I'll never stop loving Something Weird Video. It's amassed a larger and more fascinating collection of B-movie trash than any other, and this double feature DVD is a fine example of their handiwork.
Highlighted by its two features' theatrical posters, this disc's main menu is set against a backdrop of sloppily applied faux wood grain shelf paper! Menu options are a giggle: to play Hitch Hike to Hell or access its scene selection menu, the viewer is encouraged to "Hop In" or view "Mama's Favorites;" Kidnapped Coed's options read, "Witness The Abduction" and "Seize A Selection!"
Hitch Hike to Hell
Whilst delivering and picking up laundry for a dry cleaning service, a chipper, middle-aged, totally inept serial killer finds the time to sexually assault and murder wayward hitch hikers as a means to avenge his overbearing mother. He still lives with her, and the interior of their house consists almost entirely of wood paneling. He also possesses an extraordinary ability to smack his victims without ever touching them, and a technique which enables him to rape and strangle a girl in less than two minutes. Nobody rides for free, but who says fast service isn't cheap?
While most of the players in this film's cast only deliver mediocre performances, its chief asset is a wealth of hilariously hammy acting, courtesy of leading nutcase Robert Gribbin and the goofballs who portray his hapless prey. Other than that, this is a prime example of exceptionally poor low-budget late-'60s filmmaking...but it's great fodder for a riffing party! Shot in 1967, it was released very briefly in '70 to little notice and then granted a widespread release courtesy of Robert Novak in '77, which elicited a thoroughly unenthusiastic response. Hitch Hike is one of very few B-movies that actually could benefit from a tongue-in-cheek remake, if Bruce Campbell were still young enough for the lead role!
Desperate for cash, a rugged thug (Jack Canon) kidnaps the daughter of a millionaire (Leslie Rivers) and holds her for ransom. Quite a lot goes horribly wrong; over the course of numerous misadventures and encounters with a variety of southern weirdos, the two predictably fall for each other.
It's fortunate that Frederick Friedel knows how to pace a movie for maximum deliberation, because the hole-ridden plot of his second feature would normally sustain a forty-five minute TV movie. Though it's hampered at times by sloppy editing, his composition is excellent, and it's nicely furnished by Austin McKinney's colorful cinematography. Shot entirely on location in the Carolinas, Friedel makes the most of a variety of seedy interiors, and much of this film's rural photography is striking.
Canon is an able character actor, if not a versatile one. His ugly, vicious role is basically a retread of the punk he portrayed in Friedel's Axe, except that this character is more complex - and that's the problem. He's great when chewing the scenery with furious grimaces and snarling menace, but when Canon attempts to plumb the emotional depths of his character, his performance deteriorates into silliness. Though she has only a handful of lines in the entire film, Rivers fares better as the titular abductee. She possesses a certain gawky charm that develops into a weirdly sensual allure, and unlike her male counterpart, she always seems believable.
This is an odd edition of Date with a Kidnapper. In the film's penultimate dance scene, the country music from the jukebox is replaced by a cheesy synthesized version of The Blue Danube. Also, the opening titles read "Jack Canon is" and then cut to a still of the next scene that reads Kidnapped Coed; in all likelihood, this print of the movie was probably one that bore the The Kidnap Lover title.
Extras are titled "Runaway Residue," and they are plenteous. Three trailers are included: one for Hitch Hike that's about as silly as the movie itself, an ominous Kidnapped Coed theatrical spot, and another for the alternate title, The Kidnap Lover, in which the narrator's apparent goal is to repeat the title of the film as often as possible.
The crown jewel of these extras is a 1992 videotaped tour of Boxoffice International's offices, conducted by Harry Novak himself. Stout, rotund and garbed in a Hawaiian shirt, the veteran film producer guides us through a cluttered wealth of promotional materials, oddities and rarities in a facility decorated with art and photos from theatrical posters and press kits. He even had a small screening room. Nifty!
Three shorts are included that share themes with the two features. In the first and best of these, The Hitch-Hiker, a sassy, shapely girl with skunk hair strips for a ride after hers breaks down...with disastrous consequences. The Dangerous Stranger is a typical, uninspired '50s educational short inspired by and created in response to the horrifying 1949 kidnapping, molestation and murder of six-year-old Linda Joyce Glucoft. This short warns children about strangers and depicts them using methods that would have them arrested in no time today. It also features a car chase and an unlikely happy ending. The worst of this lot is a crude cartoon titled The Cautious Twins that treads heavily on the same admonitory theme. All of these shorts were drawn from very rough prints, and likely the best available. The Cautious Twins even lacks its introduction and ending!
One last bonus feature is a slideshow of artwork and photos from Boxoffice International press kits and newspaper advertisements for films such as Mantis in Lace, Behind Locked Doors, The Exotic Dreams Of Casanova, Machismo: 40 Graves for 40 Guns and Please Don't Eat My Mother, among many others. It's scored by cheesy period pop music and, like almost everything else on this terrific release, is more fun than you probably deserve.
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About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan (rbuchanan)
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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Hitchhike to Hell (1968, 87 min.) - Teenage runaways Hitchhike to Hell when they accept a ride from Howard, an innocent-looking mama's boy who loves giving rides to pretty young gals. Unfortunately, he also loves killing them. Like a big bad wolf in a red delivery van, Howard searches the highway for sexy hitchhikers despite the efforts of police Captain Shaw (Russell Johnson, the Professor on "Gilligan's Island") to stop him. Kidnapped Coed (1976, 75 min.) - Rich girl Sandra Morley becomes a Kidnapped Coed when she's held for ransom by Eddie Mattlock, yet another mama's boy gone bad. After they're attacked by two sleazy psychos at a seedy hotel, the couple take to the back roads of the Carolinas, encounter an extremely odd assortment of humanity. Remember, kids: There's No Such Thing as a Free Ride!