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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:24 am 
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Following Gregory's recommendation of the film here (and Gary's of the Roan Group disc) I picked this up and was blown away.

This is one of the tensest films noirs I've encountered, and one of those films that still retains its original power after decades. In an interesting angle for auteurists, the film is as tough and resourceful as Lupino's screen persona.

It's brutally stripped down: a single, simple situation stretched to breaking point. There's so little elaboration of the set-up that's established in the first five minutes that you wonder how Lupino can possibly keep it going for the length of the feature without introducing additional strands and diluting the basic power of the situation. She does so not by piling on plot complications or indulging in actorish character bits (the filmmakers are smart enough to know that they don't need to buy our empathy with backstory) but by coolly riding out the nightmare.

The result is strikingly modern: a stripped-down, brawny, almost abstract existentialist thriller. One of the heroes of the hour is the invaluable Nick Musuraca, forsaking his Lewton / Tourneur shadows for the equally unsettling, blinding light of the desert, but I'm even more impressed by Lupino's iron control of pace (inexorable) and mood (dread).

I've long been a fan of Lupino the actress, but this was my first encounter with Lupino the director. Any recommendations for good DVDs of her other films?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 1:55 am 
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Ah-haaa! Now you're tawkin.

Now rustle up copies of NOT WANTED & THE BIGAMIST... this woman was fabulous-- such a compassionate heart for the most marginalized social-villains of her antisceptic time.

But the Hitchhiker rules man. Pure directorial talent.

And the eye....


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:49 am 
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Glad to see others have enjoyed The Hitch-Hiker. Unfortunately, I'm less familiar with the rest of her work than I am with that one. In fact, I must confess that most of what I know about her other films came from an article on her directorial oeuvre in the Jan 1980 issue of Film Comment. The author, Ronnie Scheib, provides a decent critical overview of her films, although I don't agree with some of his conclusions at least insofar as they pertain to The Hitch-Hiker.
It would definitely be nice if Kino or a real DVD company (I kid) would get around to releasing Not Wanted (aka Streets of Sin) on DVD. Hard, Fast and Beautiful, Outrage, and Never Fear would also be most welcome. Maybe there's a tiny sliver of a chance Warner will speed along more RKO "B" films as part of the extensive slate of releases they've announced.
I've shied away from The Bigamist just because I haven't been sure the Alpha Video release of it is worth bothering with. I've also steered clear of The Trouble With Angels because Columbia TriStar altered the image from 1.85:1 to 1.33:1.
Finally, she directed an episode of The Twilight Zone in Season Five, The Masks, but I still haven't seen it because so far I've only decided to buy the first three seasons (thus missing out on the Jacques Tourneur episode, Night Call, as well).
If I had an account at Netflix or some such service I could access more of the kinds of things I've mentioned above that I can't find to rent locally and am not ready to buy but I wouldn't really have enough time to make the membership worthwhile. I'm sorry I'm not more help on this -- and even sorrier about the state of her filmography as a director and screenwriter.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 7:31 am 
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I Can't attest to the Alpha, sorry. I have the old Kino VHS's from the 90's of NOT WANTED & BIGAMIST.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:08 pm 
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As is stated at the begining of the film is based on a real-life tragedy. Billy Cook killed six people during a 3,000-mile trip that had started on Christmas Eve 1950 in California. He killed a married couple and their three children and the family dog. He threw the bodies into an abandoned mine shaft. Further down the road, he killed a travelling salesman from Seattle who was on vacation in Tulsa at the time. The man's blood-spattered car was what first aroused the police and the heavily-armed officers were ordered to shoot to kill. He later kidnapped two hunters and took them across the border into Mexico intending to kill them; fortunately, he was captured by Mexican police on the 1st of January 1951 and he was subsequently extradited to the US, where he was tried for the murders, convicted, and received five 60-year sentences for homicide - a 300-year prison sentence at in Alcatraz Prison. The Oklahoma City judge deemed him sane enough to escape the death penalty, to great public outrage. However, a California court later assessed the death penalty and he was executed in San Quentin's gas chamber on Dec. 12, 1952.

