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Hitch-Hike - Anchor Bay Entertainment Print E-mail
User Rating: / 11
Written by Ray Casta   
Friday, 11 January 2008
"Hitch-Hike" Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD - Severed Cinema

A.K.A. Autostop rosso sangue, Death Drive, The Naked Prey
Directed by: Pasquale Festa Campanile
Written by: Aldo Crudo, Ottavio Jemma, Pasquale Festa Campanile
Produced by: Mario Montanari, Bruno Turchetti
Cinematography by: Franco Di Giacomo, Giuseppe Ruzzolini
Editing by: Antonio Siciliano
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Franco Nero, David Hess, Corinne Clery
Year: 1978
Country: Italy
Language: Italian
Color: Color
Runtime: 104 min

Severed Cinema - DVD Logo
Video: NTSC R0
Aspect Ratio:
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Promoted as "one of the greatest exploitation films no one has ever seen" by Anchor Bay (who has released it on DVD), Pasquale Festa Campanile's "Hitch-Hike" is certainly on top of its genre.  As a cross between Mario Bava's "Rabid Dogs" and Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left", the film is a breath of fresh air: an exploitation piece, road movie, and confrontational horror rolled into one.  The film opens to a married Italian couple, Walter (Franco Nero, “Django”) and Eve Mancini (Corrine Clery, “Dangerous Obsession”) whose marriage is in the process of total collapse.  Walter is a volatile alcoholic, who has much jealousy towards Eve, who is professionally successful whereas he isn't.  Her father is his employer, and he cannot seem to understand how Eve has a better career than he ever had.  This makes him cruelly degrade and humiliate her in front of people, and one might wonder why Eve wants to stay together with him.  Their relationship is pushed to the side when they make the bad decision to pick up a hitchhiker named, Adam Konitz (David Hess “House on the Edge of the Park”).  Neither Walter nor Eve could have imagined the savagery which will ensue.

A fugitive bank robber, Adam is desperate for hostages to take him to Mexico.  Walter and Eve are perfect targets for him, but he doesn't have to worry much about them as he has to worry about his accomplices whom he double crossed.  The briefcase he carries holds the $2 million from a daring robbery Adam and his cohorts pulled off.  He needs Walter and Eve to drive from California to Mexico without being stopped by the police or his vengeful gang.  His true colors seem to be revealed soon enough.  He asks Eve how she would like to suck his cock, and it doesn't take more than the piece of dialogue to establish him as a dangerous, depraved psychopath.  Eve may have believed Walter's cruelty was too much to handle, but she receives a much harsher treatment at the hands of Adam.  As they are on their way, motorcycle police flag them down.  Looking for any suspicious activity, cops approach the vehicle.  Walter believes this would be a great chance for him and his wife to escape, alerting the police.  Quickly, Adam senses something is wrong, shoots and kills the two cops, and his journey to Mexico continues.

Hitch-Hike - "Franco Nero"

Like "Rabid Dogs", "Hitch-Hike" is mostly filmed in a vehicle.  Whether it is inside the vehicle, or exteriors, Campanile's mise en scène is carefully maintained.  His total understanding of suspense is crucial for a film like this, where the tension is racked up from the dialogue and interaction of the characters.  The characters are stuck within a car they do not dare to exit; if either Walter and Eve try to escape, they will be shot down by Adam; if Adam is not careful outside of the vehicle, he will also be taken by the cops or his former gang.  Because it is in their best interests to stay inside of the car, we are trapped along with them.  We see the characters sweating from the heat, and we're feeling their distress from the claustrophobia and fear.  It's amazing how tension can be achieved in a car, but thanks to an attention on the grim situation at hand, the focus is never once shifted.  The screenplay is very simple, but it's not as basic and spare as one might think.  One may not even expect surprises within its traditional thriller plot.  On the contrary, Campanile has tricks up his sleeves we will not anticipate.  Because of these tricks, "Hitch-Hike" flows freely and uniquely.  As soon as we are settling after a sudden twist, there is another one.

In "Hitch-Hike" just about anything can happen.  If you are an exploitation fan, you will be shocked by Campanile's restraint on gore, disallowing the sleazy elements exploitation filmmakers normally rely on.  That is what makes the film so special, how it manages to refrain from the trappings of the genre.  Like Tobe Hooper's "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre", the restraint works better than any other approach to the material.  "Hitch-Hike" maintains a sleazy vibe throughout its 104 minute runtime without going over the top.  The result is a bleak and psychologically grueling viewing, establishing its mood early on.  The film begins with a "love" scene between Walter and Eve, and it may be entirely consensual, but it looks like Eve is being violated, forced against her will.  There is a deer lying next to the two which Walter shot prior.  He pins her against the deer, and in an early moment, Walter's character is developed by his arousal into humiliating his wife, having sex as her head is positioned close to the dead deer's entrails.

