DVD review: “Hitch Hike”

Paleo Retiree writes:

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I really enjoyed this smart, well-paced little Italian road/horror movie from 1977, directed and co-written by Pasquale Festa Campanile from a novel by Peter Kane.

It’s partly low-budget exploitation sleaze, partly an exercise in austere, well-shaped literary cinema, and partly flamboyant Sam Shepard-style knockabout marital drama. Franco Nero and Corinne Clery are a feuding, stylish, impossibly good-looking Italian couple (with near-matching cats’ eyes!) driving thru the American Southwest, who pick up a hitcher (David Hess), who turns out to be a violent criminal on the run. I found the film to be a great mixture of tense moment-to-moment drama and shrewdly deployed plot turns, action bits and set pieces. Some well-integrated themes (mostly identity and the meaning of freedom) may merit a few seconds’ contemplation too — they at least add something to the film’s high-low texture. The cinematography is blazing, moody and laconic in a ’70s road-movie way that now feels “classic,” and the landscapes are overblown and a little off in ways that make the action feel otherworldly and mythic. (Though set in the U.S., the film was in fact shot in Italy.) If you can imagine a spaghetti-westernized version of something like “Joy Ride,” this is it. A juicy and excitable score by Ennio Morricone contributes a lot to the sinister, overresonant tone.

The actors chew the scenery with tons of sexy gusto. Hess does a reprise of his legendary “Last House on the Left,” downtown bad-boy actor thing; Clery isn’t just unbelievably pretty, she’s reactive, alive and real; and Franco Nero shows off a terse and telegraphic acting language that seems a wonderful expression of both hypermasculinity and vulnerability. There’s more than a little Fred C. Dobbs (of “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”) in Nero’s depiction of a man in desperate need of reclaiming his pride. Note to self: come up with a blog posting where you justify your conviction that Franco Nero is in a class with such other masters of masculinity as Lino Ventura and Humphrey Bogart.

And — at least for those of us with a taste for this sort of thing — the film is a supersatisfying wallow in ’70s art/entertainment values: violence, shaggy haircuts, pants (especially bellbottoms and Euro-tight blue jeans), cars in the desert, long takes, angry sex, nudity (both justified and gratuitous), and especially the threat of rape. (Trigger warning: I really, really miss the uninhibited, even lavish, way that ’70s movies so often made use of sex, rape and nudity.) “Hitch Hike” is like a cross between an Antonioni movie (“The Passenger” especially) and a Roger Corman quickie, and in a good way. The DVD — which Amazon is currently offering for $6.16 — includes a worth-a-look 20-minute-long doc consisting mainly of interviews with Nero, Clery and Hess about the making the film.

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff, and very glad to have left those worlds behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
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One Response to DVD review: “Hitch Hike”

  1. ricardo says:

    Some supporting evidence for your Franco Nero post:

    Like

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