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HBO presents

The Hitchhiker: Volume 2 (1985)

"When he shoots you it's instant fame."- Christina (Virginia Madsen)

Stars: Kirstie Alley, Sandra Bernhard, Elliott Gould, Harry Hamlin, Virginia Madsen
Other Stars: Jerry Orbach, Gene Simmons, Tom Skerritt, Fred Ward
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, adult language)
Run Time: 05h:00m:00s
Release Date: 2005-04-12
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

The Hitchhiker was a staple on late-night HBO before any original programming on pay TV was hip. I remember it always being on at some odd hour on a Friday or Saturday night, when I would sneak in a viewing of it even though my parents wouldn't allow it. Back then I thought it was a good, adult-themed genre show, but in retrospect, my fondness for it probably stemmed from it being "forbidden" viewing, as revisiting the series in The Hitchhiker: Volume 2 has made it clear that the series really isn't very good.

This is basically a collection of short exploitation films, with almost every episode having the potential to be a Roger Corman film. There's a major guest star (at least these people were stars back in the '80s) in every segment of The Hitchhiker, with Kirstie Alley, Virginia Madsen, Gene Simmons, and the late Jerry Orbach among them.

Each of the 10 nearly half-hour episodes in The Hitchhiker: Volume 2, tells a different story that is narrated by the mysterious title character, who we always see hitching a ride across the country in the opening credits. The shows that are spread across this two-disc set have the following storylines:

O.D. Feelin': This twisted take on the "Say No to Drugs" campaign involves a large bag of drugs that is passed along from person to person, with each unlucky soul who has it, facing dire consequences. Sandra Bernhard, Gene Simmons, and Joe Flaherty make appearances.

True Believer: Tom Skerritt is a detective battling demons who is investigating the recent suicides of religious figures. This is easily the best of all of the episodes in this set, featuring a solid performance by Skerritt, and an authentically creepy story.

Perfect Order: Sideways' Virginia Madsen is a voluptuous model who will do all she can to revive her dying career. Those who are fans of Madsen will want to see this episode, as the lovely actress gives a quite "revealing" performance when her character agrees to pose for a photographer who fancies torture.

Cabin Fever: Jerry Orbach plays a movie director, whose new houseboy seems to have taken a liking to his wife. Orbach gives one of the best performances of the series, using his dry wit to put a stop to the affair that is going on between his wife and the houseboy.

A Whole New You: If nothing else, this episode features the most violent acting Elliott Gould has ever performed on screen. He is Auggie Benson, an informant who is about to have reconstructive surgery to shed his current identity. This segment leaves you with a feeling that something was missing, but Gould's performance is still a lot of fun.

Dead Heat: Fred Ward (Miami Blues) is a sculptor whose latest piece involves a graphic car crash he witnessed when he was a kid. When a drifter and a model come into the picture, the sculptor loses himself even more in his project. This segment is one of the worst, and not even Ward can save the slow, dull storyline.

The Curse: A real estate entrepreneur played by Harry Hamlin has to deal with numerous problems, both with himself, and with a gorgeous stranger whom comes into his life after he unwittingly becomes a slumlord.

Out of the Night: When a teenager who is running from the police winds up in a hotel, he finds a group of very strange individuals. Kirstie Alley plays one of the hotel dwellers, and her performance becomes hard to watch very quickly. If you can get through the problem that is Alley's performance, the end of the story does offer up a nice twist.

Secret Ingredient: A saleman has been conning women for years, but finally encounters people who have him figured out. The ending to this one is very weak, but then again, so is this entire episode.

Man of Her Dreams: This is one of the better episodes in the set, as it's more of a mystery than the others, with a decent payoff at the end. It tells the tale of a loan officer who has daydreams that go right along with the real-life work of a serial killer.

It's too bad The Hitchhiker wasn't a better series, because the acting talent was definitely on board. Perhaps the writers could have concentrated more on tight, actually scary stories and less on shock (and schlock) value and appealing strictly to adults. If nothing else, at least watching The Hitchhiker: Volume 2 has me looking even more forward to revisiting a genre series that got it right once it's out on DVD, that being Tales From the Crypt.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The way The Hitchhiker was shot on film and transferred to video has resulted in poor source material, which hasn't transferred well to DVD. The overwhelming amount of grain is a huge distraction during many of the episodes. Colors are muted and often washed out, with some bleeding evident as well. In all, the poor quality is disappointing, but not much of a surprise, given the age of the material.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio fares a little better than the video, with each of the Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks featuring a decent amount of separation among all of the speakers. There's even a bit of bass that adds some to the action sequences, and the sharp dialogue is always clean and never overshadowed by any of the music.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Director Carl Schenkel2. Director Philip Noyce and Harry Hamlin
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extras are a pair of audio commentaries, with the first one featuring director Carl Schenkel. He talks about his episode, True Believer, the best episode in the set, and maybe among all episodes of The Hitchhiker. Schenkel's discussion is top-notch as well, as he talks in great, passionate detail about what went into making this episode, from the birth of the concept, to his struggles with HBO over the content of the episode.

The second commentary has director Philip Noyce and Harry Hamlin talking about The Curse. A surprisingly long amount of time is spent talking about Hamlin's work in Clash of the Titans and Noyce's directing career, but once we get past that, there are some nice stories told about the making of this episode of The Hitchhiker.

Extras Grade: C

Final Comments

Even though the series is rather poor, fans of the show will be glad to see more episodes in The Hitchhiker: Volume 2 from HBO Home Video. Unfortuantely, the audio and video haven't improved after the show originally aired almost 20 years ago, but there are enough extras to make fans happy.

Chuck Aliaga 2005-04-14