Author of the dark side of Hollywood, John Gilmore begins his most recent book L.A. Despair: A Landscape of Crimes & Bad Times (2005) with the story of Billy Cook. Here's a snippet of an interview with Gilmore:

Quote:
You're known for creating an empathy for these cold-blooded killers, like Billy Cook. But why should we feel sympathetic towards them?

The truth of the matter is these are human beings and they've gone to extreme lengths. The lengths they go to and the why of how they get to that place has always fascinated me. Like if you went in and visited John Holmes when he was dying of AIDS, as a skeleton on a bed, how did he get there and why was he there? Of course, some people have endured a lot of shit in their lives, like Billy Cook. When Cook was a kid, all he ate was biscuits because his teeth were so bad. He wanted a bicycle, and the foster mother he's with gives him one, but then takes it back because it's part of a scam to get the money for it. He never had any emotional closeness because he was a runt, an ugly runt. Cook was very similar to Charles Manson in that way. You have an ugly little runt, you beat him and put him in a cage. Finally, when this runt gets loose, look out! Like a dog. If you whip it all the time, it becomes a fucking vicious animal. Don't turn your back on that son of a bitch.

Even though Billy Cook ends up going on this cross-state hitchhiking murder spree, kills a family of five, including three children, and even the family's dog, you sort of feel sorry for him at times. That scene from his childhood, where Cook's mother dies and his father abandons him and his siblings in a mineshaft is horrific. And then Cook ends up doing the same thing, hiding the bodies in a mine.

Our society's based on a Barbie Doll culture. Barbie and Ken, those are the winners. Those are the real people. It's not Charlie Manson, and it's not Billy Cook. It's Barbie and Ken. Those are our heroes. That's what we aspire to be. I think of all the freaks, all the ugly people, with misshapen mouths. Obese people. Society treats them in a different manner.

Still, there's something cool about Billy Cook, not pathetic.

He's the last desperado. It's pure Americana from beginning to end, like where he meets up with his father and tells him, "I'm going to live by the gun and roam." Or where they have his body on display in a hardware store after he's been executed, and they end up burying him by flashlight in some nowhere cemetery somewhere.

Full interview HERE


Here's an an excerpt from the chapter on Cook in L.A. Despair.

David Lynch allegedly optioned Gilmore's highly-praised true crime book, Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder. This won't happen now that the Brian De Palma film on the way, unfortunately.

Ida Lupino was a fascinating filmmaker. The Hitch-Hiker is one of the leanest and meanest American films of the 50s and I feel it is a landmark in American Cinema for its real-life subject matter - in presenting a version of what was perhaps the first serial killing in post-war America. In addition to the harsh, oppressive cinematography by the great Nicholas Musuraca, the film was edited by Douglas Stewart (his debut), who had a so-so career early on, but later went on to be Philip Kaufman's editor, working on The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, The White Dawn, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and as one of the five editors on The Right Stuff, who received the Oscar for Best Editing, going out in style and retiring at the top! Not bad.


Last edited by Gordon on Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:41 pm 
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That reminds me of another thing that struck me while watching the film: that it's one of that small handful of films that could be considered a kind of American neo-realism. It certainly doesn't go so far in that direction as something like Salt of the Earth or On the Bowery, but the extensive location shooting, the Zavattini-esque derivation from a newspaper story and, most of all, the absence of elaboration of that source narrative all push the film in that direction.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 4:13 pm 
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Gregory wrote:

I've shied away from The Bigamist just because I haven't been sure the Alpha Video release of it is worth bothering with.


The quality of the Alpha DVD is terrible -- really, really bad. But the film itself is well worth seeing, as is Not Wanted. I seem to remember the quality of the old Kino VHSes being acceptable, should you ever run across copies of those for rental or (cheap) sale.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 3:05 pm 
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Looking to buy a DVD on this (I've had an ancient "Matinee Classics" VHS on this that I can no longer even find, the talk on this title made me want to see it again) I went back to Gary's screen caps to double check my impulse to pick up the Roan (I love their WHITE ZOMBIE from 99, still watch it all the time).

