Mar 9, 2012


As far as I am concerned, David Hess (no relation to Rudolf) is my favorite Jewish-American actor. This is for many reasons, but most specifically due to his totally genuine expertise at playing perverted homicidal psychopaths of the most sleazy and degrading sort. If any actor was born to play an Irgun terrorist, it is Hess, but alas, Hollywood would never produce such a film, thus his career was secluded mostly to the marginal realm of marvelous exploitation cinema.  Although Hess is best known for his infamous performance as the exceedingly deranged felon-gang leader Krug in Wes Craven's Last House on the Left (1972), his greatest and most eclectically maniacal performance is as a bank-robbing hitchhiker who escapes from a mental institution for the criminally insane in the Italian production Hitch-Hike (1977) aka Autostop rosso sangue directed by Pasquale Festa Campanile; a work that makes Robert Harmon’s subsequent film The Hitcher (1986) seem like a softcore flirting match between a mature androphile and young, shy hustler. In Hitch-Hike, an American fellow who calls himself Adam Konitz (David Hess) hitches a ride with a vacationing Italian husband and wife that are on their way to Los Angeles, California. The husband, Walter Mancini (played by the great Franco Nero), is a thoroughly debased alcoholic Italian journalist whose wife Eve (played by Corinne Clery) wears the pants firmly and indisputably in the relationship. After picking up hyperactive Herr Hess, the married couple soon realizes that their passenger enjoys more than playful mind-games (albeit of the perverted philistine sort) and that he is brandishing a weapon more deadly than his equally pesky penis. Being a jolly immoral psychopath, the hitchhiker utterly enjoys taunting his less than hysterical bourgeois hostages and, in no time, has them fighting each other. Walter, being nothing more than a glorified gossip columnist, is not match for his vivacious wife who is a wealthy heiress and all-around independent women. It is quite obvious for the beginning of Hitch-Hike that Walter has a dark underbelly in his masked soul that is rapidly reaching a boiling point. It is only his unexpected fateful meeting with a hairbrained and pussy-obsessed nut-job that finally empowers Walter with the tenacity he needs to meet his truly sinister destiny. 

Upon first glance, Hitch-Hike seems like your typical psycho hitchhiker flick, but it breaks all the conventions of theme and morality in this small, but mostly spectacular, subgenre. What makes the film especially interesting is that virtually all the characters in the film go beyond the prissy Hollywood realm of carbon-copy good and evil. In Hitch-Hike, the knight does not comes to save his princess from the dragon, nor does he fancy bedding her down and getting his dick wet. When it comes to virile male potency, the swarthy cop-killing hitchhiker is the only man who has what it takes to unload bullets and unsanctioned semen. While the frivolous hitchhiker spouts narcissistic and delusional fantasies about having his unremarkable life stories documented for the totally apathetic world to see, passive Walter dreams of a ‘progressive’ male-only world of communal buggery. It is most apparent that lady Eve is sexually repressed and almost welcoming of the hitchhiker’s assertive forced entry. Seeing as her own man is not man enough to properly provide for her, let alone protect her, Eve ultimately takes it upon herself to slay the evil dragon and the venomous lizard in his pants. For her noble and uber-miss strength, Eve is ‘rewarded’ in a way that has no rivals in the history of cinema in terms of gross betrayal and defiance of morality. In short, Hitch-Hike is not the sort of film one would want to show a prospective female mate, let alone a dictatorial girlfriend, but it is the sort of work that would be big with militant homo-supremacists, misogynistic serial killers, and maybe a couple oddball feminists. Needless to say, although I thought Hitch-Hike would be your typical Italian pseudo-Hollywood clone, it turned out to be one of the most shocking and strangely rewarding films I have seen in sometime. 

Throughout Hitch-Hike, Franco Nero proves his versatility as an actor by auspiciously playing a proto-metrosexual character who has his testicles carried around in his wife’s thousand dollar purse. Like a lot of great films, Hitch-Hike is even more relevant today than when it was first released, which is virtually unheard of for films of this sort. After all, in our increasingly office-based abstract paper-shuffling western world, women are asserting themselves in ever sector of society and homogenized political homos are demanding that society put male-on-male sodomy on a sparkling lavender pedestal. Naturally, nowadays masculine maniacs and audacious alphas are rarely needed to lead raping and pillaging conquering armies and are but a mere pestilence that has no place in society aside from prison and the imaginary and insignificant world of professional wrestling. When it comes to a modern look at the sexes, Hitch-Hike takes a vicious yet honest nihilistic approach; offering no answers but foretelling a more conflicting and unhealthy future.  Near the conclusion of the film, Walter and Eve are threatened and affronted by an unruly group of irrational and criminally-inclined youths who give evidence as to what to expect from future generations: hyper-materialism and mindless perniciousness.

Undoubtedly, the most glaring flaw of Hitch-Hike is that the film was dubbed, but I guess that is what one comes to expect from any and all Italian films. Still, it is nothing short of a tragedy that one does not get to hear the authentic dueling voices of heinous Hess and beta Nero.  For those that enjoyed Hitch-Hike, the short 17-minute documentary The Devil Thumbs a Ride (2002) directed by David Gregory (Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth, The Theatre Bizarre) for Blue Underground, is also a nice, if hopelessly superficial and overly sentimental, treat.  While lacking in any real intellectual depth as far as socio-political issues are concerned, the brief documentary does feature some worthwhile personal commentary from Franco Nero and his accomplice David Hess.  Unsurprisingly, Hess declares his performance in Hitch-Hike to be his finest.  Nero also discusses the little problem of breaking his arm after punching a naughty horse during the shooting of the spaghetti western Keoma (1976) right before the production of Hitch-Hike.  Seeing as his character is an emotional cripple, breaking his arm was indubitably a blessing in disguise as the visibly broke arm is symbolic of the character's emasculated impotence.  While shooting a fight scene in Hitch-Hike, Nero also accidentally broke Hess's Hebrew honker.  I think most people will agree after seeing Hitch-Hike that it was a noble sacrifice.

 David Alexander Hess (September 19, 1936 – October 8, 2011)

-Ty E

1 comment:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Corinne Clery (as the bird was in 1968 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).