HITCH-HIKE (1977) – The Dungeon Review!
If you happened to noticed I added a “What’s In The Queue” section in my sidebar than you might have caught the next film in my queue was supposed to be Horrors Of Malformed Men. I actually watched it on the weekend, but when I started to hash out a review I noticed IMDB had it listed as 1969. Oops. Because it doesn’t qualify as 70’s I’m going to wait until January to post that one. I mentioned in my previous review that I had intended to review a lot more Italian films from the 1970’s and what shows up in my mailbox but TWO Italian flicks! SWEEEEEEET! Hitch-Hike is not a horror film, but a violent road trip flick with three of the most wonderfully obnoxious and fascinating leads I’ve seen in a long while. But how could Pasquale Festa Campanile have gone wrong with this ironclad casting?! Franco Nero, Corinne Clery and David Hess are a most admirable trio that plays off each other very well. In fact, there is plenty to admire about this slow-boiling, intense and sleazy flick.
Vacationing couple Walter and Eve Mancini have grown tired of each other and do nothing but nag, irritate and argue. Picking up stranded motorist Adam Konitz gives them a much-needed break from one another. Initially the trio make friendly until Adam makes a sexual comment to Eve. Adam and Walter have a fistfight on the side of the road, which Adam ends by pulling out a gun. With a quest to make it to Mexico with a suitcase full of money, Adam takes the Mancini’s on a nightmarish trip across California.
It is, in fact, a nightmarish trip somewhere in Italy. The director does a nice job choosing outdoor scenery that resembles California’s landscape. Most of the film takes place on the road and the relatively quiet desert land they drive through is the perfect compliment to the characters interaction. Once the Mancini’s pick up Adam the film almost exclusively centers on the trio (a couple other characters relevant to the plot do show up towards the end of the film but mentioning who they are would be a spoiler). Hitch-Hike has a slower pace and only a handful of action scenes. The director chooses to focus on the dynamic between the three characters and it’s probably a little more talky than some might care for. Personally, I dig character development and putting a psycho, an asshole and a princess in the same car together sure did make for some great tension and suspense.
Fans of horror will be familiar with the work of David Hess in House On The Edge Of The Park and Last House On The Left and the man is definitely on his game here as Adam Konitz. No one plays a psycho quite like Hess! Hess gets a fair amount of dialog in this one and is even somewhat charismatic. When it comes to manly men of the 70’s no one tops Frano Nero. Nero plays Walter Mancini, one half of a very unhappily married couple. Walter is a middle-aged writer for a newspaper that happens to be owned by his wife’s father. Writing hasn’t been coming easy lately and he’s taken to hitting the bottle on a regular basis. Nero’s classic 70’s ‘stache can be seen wrapped around a liquor bottle often. He is rude, chauvinistic, and for an alcoholic, he doesn’t hold his liquor very well. The stunning Corinne Clery plays his wife and carries with her an air of privilege. Clery’s character is the least offensive of the trio and is forced to take more abuse than she deserved. There is anger and resentment between the couple but there is a fair amount of codependence thrown in for good measure. The two seem to feed off each other’s negativity and every now and again a little bit of caring accidently seeps in. All three characters are generally unlikable and you aren’t really motivated to root for any of them. It’s a brave move putting three such unlikeable characters in a film, particularly when two of those characters are supposed to be victims. As unlikable as they are I must admit there were brief moments I had a wee bit of empathy for each one of them. Each of the trio divulges something about themselves through words and actions and while it is often self-serving, despicable, and downright psychotic it does occasionally illicit a bit of empathy.
Hitch-Hike wasn’t as exploitative or violent as I expected it to be. It does however have its moments. There is a fistfight, nudity, rape, shooting and at the end of it all there is a small but significant body count. None of this however is particularly graphic but it certainly is effective. There are some cool twists in the plot and the ending is absolutely superb! The cherry on top is the awesome score from none other than the brilliant Ennio Morricone. Hitch-Hike is considerably more intelligent than your average exploitation flick. Top-notch performances, smart dialog, suspense, intensity and just the right amount of sleaze make it all work beautifully. Highly Recommended!
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Pasquale Festa Campanile
Starring: Franco Nero, Corinne Clery, David Hess, Joshua Sinclair, Carlo Puri, Ignazio Spalla, Leonardo Scavino