Tag Archive: Lost Highway

Linkage: September 2014 Edition

Several good posts to make sure you catch this month, from the usual suspects of good B-exploitation-horror writers. Enjoy!

If you’re into bad cinema, watching Robo Vampire is a mystical experience.

  • The Church of Splatter Day Saints, one of my favorite blogs out there, recently announced their return to active blogging after taking some time off to build a spiffy new site. Looks great and is worth your time.
  • Cult Movie Reviews gives a quick review of a fun little Ichiro Honda film, Battle in Outer Space (1959).

  • Red Letter Media interviews Samurai Cop himself, Matt Hannon, who is very much alive, in two parts:

Shaft Comic



Lastly, Brutal As Hell has a must-read two-parter: Lovely Sort of Death: A Brief History of LSD in Cinema (part 1; part 2)


Hitch-Hiking Into History

Hitch-Hiker_poster This film is an interesting piece of film noir directed by Ida Lupino in an era where there were very few women directors and is based on an all-but-forgotten true crime story of the day.  What makes this film special is that it helped establish the “noir roadshow” sub-category of noir, in which the darkness and tropes of the genre play out on a broader backdrop of a travel story.  It is in the process of being remade by Hannah Fidell as we speak.

So this post is not a movie review.  If you are looking for some perspective on whether you should see this film, I’ll direct you to Lost Highway’s recent review, which is how I came to know about this movie.  For the history geeks, I’ll direct you to the original review in the New York Times, 60 years and a few months ago, which apparently did not have much appreciation of B movies back in the day:

An unrelenting but superficial study of abnormal psychology coupled with standard chase melodrama, it moves swiftly to the obvious conclusion.

That’s true enough.  The review, interestingly, makes no mention of the real-life inspiration for the film, nor the fact that at one point, one of the kidnapped men’s stress at the situation finally boils over, and he lashes out in a fit of unadulterated rage screaming at the villain: “You Stink!”  Taken against his will and made to drive hundreds of miles out of his way by a psychopath who has promised to kill him at the end of the drive, and he can’t even bring yourself to even use harsh language.  Ah, for the days of PG-rated rage! 

In this post, I’m more interested in what happened off-screen to inspire this film, the making of the film, and its legacy more than recounting the events portrayed between opening credits and when the lights come back up.  That said, you should check out the film:

 Ripped from the Headlines: The Billy Cook Murders

CookThe meat of the story in The Hitch-Hiker came from the real life case against Billy Cook, a spree-killer who killed half a dozen people while hitchhiking; his most tragic victims were the Mosser family–Carl, 33, his wife, Thelma, 29, and their three children: Pamela, 3, Gary, 5, and Ronald, 7.  Cook then killed a man in California.  He was sentenced to 300 years in an Oklahoma prison for killing the Mossers, and then later was sentenced to death for subsequent murder in California.  He was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin on December 12, 1952.  His story was recounted about a decade later in cowboy author Glenn Shirley‘s 1963 true-crime thriller, Born to Kill.  You can find a just-the-facts-ma’am rundown of Cook and his spree here.

At any rate, according to Lupino’s biographer, she based the script for The Hitch-Hiker on the Cook case–she often got ideas for her films from reading newspaper stories, according to another account.  She included in her film a killer with a slight deformity to his eyelid–just as Billy Cook had. Part of the claustrophobic feeling one gets from The Hitch-Hiker is that you can’t tell if the killer in the backseat is asleep or not, because his right eye is permanently open.  Lupino interviewed two of Cook’s surviving victims, and obtained releases from them and from William Cook–the killer’s father–to incorporate elements of this real life tragedy into her film, according to Lisa Livingston-Martin’s new book on the darker side of Route 66 in Missouri.

The Hitch-Hiker’s Legacy

This movie is remembered today as one of the first films of the “noir-road” films, in which noir-esque events and dark mood are taken on the road and we see the noir elements playing out on the trip.  According to the essential Historical Dictionary of Film Noir, this sub-category of films developed much after the initial noir films had been and gone–indeed, noir by 1953 was already in steep decline, and most by this time were relegated, like Hitch-Hiker was, to the B movie circuit.  Thus, The Hitch-Hiker is more or less the direct ancestor to much more recent films such as The Hitcher (1986, and poorly remade in 2007), Bright Angel (1991), Kalifornia (1993), Cold Around the Heart (1998), and Joy Ride (2001).

One footnote to this movie, gets to other influences of the original source material, the Billy Cook murders.  Most notably that The Doors’ classic song “Riders on the Storm” (1971) as being written about the Cook case.  This is likely an urban legend, despite an eerily familiar scene as the Cook case:

There’s a killer on the road/his brain is squirmin’ like a toad

Take a long holiday/let your children play

If you give this man a ride/sweet family: they will die/killer on the road . . .

According to Doors’ guitarist Robbie Krieger, “Riders” was based on the old song “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and since other potential inspirations are imposed on this song by wishful fans, one might think one of its creators would should probably get the definitive last word and put this myth to bed.


Here are some of the sources used in this post, if you want to explore any of this further:

  • Lisa Livingston-Martin, Missouri’s Wicked Route 66: Gangsters and Outlaws on the Mother Road. The History Press, 2013.
  • Andrew Spicer, The Historical Dictionary of Film Noir. Scarecrow Books, 2010.
  • Daniel Bubbeo, The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies. MacFarland & Co., 2002.
  • William Donati, Ida Lupino: A Biography. University Press of Kentucky, 1996.
  • Glenn Shirley, Born to Kill. Monarch Books, 1963.
  • A.W., “At the Holiday: The Hitch-Hiker,” New York Times, 30 April 1953, p. 39.
  • “6th Murder Attributed to Killer,” New York Times, 21 September 1951, p. 34.

