This film, produced and directed by exhibitor Irwin Berwick (Malibu High, another naughty film), is not always easy to watch because of its gritty subject matter, but it is a fascinating little image worth seeing for fans of the 70s cinema.
Howard’s a mama’s boy with soft manners. Because of his delivery job at a cleaning company, he can spend a lot of time on the road. Only when he catches young women on the run does he turn into a homicidal maniac who becomes agitated and wants to punish his transgressions.
In Crescent City, a city in northern California on the way to San Francisco, a series of shocking murders occur that at first sight seem random, but appear to be connected: Each victim is a teenage hitchhiker running away from home. We know from the beginning that the killer is a charming and gentle delivery boy called Howard (no doubt played by Robert Gribbin), a thoroughbred gentleman who lives with his mother. We don’t know exactly how long Howard’s been in that awful position. We do know, however, that he fuelled his victims’ hatred of their mothers: He gets shaken up and ends up in an area where rape and murder are literally his only option. He’s not an effective killer in and of himself: Each victim is strangled in one way or another (sometimes with a twisted frame from the pick-up he drives all day), and he dumps the bodies randomly on the side of the road or in waste containers, whichever suits him best. Soon his work suffers from distractions and he is reprimanded by his boss. Howard has no idea two detectives from Crescent City are after him. When the mother of an 11-year-old girl calls the inspectors to find her little girl after she ran away from home, the inspectors know they have to strike the clock before the killer finds her there, takes her and makes her his next unfortunate victim….
A serial killer film, in the form of repentance, of strange beauty and a unique touch. Hitchhike to Hell functions as a character study of a mad killer, but it is also strange, unfiltered and perhaps inadvertently humorous. It’s almost like a pedagogical or educational video for teenagers at school to warn them about hitchhiking, but it plays like a riff on Hitchcock’s Psycho, but without the style and nuance. His most important and valuable asset is his portrait of the killer, and Gribbin’s star distinguishes him with a hard performance that you will win or lose in the first few minutes of the film. He plays a completely idiotic character, but you can’t help looking at him and interfering with his way of doing things. This film, produced and directed by exhibitor Irwin Berwick (Malibu High, another naughty film), is not always easy to watch because of its gritty subject matter, but it is a fascinating little image worth seeing for fans of the 70s cinema.
Arrow Films recently released the Blu-ray edition of The Hell’s Guide for Hitchhikers. The film looks clear and cinematic enough in the new 2K restoration. Sometimes it feels like you’re watching the film directly from the cinema release. The film is available in two formats (1:33:1 and 1:78:1), plus a number of new featurettes, a reversible cover and a booklet with an essay by film historian Heather Drain.
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