Campanile's cast does outstanding work, realizing the complexity of their characters.  For anybody who has watched Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left" or Ruggero Deodato's "House at the Edge of the Park" knows how intense of an actor David Hess is.  Expect his intensity to reach the highest point in "Hitch-Hike".  While he may not be entirely different than Krug or Alex here, he is nevertheless unique.  No less depraved than those characters, he is hilarious while he's dangerous.  That tells you how Hess breathes life into his characters, transforming into much more than what is written on page.  Walter is superbly acted by Franco Nero, who has the utmost ability to make us feel his internal anger.  There is a scene where Eve is raped, and even though we think he is a man who doesn't have any emotion towards his wife, his anger is intensely apparent.  There are many great things to say about these performances, but to forget about Corinne Clery's work is blasphemous.  Clery, who plays the most bullied character, conveyed the innocence and sexuality, integral to the thematic ground of the story.

While it's chiefly an exploitative action film, "Hitch-Hike" is a complex character study.  Its themes, of machismo juxtaposed with love by means of homosexuality, are extant within Campanile's edgy, exhilarating premise.  Constantly throughout, characters play off of each other.  In the first act, you are meant to have strong disdain towards Walter, who is introduced as an arrogant bastard with no morals.  Walter is a difficult character to sympathize with, but as soon as Adam is revealed to be a treacherous psychopath who wants to harm Walter and Eve, the viewer suddenly finds Walter to be something like an anti-hero.  He is no longer the villain of the movie when Adam is introduced, as a man more amoral than Walter has the heart to be.  Viewers are shifting their sympathy when it is quite clear Walter is more physically powerful than his wife, so he seems to be the one that can be helpful the most physically.  You never quite know what direction the film is taking you, which is its greatest virtue.  By its shocking conclusion, you are stunned by its impact and irony.  The dialogue really drives this film, and characters have a different way of communicating.  These moments were as voyeuristic as they were uncomfortable.

Hitch-Hike - "Classic Nero Moment pt. 2"

One of the great composers of all-time, Ennio Morricone, graces "Hitch-Hike" with ingenious texture and vibrancy to a film that is only more powerful because of it.  The score compliments Franco Di Giacomo and Giuseppe Ruzzolini effectively.  The visuals are so gorgeous that you will find yourself staring at the visuals at times.  Because of Giacomo's and Ruzzolini's work, the film looks superior than many 70's and 80's exploitation.  Brooding dread is amply comprised in the closed-in space of the characters, amidst the stunning backdrop of the California landscapes.  There is never a boring, dull moment.  Every element interwoven works to the film's benefit and it's more than a road movie, exploitation piece, or thriller.  Any person is capable of committing evil acts, but whenever a person comes along even more capable of atrocities, people come to a realization of how to act.  This very theme is explored by the presence of Hess's vile, reprehensible Adam.  Widely regarded as a "lost classic", it's a mystery to me why it isn't more popular among horror fans.  "Hitch-Hike" is indeed a rare gem and a piece of astonishing filmmaking; a gritty, fiercely terrifying experience.


1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
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- Featurette: "The Devil Thumbs a Ride"
- Theatrical Trailer

Anchor Bay's DVD transfer looks absolutely stunning, especially for a movie that was made such a long time ago. Remastered and restored, "Hitch-Hike" has never looked so good, with its 70's look intact and polished. During a few night sequences, there are lineament issues, but nothing major or at all distracting. Colors are precisely saturated, as Giacomo and Ruzzolini's cinematography is all the more pleasing to gaze at. Sound is fine enough, though it's somewhat lacking. First off, the original theatrical trailer is very interesting. "The Devil Thumbs a Ride" documentary, which runs at about 17 minutes, deserves a viewing in itself. 25 years later, the stars reunite to recount their own unique experiences on the making of the film. Mixed with clips and music, the documentary was a real treat. Sadly, Campanile died in 1986 from cancer. If Campanile was still alive for the DVD, his comments would have been as fascinating, if not more fascinating than Hess and Nero's recollections. There's a lot of interesting stories to be heard. In particular, Hess and Clery talk about how the rape scene was pulled off. Surprisingly, Clery is as attractive as she was in 1978, and her scenes are in Italian language, subtitled in English. Pasquale Festa Campanile's "Hitch-Hike" is truly a must-have DVD in any Euro-exploitation fan's collection.

Hitch-Hike - "Drunkard"

Hitch-Hike - "In Sight"

Hitch-Hike - "On the Road Again"

Hitch-Hike - "Naked Chicks"

Hitch-Hike - "Euro-Upskirt Shot"

Hitch-Hike - "The Road Leads to Nowhere"

Hitch-Hike - "The Naked Assassin"

Hitch-Hike - "Har-Dee-Har I'm in Charge"

Hitch-Hike - "Your Woman is Mine!"

Hitch-Hike - "Firey Hatred"

Hitch-Hike - "S-O-S"

Hitch-Hike - "Die Copper!"

Hitch-Hike - "Bullet to the Brain"

Hitch-Hike - "Kick Back"

Hitch-Hike - "You Know What I Want"

Hitch-Hike - "Classic Nero Moment!"

Hitch-Hike - "You Hate This Don't You?"

Hitch-Hike - "Contemplating Revenge"



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