“You guys are going to die, that’s all — it’s just a question of when.”
Two pals (Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy) on a fishing vacation in Mexico make the mistake of picking up a homicidal hitch-hiker (William Talman).
Helmed by one of the few female directors of her era (Ida Lupino), this no-holds-barred thriller begins on a tense note and maintains a high level of suspense throughout its 71-minute running time. After watching cleverly shot and edited opening sequences of a faceless hitch-hiker murdering two sets of victims (Talman gives an eerily effective performance as “Emmett Myers”, based on real-life Billy Cook), we’re introduced to O’Brien and Lovejoy, who casually pick up Talman without a second thought. Talman is hidden in shadows in the back seat until we’re finally given a glimpse of his face — which would be somewhat menacing under any circumstances, but is especially so given his paralyzed right eye. Because Talman is indubitably a cold-blooded psychopath with no scruples whatsoever, we’re kept in as much terror and suspense as the two luckless fishing buddies. O’Brien and Lovejoy’s performances are spot-on as well: we can see the wheels turning in their heads as they debate on a moment-to-moment basis what risks they can take (or not) in their perilous situation, as their masculinity and sense of agency are repeatedly debased. The screenplay — co-written by Lupino and her producer-husband Collier Young, and based on a story by blacklisted author Daniel Mainwaring, who wrote Out of the Past (1948) — is peppered with multiple tension-filled moments for possible violence, as well as various refreshing encounters with respectfully-presented Mexican citizens. Nick Musuraca’s atmospheric cinematography is a definite highlight as well.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Strong performances by all leads
- Nick Musuraca’s cinematography
- A consistently tense, finely directed script: “My folks were tough. When I was born, they took one look at this puss of mine and told me to get lost.”
Yes, as a nifty little thriller. Be sure to catch this one!