Saturday, September 28, 2002


This lean little noir thriller has a strong critical reputaton, but the years have not been kind to it. It's only 70 minutes, but it still felt a bit long--it would have worked better as an hour-long TV episode (which means roughly 45 minutes of plot, with credits and ads added). Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy are on a road trip when they pick up hitchhiker William Talman, who it turns out is a psychopathic murderer who has been hitching rides and killing drivers for days. Except for a little exposition at the beginning (with the first murder taking place during the credits), the whole movie is mostly the three of them in the car and, after it breaks down, in the desert, as Talman tries to reach a Mexican coast town to escape by ferry boat. The tension is broken towards the end with a few cutaway scenes of the police as they begin to zero in on the group, but these are kept to a minumum. Talman is very good, edgy and creepy, with a paralyzed eye that stays open even when he's asleep (I wonder if Talman actually had that injury? IMDb doesn't say). O'Brien's never been a favorite of mine, but he's very good here, as is Lovejoy. The trusting and caring relationship between the two is developed nicely and is part of what saves them. I couldn't help but wonder why the two didn't just try to attack him, since he flat out tells them that, eventually, he's going to kill them, so they would seem to have little to lose. Nice photography and some nice directorial touches here and there. Worth seeing, but not as thrilling as it probably once seemed.

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