Hitch-Hike / Autostop rosso sangue (1977)

3.0 out of 5

Hitch-Hike has traditionally remained the most obscure and least seen of David Hess’s trilogy of psycho-sadist performances. This is an aberration that deserves to be addressed, because Pasquale Festa Campanile’s stylish and entertaining road movie is far superior to either The Last House on the Left or The House on the Edge of the Park. In its own way it is equally sadistic, but much of the cruelty is delivered through merciless dialogue exchanged by a bickering couple played by Franco Nero and Corrine Cléry. Nero is at his boorish and loutish best, clearly having a whale of a time demeaning and humiliating his beautiful wife. His character has endured a dark descent into emasculation and he explodes with bitter resentfulness at the least provocation.

The arrival of a gun toting escaped lunatic/bank robber/murderer in the shape of Hess adds further tensions and pressures to the simmering atmosphere in the car. The beautiful Italian countryside, doubling for Northern California, sweeps past outside, offering an ironic spatial counterpoint to the claustrophobia and restriction of the vehicle. A controversial and problematic rape scene offers a surprising shift in tone, but is still mesmerising thanks to Ennio Morricone’s insistent music. Although there are several plot twists, the cynicism of the finale seems a little forced, and is one of very few missteps in an otherwise engaging and stylistically coherent thriller.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics