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  Hitch Hike To Hell There's danger on the road!
Year: 1976
Director: Irvin Berwick
Stars: Robert Gribbin, Russell Johnson, John Harmon, Randy Echols, Dorothy Bennet
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: What's the worst thing movie serial killers do? Is it skinning their victims to make clothes? Or storing their body-parts in the fridge until they go off? Coming back to life over and over again? Or how's about raping young co-eds and strangling them with coat-hangers?

Over a country and western soundtrack ("Yoo-hoo kin niver tee-a-heel, win yool hitch hahk too hee-a-heel") we are introduced to lovable, but dim-witted, bespectacled retard Howard (Robert Gribbin). In between working as a dry-cleaner's delivery boy (the name of the dry-cleaner is sellotaped to the side of his van), he drinks root-beer, eats potato soup and pineapple upside-down cake, makes Airfix models and loves his mother dearly. Oh, and he kills hitch-hikers, too.....

Just a few minutes into the film, he's picked up young Sharon. She tells him she's running away from home. He tells her how his sister ran away, and is probably runnin' around with no good guys and smokin' dope now. Sharon is unfazed by this. She tells him she hates her mother. Howard suddenly looks nuts. The soundtrack goes crazy. She sure won't be runnin' away from home again. Let that be a lesson to ya', girls - don't ever tell a freaky guy you hate your mother!

Howard's got an Oedipus complex. The next girl he picks up loves her mother, so she gets a lift right to the front door. But the next one, Gail (the surname Tyldesley springs to mind...) finds herself dead in the back of the van with a coat-hanger round her neck...

The two lovable coppers aren't much help. They're nice guys and all, and hygenic too, unlike similar crappy cops from this era, but they're just too dumb and just too goddamn nice - and Lt. Davis' skin-tight paisley trousers don't exactly do him any favours. Lt. Davis and his superior, Captain Shaw spend many an hour in the office, scratching their chins and pondering about the identity of this nut, this mental case, psychopathic case and real-first-class-psycho. Perhaps if they spent less time with their heads in the theasaurus and more time on the streets, they'd catch this first-class-psycho a helluva lot sooner! Part of their strategy involves picking up a young girl (she's meant to be sixteen, but she looks a damn sight older than that) hitch-hiking and taking her back to the station. But her no-goodnik parents don't want her (her dad just lies on the couch in his vest, so it's a sure bet that he's unemployed...), so they have to let her go. When she winds up dead, Captain Shaw laments that he should have kept her in after all. It's a bit late now, Cap'n...

Howard proves he's not a misogynist when a newly-gay stoner minces into the passenger seat. His parents don't understand him, so he's ass good as dead. This extremely politically-incorrect portrayal of a homosexual would almost certainly not be tolerated today (imagine a hippy version of Mr. Humphries), but hey! At least we don't get the police coming out with their usual I-told-you-so-he-had-it-comin'-to-him comments... Now that's sociological progression, right?

Now comes the clincher. Eleven-year old Lisa Burke runs away to go and live with her grandmother after her parents start arguing over the TV rental costs (Renting? Man, that is sooooo passe!) or something. Howard must like her, as he gives her one of his shitty plastic models - mind you, it does look a bit fucked. Perhaps this cute lil' girl could be the one to make Howard mend his ways or, even more likely, spark off a massive chase leading to crazy Howard being gunned down in the street. Captain Shaw is shaken, but not too stirred. "I don't think he'd touch a kid that age," he says. The telephone rings. He looks a bit worried. "We were wrong!" he says. Looks like Lisa's turned up in the skip behind the local Kwik-E-Mart. Would you mind running me a bath, dear? I suddenly feel a little dirty....

So Howard is arrested when Davis and Shaw pop undramatically from behind a rack of jackets. Less than a minute later he's in a padded cell wearing a straight-jacket. Then the credits roll. No fighting, no shooting, bad-language, nothing. Are ya gonna come quietly, Howard? Why of course, sir!

On paper, Hitch Hike To Hell may seem a little on the shit side. On the screen it seems a lot on the shit side, which is fine by me, I guess! The acting is as starchy as the suits Howard delivers, with the unemployed dad trying to read his lines off the back of his Prozac packet being the finest example. And what the actors have to work with is fantastic. Check this out: when Shaw asks Davis why their killer's using coat-hangers as murder weapons, Davis curtly replies, "Why? Because he's a nut!" He is a nut as well. Howard doesn't want to kill hitch-hikers - he only freaks out when they tell him they don't love mommy. In fact he isn't supposed to know he's doing it, but he must have some inkling he's responsible. I mean, he suffers from flashbacks and fit-inducing nightmares throughout the film, and every time he reads the paper he goes into some kind of trance (I knew tabloid journalism was mediocre, but this is ridiculous!)! So the solution? Just stop picking up hitch-hikers, Howard! It's hard to imagine people were making movies like this in 1976 (this looks more like 1972, if you know what I mean) but I'm sure as hell glad somebody did!

I've actually heard Americans talking about how Italians make the sleaziest films. Now that's what I call a real guilt-complex! Despite all their grime and slime, Italians have one thing. Class! They have reasonable actors. They have reasonable storylines. Most of all, their movies don't look as if someone's wiped their arse on the print. Take it from me, if you want real sleaze then you need to look towards America: Land Of The Free, Home Of The Grave.... and Snuff.... and Bloodsucking Freaks.... and Don't Look In The Basement.. etc.

Reviewer: Wayne Southworth

 

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