This is a film about the perils of hitchhiking which poses the pressing question: should it be banned? According to these hitchhikers, it is easier to get away with in Continental Europe than it is in the United Kingdom, and foreigners travelling these parts have their reservations about the practice. However, these two Americans tell the interviewer that Britain is a far safer place to make your way around than in the Deep South of their homeland where hitchhikers are victimised, and suggest a safer solution where they can carry cards to prove their genuine intentions. But let us follow four sets of young women as they travel...
Pausing briefly to wonder what one interviewee means when he says that young women indulging in this activity are in danger of being raped "and vice versa" - what's the vice versa of being raped?! - it is clear from the start that we were in public information film territory here, with all the unsettling qualities that entailed. Yet Take an Easy Ride went far further than warning you that if you polished a floor and put a rug on it you might as well set a mantrap, or scaring you away from ponds with the Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, because it was essentially working with two aims in mind, one to inform, and the other to titillate.
The manner in which it went about this was questionable to say the least, but when you know it was originally intended to be a half hour short to be shown on British television, it starts to make more sense. Hence the dry but typically stern tone of most of this, very much in keeping with the "the authorities know best" styling of many a shorter film, often shown as filler during advert breaks. Some of these were offered cinema showings as well, and even by the seventies such things as supporting features had not died out, which could take the form of a forty minute effort such as this. But director Kenneth F. Rowles was offered more cash to expand the running time and thus a minor cult item was made.
That extra stuff took the form of the kind of sexual material that would be familiar to many moviegoers of the time, except this was no Brit sex comedy, and there was one thing that made that obvious, which was rape. This subject was not often broached in the U.K. exploitation films of the day as the censors frowned upon it, so such bits were likely to be cut out, hence comedy being the place where nudity was more likely to be seen where there was no feeling of threat and it was all a big giggle. Not so with this, which adopted its moralising methods by illustrating precisely what would happen to the unwary in explicit detail.
This means that one of the drivers who picks up a pair of girls on their way to a rock festival (actually footage of The Isle of Wight) is a sex attacker, and the film depicts in harrowing, though thankfully not lingering, detail exactly what would happen to the unlucky girl who accepted a lift from a pervert. If this is to be believed, there were armies of such evildoers zooming up and down the motorways and country lanes of the nation, and not always in the places you might expect, as Scandinavian glamour girl Ina Skriver (uncredited here) is picked up by a couple of swingers and drugged and raped by both the man and his wife. There is a sobering "punchline" to each of these stories, with even a pair who turn the tables and attack a Good Samaritan for his wallet, but as there was not much like this production, more by accident than design, you can see why it has made an impression on many over the years.