creepy young killer in the tradition later set by Billy Zane in Dead Calm (1988). Lupino co-wrote the screenplay with her then-husband, Collier Young."