Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mexican settings

TCM aired another confined boat movie today, Cargo to Capetown. I only saw the ending, and it's not on DVD, so I can't comment much about it. It reminded me of Plunder of the Sun, which I mentioned in that previous blog post, and which aired a few weeks back on Glenn Ford's birthday. However, I'd rather write today about a better movie, and so I thought of something else that Plunder of the Sun has: Mexican settings. That brought me immediately to The Hitch-Hiker.

Ida Lupino directed The Hitch-Hiker, a movie about two men -- played by Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy -- who pick up a hitchhiker (William Talman) on their way to a fishing trip. However, picking up strangers isn't always such a good idea. This one turns out to be a murderer fleeing from the law! Needless to say, he carjacks our two heroes (even if the word "carjacking" hadn't been invented at the time) and forces them to take him through Baja California, Mexico, where he intends to make his escape by catching the ferry across the Gulf of California to the rest of Mexico. It's a simple story, but Ida Lupino does an excellent job directing, making the movie quite tense, and keeping the running time down to a fast-paced 71 minutes. She's helped, to be sure, by the desolate locations (although according to the IMDb, locations in the US state of California substitute for Baja California). It's one I can highly recommend, and I'm thrilled to say that this little gem is available on DVD.

Perhaps just as interesting as the movie itself is the fact that it's based on a real story. Billy Cook, seen in the photo at left being captured by the police, kidnapped an entire family and killed them, and then, in a cross-country escape, carjacked a travelling salesman, eventually murdering him, too, before being caught in Mexico. Indeed, Cook, just like William Talman's character, had a deformity making him unable to close his right eye completely. Cook was executed in California's gas chamber for his killing spree; Time magazine has a contemporary story about the execution online.

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