Maybe it's me but it's far from clear that the Roan Hitchhiker is the superior disc. The Roan is obviously from an analogue tape (look at the bitrate graph-- givaway)... it's riddled with chroma and is pictureboxed way down, is soft & hazy and exhibits no film grain whatsoever. Also note that the cap comparing the hitcher pointing the gun are not dupe frames, where in one is in deep shadow on the right hand shoulder and the other is not-- all you need to do to confirm this is look out the window behind him & compare the terrain. I don't know why Gary did this.

The Kino on the other hand looks very filmic, has rich blacks & contrast and a decent amount of film grain. The single drawback to the Kino is the cropping, which is for some reason inconsistent, as there are zones of the film (see one of the last caps with the old model-T style car with the mexican officer leaning against it) where the caps exhibit cropping on the right hand side of the Roan, and the Kino has more righthand side info.

Having to choose between a moderately cropped digital image with good contrast and a filmic look, and a rip on a VHS loaded with chroma and all the usual analogue artifacts but having a full frame telecine... I think I will do what I have done in the past which is, as with SO so many Criterions, go for the superior image which is somewhat cropped. Usual CC compromise.

What's the point of getting the extra bit of frame border information, when the whole image is chroma soaked and analogued to high hell?


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 4:47 pm 
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I think the degree to which chroma is a problem depends a lot on one's projector/TV set.
My choice of the Roan as the lesser of two evils probably had something to do with the Kino edition's much higher price. Also, the Kino does seem less sharp to me. This is particularly clear to me in the first (newspaper) and second to last (license plate) Beaver screen caps.


Last edited by Gregory on Sat Apr 01, 2006 5:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 4:53 pm 
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That's what I was going by... those Roan caps look nauseating.!


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 6:17 pm 
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What I meant to say was that to me the Roan, not the Kino, looks sharper as is evident in the caps that show printed lettering to be more hard-edged in the Roan edition. I edited my previous post to make perhaps it a little clearer.


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PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2006 3:29 am 
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Gregory wrote:
It would definitely be nice if Kino or a real DVD company (I kid) would get around to releasing Not Wanted (aka Streets of Sin) on DVD. [.

NOT WANTED (whose alternate title is THE WRONG RUT in this case) has just been released on DVD by Something Weird (their transfers are usually pretty passable, actually) under the RUT title just last week, see amazon product link


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PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2006 5:02 am 
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Well, there is a better discount on it at DDD here but I may pass on it, partly on principle, due to this:
product description at Amazon wrote:
Though eschewing the trappings of exploitation for a more sensitive approach, the film was nevertheless revamped by roadshow promoter Jack Lake who changed the title to The Wrong Rut, spliced in some color birth-of-a-baby footage, and had Miss Lupino's surgically altered feature playing drive-ins from 1962 through 1972!!!

It's pretty likely this is the cut they're presenting due to the fact that they used the Wrong Rut title (and also Something Weird's general focus as a company).


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PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2006 5:23 am 
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Yes I caught that in the description, but I think the only addition was the plop-in that brief footage, I think the rest of the flick is intact otherwise.


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PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2006 2:33 pm 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
I think the only addition was the plop-in that brief footage, I think the rest of the flick is intact otherwise.

Be that as it may, Lupino's work has long been trivialized or ignored for so long, and I don't think this "Sex Ed" release is what her first film as a director deserves. This Jack Lake fellow sleazified a melodrama that was worth taking seriously in order to attract a boorish audience, and I don't feel like supporting this release by people so determined to carry on that tradition. I will probably just rent it, if I ever get the chance.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2008 9:24 am 
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Someone (I can't find the post) was asking me about Ida Lupino's "Issue Films" and whether or not they'll be released on dvd.

Archive.org has The Bigamist online for viewing. Watch this film to get a sense of the amazing generosity and tolerance of this fantastic woman, who was always on the side of the outcast.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:54 pm 
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Location: OOP is the only answer
Is the VCI edition of Hitch-Hiker on par with the Roan release?


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2010 2:25 pm 
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Since the discussion above, Kino included their edition in one of their Film Noir box sets, which like pretty much all of Kino's sets repackaging their classic titles are no-brainer purchases unless one already owns several of the titles already. They're especially cheap during the occasional 50% Kino sale at DD, which currently includes this set. So that's the way I would go rather than Roan or VCI. I currently have the Kino and Roan but I never did comparisons to compare against the Beaver results.


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