... aka: Death Drive
... aka: Hitch-Hike
... aka: Hitch Hike: Last House on the Left
... aka: Hitchhiker's Prey, The
... aka: Naked Prey, The
... aka: Never Give a Lift to a Stranger
Pasquale Festa Campanile
How well is Walter and Eve Mancini's marriage going? Well, let's just say Walter is first seen resting his rifle scope on Eve's head. He (Franco Nero) is an unemployed writer and reporter from Italy when he's not being a loud and extremely obnoxious drunk and she (Corinne Clery) comes from wealth and is getting pretty sick of dealing with his shit. The two take a trip to America with their car and a camper in tow and, after he thoroughly humiliates her at a campground and injures his hand in the process, the vacation's over. On their way back to Los Angeles, they stumble upon Adam Konitz (David Hess), whose car has broken down on the side of the road. Against her husband's wishes, Eve pulls over to give him a lift. Adam claims to be a grad student who needs to get back to college in San Diego. In actuality, he's a dangerous, sadistic criminal who was just involved in an armed robbery and has left behind the corpse of one of his accomplices in his car. It doesn't take long for Adam's true colors to surface. He starts talking all raunchy to Eve, which leads to a fight and eventually Adam pulling a gun.
In possession of a briefcase with 2 million dollars inside, Adam confesses that the police are looking for him and points them in the direction of Mexico. He needs Eve and Walter to help get him through numerous roadblocks set up along the way to get there. Adam guns down two cops in cold blood, quickly realizes that the couple aren't so happy and tries to use that fact to get them to turn on one another. He also decides that he wants Walter to write a book about this experience. The three stop to camp out that night and because he claims the book needs sex, Adam attempts to rape Eve. That all ends when someone shoots him and he falls into a stream. Rescued! Nope, it's just Oaks ("John Loffredo" / Joshua Sinclair) and Hawk (Carlo Puri), two of Adam's brothers-in-crime who helped rob the bank before their good pal split with all the cash. Oaks and Hawk - a gay couple - then decide to use the couple the same exact way Adam had; to get them to Mexico.
Of course, Adam isn't actually dead. He returns to try to run them off the road into a ravine, sends his buddies over a mountainside in a flaming truck and then it's back to business as usual. Right outside of Mexico, he's now more determined than ever to get a piece of Eve's "gilded ass," even if it kills him... Can Walter and Eve turn the tables on him before it's too late?
This uneven exploitation thriller gives us some good with some bad. For starters, the cinematography and scenic outdoor locations are both excellent and there's enough tension, action and lovely Clery nudity to keep one watching. Ennio Morricone contributes a good score and, to contrast the violence, an upbeat pop song has been inserted here and there, which is actually quite a brilliant and amusing little touch. The ending is also pretty unpredictable, although somewhat unsatisfying all the same. On the downside, the characters are so flagrantly unlikable that it becomes tiresome listening to them constantly bickering.
Nero gives an intense performance under the circumstances and French actress Clery (who'd just had some success with the erotic hit The Story of O) is quite good herself. Last House on the Left star Hess, on the other hand, gives an extremely over-the-top (and quite irritating) performance as the psycho. His dialogue delivery seems off half the time and he constantly yells and snarls, and laughs like Woody Woodpecker after nearly every line. He'd go on to play another sleazy psycho / rapist in the Italian production House on the Edge of the Park (1980) a few years later. Aldo Crudo adapted the novel "The Violence and the Fury" by Peter Kane. Though set in the U.S. (and ironically enough, it was never theatrically released here), this was actually filmed in Italy and they do a surprisingly good job of camouflaging it.
The Anchor Bay DVD comes with the 17-minute featurette The Devil Thumbs a Ride (filmed in 2002), which features interviews with all three stars. Nero's hand really was broken when he filmed, from punching a horse on the head (!!) while filming the western Keoma (1976).