It’s time for another good-sized roundup of good movie reviews from the tweeps.  Love how you folks are keeping exploitation and B-movies in circulation.

With a good-sized H/T to Cultural Gutter, I saw this interesting post on TV criticism vs. TV recapping, among other things.  I liked it because it gives voice to what I’m trying to give birth to on this blog, in the context of exploitation and B-Movies, instead of scripted television dramas:

. . .  carving out a niche for long-form pieces that look beyond the pluses and minuses of a single episode to examine its greater potential and its place in the culture . . .

I’ve been trying to figure ways to take my movie blog that you’re reading now beyond recapping and reviewing individual films, which does seem to me to be the dominant mode of the cinema blogosphere.  Giving as much as I can about the backstory of a film’s making, information sometimes captured in book-length pieces, or trapped in the academic community seems one good way to get there.  Another seems to be the looking into period press, much of which is is not online, to give some idea of how these films I cover were received as they came out seems like a fruitful avenue.  I’ve some other ideas too, which are not ready for prime time yet, but suffice it to say I was glad to see the idea of moving beyond single-film perspectives in the above post.

This last one reminds me of a side-project I just might get going, doing a “movie-of-the-day” about Jaws-rip-offs of various kinds of animals attacking people. If this furlough keeps going, you never know what can happen!

  • Over at Forgotten Films we get some good posts on a variety of fun flicks, a couple of which should be seen annually, I think: Blackenstein (1973) was part of the early-to-mid 1970s blaxploitation series remaking classic horror icons, other examples being the William Marshall vehicles Blacula and Abby (remaking The Exorcist). FF also talks Grizzly (1976), another of the aforementioned Jaws rips; The Awakening (1980) a snoozer in which yet another ancient Egyptian queen comes back to life, this time with no thanks to Charlton Heston’s and Stephanie Zimbalist’s overwrought acting.  Lastly, we get one of two takes this week of my own guilty pleasure, Zombie Lake (1981), about zombie Nazis.  Or Nazis, who happen to be zombies.  Or whatever.  Also, check out Midnight Triple Feature’s separate review of Zombie Lake.

Starring Barbara Steele, who I recently saw in Piranha 18 years after this one, still messing shit up, this time, and yet again, with the wildlife eating people!


Co-starring Sandor Elès, whose death anniversary was a month or so ago.

  • Lost Highway was three fun ones this time: Pieces (1983), a self-explanatory classic slasher ripoff of the irreplaceable Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); Night Tide (1961) in which young Dennis Hopper falls in love with a woman who may or may not be a mermaid; and Journey to the Seventh Planet (1961), classic B-sci-fi about visiting Uranus.  My tweeps are pretty monster/slasher horror-focused, so seeing some good old fashioned sci-fi/horror here in the bunch is nice and refreshing.
  • The positively essential Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) gets a new review, courtesy of Church of Splatter-Day Saints, not only did this flick introduce the facehugging monster that Alien gets all the credit foe later, but this film helped revive Universal Studios’ flagging fortunes by introducing new possibilities for monster movies when the genre had all but run its course in the mid-1950s.

Lastly, I’ll conclude this post with a fun link over to The Hollywood Reporter and their interviews with all concerned with the making of Evil Dead 2.  “We were like ‘Jackass’ with a plot”!  Enjoy!

Here’s a bit on what I’ve been reading as of late–mainly from those with the sufficiently poor judgment as to follow me on Twitter. Seriously, you folks are awesome, and I wanted to highlight your stuff to the 8 or so people who read this blog 😉  Mainly I read your movie reviews, I’ve seen many of these, but a few I have not, and I’ll be getting to those soon.  I don’t like to review individual films so much–I know my limitations–but enjoy reading yours very much. Here, I thought I would match the reviews to where we can find online viewing of trailers and full movies,just for convenience.  There’s a few non-movie reviews tucked in here, too.

These links are no real order, but do check out these fine purveyors of horror and B-movies!

George Wendt!

  • Horrorpedia and Stigmatophilia both take on Hack-O-Lantern (aka: Halloween Night) from 1988.  I hate it when Grandpa ends up a satanic cult leader!
  • Daily Grindhouse offers a list of “50 Cult Movie Books Every Film Fan Should Own.”  I am a book lover too, so I loved this set of posts: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  I think the essentials here are numbers 36, 31, 28, 20, 19, 13 (these last three are my all time favorites) 10 and 2.  Some of the works included seemed like filler to get to 50, while some good ones seemed to go missing.  Maybe we just have different tastes, and I should do up my own list.

Also starring Alan Ormsby of Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973), fwiw.

Yes, Paul Sorvino!

  • Isaac’s Picture Conclusions on Scar (2007).  Not familiar with this movie, but throwing it on the “to watch” list, despite its apparent lack of coherence.
  • Lastly, have a look at the Do-It-Yourself Giallo Kit to get your very own (fake) movie title, director, and plot in the Italian crime/thriller spirit. Such as: A Golden Armadillo on the Cold Metal Table (dir. Sergio and Martino de Alberto) in which: “An American model is killing off the members of a certain business.  A female journalist accidentally destroys some crucial evidence about the the killing. When another person is found murdered, she is on the verge of solving the mystery when she is killed by the real culprits: a secret society made up of the people she most trusted.”  Loads of fun . . . for five minutes.