Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy star as Roy Collins and Gilbert Bowen, respectively, two men embarking on a hunting/fishing trip. The trouble begins when they pick up a hitchhiker named Emmet Myers, played by William Talman. Turns out Myers is a sadistic killer who's being sought by numerous law enforcement agencies for a string of murders.
The tension and suspense start to build almost immediately, and are sustained throughout the movie as the men travel the southwestern deserts of California into Mexico. The men try to look for a means to escape, but Myers keeps a tight lease on the men, and due to his unpredictable nature and complete lack of remorse, they know he would kill without regard. Also, Myers has a paralyzed right eyelid which causes it never to close properly. This means he actually sleeps with one eye open, giving the appearance that he's always watching, even when he's sleeping. Very creepy!
As the manhunt for Myers increases, the pressure increases, and the men know that once Myers decides they are more of a liability than they're worth, he will dispose of them, as he tells them this every chance he gets. There was just enough character development provided for Myers in the tight script to give viewers a glimpse into what drives the man and his contempt for life in general. The three leading actors all play their parts very professionally, but Talman really sells his performance. He provided a brutal yet subtle picture of a remorseless, psychotic killer and reminded me of a coiled rattlesnake that could strike at any moment.
The oppressive desert locations, a well-written script, and taut directing work together nicely, creating a sense of anxiety and forboding right up to the end of the movie. I was surprised, but pleased with the outcome, as it didn't seem in line with other crime dramas of the time.
There were some minor flaws in the print, and I noticed the audio dropped out very briefly on two different occasions, but that took away none of my enjoyment of this film. And given the condition of the original prints, this restored version looks really great. Included is an interesting introduction by Robert Clarke, in which he details some of his experiences working with Ida Lupino.
The film itself is an important noir by an important actress and director, Ida Lupino. It is well worth seeing, but buying it from the Roan Group will not necessarily give you the opportunity to view it. Buy it from KINO if you want to see it.