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Image Entertainment presents
Hitch Hike To Hell/Kidnapped Coed (1977)

"I'm gonna do mama a favor!"
- Howard (Robert Gribbin)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: May 08, 2002

Stars: Russell Johnson, John Canon, Leslie Ann Rivers, Robert Gribbin
Other Stars: Randy Echols, Gladys Lavitan, Larry Lambeth, Jim Blankinship, Dorothy Bennett
Director: Irv Berwick, Frederick R. Friedel

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 02h:42m:47s
Release Date: April 02, 2002
UPC: 014381117622
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+C+C+ B-

DVD Review

If you went to a drive-in movie anytime during the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, then chances are you probably saw a Harry Novak film at one time or another. His name might not be familiar, but his trademark sleazy exploitation films, full of nudity, violence and general mayhem, put the "B" in B-movie. As a prolific producer, he was the man behind such underground classics as Please Don't Eat My Mother, Country Hooker, Mantis in Lace, and The Pigkeeper's Daughter. Something Weird, long an ardent supporter of the work of Harry Novak and Box Office International, has lovingly compiled another fine double feature disc with this latest release.

This disc features:

Hitch Hike To Hell (01h:27m:58s)
Director: Irv Berwick

It's all about dead runaways in the opener, a 1968 Irv Berwick-directed serial killer saga that finds Russell Johnson (The Professor from Gilligan's Island) starring as a police detective in the hitchhiker friendly town of Crescent City (one character refers to it as "the hub of highways to everywhere"). Mild-mannered (re: nerdy) dry cleaning delivery guy Howard (Robert Gribbin) has a real thing for runaways, especially those who are trying to hurt their mothers by hitting the road. Howard likes to pick up female hitchers, and murder them, as part of some bizarre retribution for his sister Judy who has apparently run away. The bodies stack up, and it's up to Johnson to catch the crazed psycho.

The great thing about Hitch Hike To Hell is Gribbin's comically hammy performance as Howard, a guy who can flip into a violent rage in a heartbeat; I'm not sure if I like the crazy or subdued Howard best, but both are a stitch. He lives with his overly doting mother, and she's always quick to serve up an ice-cold root beer to her favorite son as he works on his model cars, after a tough day of delivering laundry and murdering women. Gribbin borrows more than a little liberally from the Anthony Perkins school of dweeby homicidal killers.

Kidnapped Coed (01h:15m:49s)
Director: Frederick R. Friedel

Instead of runaways, the second feature is the story of Sandra Morley (Leslie Ann Rivers), a wealthy young coed, who is kidnapped by the rugged and moderately polite Eddie (Jack Canon). The story centers on the trials and tribulations of Eddie, as he tries to coerce money out of Sandra's rich father (never seen, but voiced by director Friedel), as well as that of Sandra as she slowly falls in love with her captor. The pair encounter a stream of strange and dangerous people along their journey, including a desperately edgy sequence in a motel where two psychotic nutjobs are causing some trouble of their own.

Kidnapped Coed, which was also released as Kidnap Lover, is largely dialogue-free, with a lot of long, slow, interesting pans and lengthy silent passages, and those elements give it more of the feel of a legitimate production, and not the low-brow B-movie fluff that it is. The film is also littered with a menagerie of odd-looking secondary characters, as if a David Lynch casting call had run amok.

Novak would never be confused as a deep-thinking artiste, rather he was a down-and-dirty producer who developed a deep library of low-budget titles that still hold a strange appeal to me today. These are not necessarily well-made films, as a rule, but there is something addicting about these tacky little productions. Maybe it's misplaced nostalgia on my part, but I think Harry Novak really gave the public what they couldn't admit they wanted.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Both films are presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio on this double-feature disc. These were cheap exploitation titles when they were originally made over twenty five years ago, and the remastering process by Image can only do so much good, apparently. Each film is plagued by an infernal amount of visible scratches and specks, with Hitch Hike To Hell being the worst offender of the two. Kidnapped Coed has a more stable and realistic color field, with significantly more natural fleshtones; it's obvious that the print is also in significantly better shape.

A pair of drive-in cheapies can only look so good after all this time.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Mono is the order of the day here, with both audio transfers generally consistent in presentation. The sound is a bit tinny, with a hint of crackle and some minor hiss. Kidnapped Coed has the benefit of having been made a few years after Hitch Hike To Hell, so the fidelity of the track is slightly more natural.

This must have sounded terrific blaring through a tiny drive-in speaker, and the presentation here isn't that much different.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Hitch Hiker
  2. The Dangerous Stranger
  3. The Cautious Twins
  4. Gallery Of Harry Novak Exploitation Art
Extras Review: For a disc that features a pair of lurid Harry Novak films, the usually bawdy Something Weird extras included here are rather tame (but thematically enjoyable, regardless):

The Hitch Hiker (03m:25s)
This grainy black & white short from Seaside Studios tells the story of a cute blonde who is stranded by the side of the road after her car breaks down. Her subsequent strip-down to bra and panties (I've seen more skin in a JC Penney's catalog) results in a tepid comedic payoff.

The Dangerous Stranger (09m:21s)
Here is one of those educational shorts designed to teach kids the risks of talking to strangers. We learn here that alleys, movie theaters, parks and hitchhiking are hotbeds of danger and creepy adults. The warning "don't be a wise guy" is sound advice. This segment cuts off abruptly.

The Cautious Twins (04m:20s)
Another 1950s short directed at kids, only this time it's animated. It's the story of twins Dan and Doreen, who must navigate all sorts of potentially dangerous situations. The narrator, who speaks in rhyme, hammers home the message that not all adults are good, and that sometimes "the bad ones look like good ones." Sad, but true. This segment also cuts off abruptly.

Harry Novak Tour of Box Office International 1992 (27m:04s)
If you've ever wanted to get a glimpse inside the cramped, overflowing offices of Box Office International, then this is your chance. This approximately thirty-minute home video footage (which spells Novak's name as "Novack" on the DVD menu) follows the great one around as he shows us all of the jam-packed cubby holes, from the bathrooms to the screening room. This isn't for everyone, but genre fans should gobble this up and be ready for more. Like most of the extras on this disc, this segment unfortunately ends suddenly, as if the camera ran out of tape.

Gallery of Harry Novak Exploitation Art (05m:19s)
The poster art for a series of BOI/Novak titles (including Mantis in Lace, Kiss Me Quick, Axe, Venus In Furs) is set to various songs used in the films. Each one is better than the last, and as I've said before, I could watch two hours of this stuff easily. Cool!

A trailer for each feature film is included, as well as one for Kidnap Lover, which was a re-release of Kidnapped Coed. Hitch Hike To Hell is split into 11 chapters, and Kidnapped Coed is cut into 12.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Two more wonderfully trashy sexploitation titles from Harry Novak get the DVD treatment, and one can only hope for the day when some grandiose box set is unveiled. In the meantime, these two quirky cult titles will have to suffice. Get some beer, popcorn and a fifth of Jack Daniels, and you'll appreciate these films in a whole new light.

Another enjoyably odd release from Something Weird.


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