Hitch Hike To Hell

  • 1977
  • 1 HR 28 MIN
  • R
  • Crime, Thriller

A poorly made serial-killer exploitation flick, interesting only for the appearance of Gilligan's Island professor Russell Johnson. This is also the second-to-last feature by the director who debuted with Z-movie classic THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1959), a far better movie. Mama's-boy Howard Martin (Robert Gribbin), a deliveryman for a small dry cleaner...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece

A poorly made serial-killer exploitation flick, interesting only for the appearance of Gilligan's Island professor Russell Johnson. This is also the second-to-last feature by the director who debuted with Z-movie classic THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (1959), a far better movie. Mama's-boy Howard Martin (Robert Gribbin), a deliveryman for a small dry cleaner in one Crescent City, has homicidal blackouts whenever a hitchhiker he offers a ride to admits, under his chatty questioning, that she's run away from home. It seems his sister Judy fled their hyper-possessive mother and disappeared, and Howard delusionally thinks he's punishing Judy when he's strangling his passengers. Howard's frequent lateness with the delivery van doesn't sit well with his boss (John Harmon), and Howard's mother (Dorothy Bennett) responds to his vague anxiety and loss of appetite with offers of dessert and root beers and suggestions he spend the evening working on his hobby, building model cars. Over the course of a week or two, more and more bodies pile up — with some lip service being given to this small town being a highway hub lots of runaways have to pass through — yet despite a banner newspaper headline and killings that eventually include a gay male teenager and a little girl, the homicides seem to attract very little attention in town, let alone nationally. The police chief (Johnson) mostly wrings his hands, squints in emotional pain and wonders, "Now who drives around with coat hangers?" A refugee from the drive-in circuit, this film's rigidly one-note performances, flat photography, static direction, intense padding (we're several times treated to virtually the same shot of Howard pulling into the dry-cleaner's driveway, parking, getting out of the van and walking to the back door) and ham-fisted editing, is best see as a time capsule of '70s cars and clothes — the latter of which the actors undoubtedly provided themselves. Oh, and then there's that awful, honky-tonk theme song. Producer-director Berwick's son, Wayne — who plays creditable harmonica on the cut — later wrote for TV's Diagnosis Murder and directed MICROWAVE MASSACRE (1983).

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