An acclaimed film noir thriller in which two vacationing men are held captive by a hitchhiking psychopath with one eye that never closes. Though years of more horrific violence and suspense have dulled its impact somewhat, it was way ahead of its time. Considered among Lupino's best work, this film was the progenitor of many, many films that would follow in its tire-treads and is a must-see.
"What is at stake in Lupino's films is the psyche of the victim." -Martin Scorsese
The only true "film noir" ever directed by a woman, this tour de force thriller (considered by many, including Lupino herself, to be her best film) is a classic, tension-packed, three-way dance of death about two middle-class American homebodies (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) on vacation in Mexico on a long-awaited fishing trip. Suddenly their car and their very lives are commandeered by psychopathic serial killer Emmett Myers (William Talman). The striking light/dark contrasts, the stunning compositions (the two kidnap victims separated by a narrow stream from a gun-cradling madman with a bum eye) and the spatial integrity of a determining sense of locale (the pitiless topography of a rock-bound, horizonless Mexico over which hovers an ever-present doom) all contribute mightily to this fascinating character-study.
Ida Lupino, Hollywood's sole female filmmaker of the 1950s, directs an all-male cast in a taut, 70-minute thriller. Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O'Brien are two war buddies taking a break from the wives for a Mexican fishing trip; a hitchhiker they pick up turns out to be a crazed killer wanted in nine states (William Talman, later the perennially defeated district attorney on Perry Mason) who forces them at gunpoint to drive him through the desert. Talman's Everett Myers is a fascinatingly abstract creation, filmed by Lupino first as a discorporate flurry of hands and feet, then as a satanic figure whose grinning, key-lighted face seems to float by itself in space. With his paralyzed right eye (he sleeps with it wide open), Myers may represent the return of the fascist evil the two men confronted during the war; he may also represent something inherently violent in the American male that, having been liberated by the war, has to be faced down and defeated by the two vets before they can return to a normal life. Lupino's use of the desert setting, rich with associations of nuclear devastation, seems to look forward to the science fiction films that would flourish later in the decade. --Dave Kehr
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