Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Hitch-Hike (1977)

Comments Off on Hitch-Hike (1977) 06 February 2016

hitch hike blu ray

Studio: Raro

Theatrical Release: July 21, 1978 (USA)

Blu Ray Release: February 16, 2015

Director: Pasquale Festa Campanile

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

This little thriller mixed with some touches of dark humor is a road picture that is sure to please fans of the genre. Hitch-Hike feels like a film the Coen Brothers were meant to write and direct as its offbeat and strange nature reminded me of their debut feature, Blood Simple. While Blood Simple took the film noir genre and turned it upside down, Hitch-Hike does the same to the road genre.

Franco Nero (the original Django) stars as Walter Mancini, an Italian reporter whose a borderline alcoholic. He and his wife Eve (Corinne Clery from The Story of O) are on a vacation that consists of them mostly bickering. This is not a happy couple by any means and their strange relationship just adds to Hitch-Hike‘s off the wall strangeness. The film even opens with Walter aiming his rifle at his wife from a distance before he turns his attention to a deer. The couple have a humorous moment when at a camping ground Walter drinks too much and embarrasses his wife in front of a bunch of onlookers. As they walk past a young couple about to have sex, Walter sarcastically says to his wife, “They’re doing exactly what we did before.” But it’s Eve who gives it right back to him with, “No darling, you’re wrong. They are making love. We just screwed.”

The next morning when they leave the camp ground and head towards Las Vegas, they pass a hitch hiker who they decide to give a ride to. Adam, an aging college student (played by the late great David Hess, from Last House on the Left fame) seems to be an ordinary guy for all of a few minutes until he lets his true colors shine when he bluntly asks Eve, “How would you like to suck my cock?” As Walter punches him in the nose and throws him out, Adam quickly pulls a gun on the estranged couple and forces them to give him a ride as he’s really a bank robber and on the run from the law (and from his accomplices).

While being the instigator at times, Adam isn’t necessarily the cause of Walter and Eve’s problems. He just adds fuel to the fire by making their tensions all the more obvious and extreme. There are even moments where Adam and Eve (get it?) gang up on Walter and vice versa where Adam almost plants the idea in Walter’s head to come run away with him so they ran write Adam’s memoirs. Things get even more complicated when Adam’s two homosexual accomplices show up and try and take the money that Adam and his gang stole. Adam becomes more irate and dangerous, forcing Walter to watch as he rapes Eve in front of him. But it’s Eve who does the most damage as she stares at Walter while Adam rapes her, seemingly taking some enjoyment out of the sexual encounter.

The film even gets more strange during the last 15-20 minutes which I won’t give away but ends with a hint that Walter becomes just like Adam, in a strange full circle climax. When I first saw the film in 2002, I had issues with the ending and felt it went on too long and should have ended sooner. Watching it again, Hitch-Hike‘s climax not only works but is a darkly fitting ending to a great film.

I love Hitch-Hike and it’s for many reasons. First off, the cast is perfect, centering on the three main leads. The chemistry between them works well but it’s Clery as Eve who gives maybe the films best performance. Neither the victim nor the victor, Eve is a woman who has a more subtly aura of cruelty than either Walter or Adam. While Hess loves to chew the scenery and go over the top, he gives arguably his best performance as Adam who seems to be emotionally scarred by his father which has caused him to turn to a life of crime. Campanile’s direction was also quite good and his sweeping camera shots and constant action of moving the camera without being noticeable are remarkable. The spaghetti western sounding score by Ennio Morricone is both strange and haunting. But it’s the off the wall unconventional screenplay by Campanile, Aldo Crudo and Ottavio Jemma that makes Hitch-Hike shine. This could have been a run of the mill thriller but instead it’s multilayered storyline that is just a sheer joy to witness. If remade today, Hollywood would really fuck it up and turn it more into a dumbed down straight action thriller.

Now for the not so great news; Raro’s blu ray. I was both happy and disappointed by the transfer of the film. First the good news, this version of the film retains the original title card of the movie, Autostop Rosso Sangue along with the ending scroll before the credits start which has never been shown as far as I know in the U.S. until now. The picture also retains the original aspect ratio of 1:78:1 where as the older Anchor Bay DVD was matted at 1:85:1. The picture for the most part is very clear, too clear at times where complexions look a bit waxy. Some of the dirt and debris on the film  has not been removed and the colors seemed to be washed out. I did a comparison between my old DVD and Raro’s blu ray and I preferred the deeper colors on the DVD to the overly bright and washed out colors on the blu ray. The gorgeous landscapes seem to be all but washed out on this transfer. The blue sky now looks white! The 2.0 DTS-HD audio is an improvement over the DVD’s plain mono soundtrack though. So the blu ray is a hit and miss and while I would prefer to watch Hitch-Hike on blu ray, the DVD isn’t necessarily a step down.

More bad news: the special features suck. Raro took the original featurette on the DVD, imported it over onto the blu ray but added an interview with the films assistant director. Why couldn’t this have been an extra feature all on it’s own? Why did it need to be intercut with the older featurette? And why is the blu ray missing the trailer? The trailer was on the DVD, why wasn’t it added on this release? It almost feels like this release was rushed…but why? The little booklet of linear notes by Brent Wood is a nice addition but why wasn’t more thought put into this release?

Despite my issues with the blu ray, Hitch-Hike is a film I really recommend.

Movie Rating: ★★★★½

Blu Ray Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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