When two all-American everymen pick up a deranged hitchhiker on the barren highways of the Southwest, the three descend into a gripping nightmare that is pure film noir. The hitchhiker quickly takes his drivers hostage and forces them into the deep badlands of the Mexican-American border, where he pushes them to the brink of psychological terror, all the while trying to evade the feds and make it safely to a ferry out of the Baja California Peninsula. Trailblazer Ida Lupino directs this thriller with taut, efficient confidence, making terrific use of location shooting and the brilliant creepiness of her lead villain, played with one-eyed menace by William Talman. Lupino, herself an onscreen icon of film noir (think HIGH SIERRA, ON DANGEROUS GROUND and THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT), pushed the envelope several steps further by here becoming the first woman to direct an entry in this classic American genre — taking the helm of a muscular film with an all-male cast, no less. AFI FEST will screen THE HITCH-HIKER in a 35mm print from the Library of Congress. — Beth Hanna
London-born Ida Lupino (1918-1995) was a pioneering actress, director and producer. Her acting credits include THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940) and HIGH SIERRA (1941) opposite Humphrey Bogart. She made her writing/directing debut with NEVER FEAR (1949).