Cinema Femme will be featuring our Letterboxd reviews as a series on our website. We started as a magazine focused on film criticism, we are now using Letterboxd as our platform for this work. We begin with a review by Kate Hackett, Emmy-winning editor (“Cheer”) and director (“Oleander), on Ida Lupino’s “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953). Kate is passionate about elevating women in film, and we were so happy to have her as one of our mentors for our February 2021 Cinema Femme Short Film Showcase. You can follow Kate’s work here:

Kate Hackett directing on the set of “Oleander”

“The Hitch-Hiker” (1953), reviewed by Kate Hackett

“You guys are soft. You know what makes you that way? You’re up to your necks in IOUs. You’re suckers. You’re scared to get out on your own.” 

That’s how the sociopathic hitchhiking kidnapper Emmett Myers (William Talman) differentiates himself from his victims in Ida Lupino’s spare, psychologically kinetic noir. The film is a study of compliance in the face of brutality. The everyman protagonists, Roy (Edmond O’Brien) and Gilbert (Frank Lovejoy), have multiple opportunities to escape their captor, but they consistently let their empathy, cowardice or instincts toward obedience get in the way. 

Lupino gives us a character study in how men respond to male perpetrated violence. He who commands at gunpoint, she tells us, rules the world. This theme is visually apparent throughout the film. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca against a bleak desert landscape, alternating day and night, Lupino uses triangular framing, high-contrast lighting and portraiture in bright sun or darkness to highlight the psychological extremes of hope and despair. The kidnapped car, barreling through the desert in a series of striking hand-held shots, becomes a visual extension of the power of the film’s villain – it’s unpredictable, deadly and inevitable.

Ida Lupino directing on the set of “The Hitch-Hiker”

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