The Hitchhiker – Man at the Window (03/12/85)

Dude, that ain’t a Segway. Take it out on the street.

Arthur Brown is covertly aiming his Popeil Pocket Parabolic microphone at people on the street.  And by covertly, I mean dressed in leather, reclining like Rose being sketched by Jack in Titanic, his motorcycle parked beside him apparently having been driven up onto the walkway.

He hears an old man complaining about being an old man, and he hears a young woman with a black eye talking on the phone about having an affair.  Quite reasonably, he follows the woman.  The titular hitchhiker tells us, “Arthur Bradley Brown steals the words of others and uses them like they were his own” — just like Amy Schumer.

Arthur slowrides, following the woman as she walks to the studio of her lover.  He leaves his bike parked perpendicular to the curb, and sneaks up the fire escape.  He finds her window, and watches her.  So in the first three minutes, he is eaves-dropping, endangering pedestrians, holding up traffic, stalking, blocking the road, trespassing, and Peeping Tomming.  Ladies and gentleman, our protagonist.

Arthur had wisely called before midnight to get the free suction cup attachment for the microphone, which he sticks to her window. Turns out the woman, Diane, is having the affair with another woman, Carla Magnuson.  She makes excuses for her husband and the black eye he gave her.

That night, Arthur goes to Diane’s house and snoops outside her window for a while.  She assures her husband she was just in the city window-shopping, and that there is no one else.  They start making out, which is fine, but I think this scene could have been accomplished without seeing Michael Madsen’s butt.

Arthur is a writer.  He transcribes the scenes he has witnessed into a screenplay and takes it to his agent.  He had been a hot new talent at one time, but the drugs derailed him.  His agent is glad to see he is better than ever.  He has a few suggestions, though.  Apparently, his agent also represents Stephen King — his editing advice is: don’t cut anything, more more more!  He wants to add a scene — inexplicably not a further exploration of the lesbian affair — but of the husband finding out.

At home, stuck for a 3rd Act, Arthur calls Diane’s house to instigate trouble.  Her husband John answers, and Arthur says he is her boyfriend.  John says, “I’m her husband, you son of a bitch.”  The next day, the scamp sends flowers to Diane with a card that says, “To my best girlfriend.”  She wisely tells the delivery boy to take them away before she gets another shiner.

Diane storms into Carla’s gallery and accuses her of making the call and sending the flowers.  The flowers, I get, but why does she think Carla made the call.  Wouldn’t her husband have said a man called, or your boyfriend called?  Arthur is eavesdropping again, this time with a camera.  He takes a picture of Carla giving Diane a back-rub next to a gigantic nude photo of her.  Because, if you’re having an affair with the wife of an abusive psychopath, ya really want to prop the super-sized evidence up in front of a window that doesn’t even have curtains.

Arthur goes to Diane’s house, and this time breaks in.  He installs a bug on her phone and leaves a picture of Diane’s nude photo in their living room.  Finding this, her husband, predictably, starts slapping her around.  Arthur actually feels a little remorse when he overhears this.

The husband — Michael Madsen, playing his usual role of a muscle-head who is not particularly muscular — is a cop.  He detects a signature on the nude in the photo. In a nice bit of exposition, he calls a buddy on the force to get a number for a photographer named Magnuson.  This allows Arthur to overhear the address.  In the bedroom, Diane has picked up the extension, so she also knows where her husband is heading.

All three take off separately for Carla’s studio like the opening of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  The husband wants to kill “the guy”, Diane wants to warn her lover, and Arthur is thinking if he saves Carla’s life she will so grateful they will have a three-way.  Arthur gets there first and tries to warn Carla that John is on the way over with a gun.  Diane arrives next.

Diane:  John’s coming.

Carla:  That’s what he said.

Hee-hee.  Both women are baffled who Arthur is and why he is there.  John finally arrives and Carla breaks a perfectly good whiskey bottle over his head.  When the cops show up, they inexplicably shoot Arthur who is just standing there with his hands up.

This one grew on me as I thought more about it.  The story could hardly be simpler.  Maybe the lesbian love affair was a shocker in 1985, but it can’t support a whole story in 2017; at least not without significant nudity.  The direction called attention to itself a couple of times, but that’s OK.  Some of the shots such as through the fire escape (pictured above) and Arthur’s motorcycle riding were stylishly designed.  Performances were competent.

Maybe it is grading on a curve, but an OK episode.

The Hitchhiker – Man of Her Dreams – (04/08/86)

Jill slips into a hot bath with a dude.  Unfortunately, the dude is Mr. Bubble, denying us even that paltry prurient thrill in this week’s load.  She begins pleasuring herself, so at least one of us is getting some-thing out of this scene.  They went more for realism than a screaming orgasm which is, I guess, laudable even if not as entertaining.

She fantasizes a pencil neck dude in a laughable leather jacket [1] entering the bathroom.  Strangely enough, her fantasy begins through his POV — entering her apartment, walking by the kitchen, and opening the bathroom door before reverting to the omniscient POV.  She does a G-rated exit from the tub.  The dude sniffs a single rose, hands it to her, and begins kissing her.[2]

As she leaves for work — wait, wouldn’t that previous scene have made more sense at the end of a stressful day? — she passes a neighbor that makes me again question the sanity of the wardrobe department.  You’re on thin ice wearing a nylon jacket with no sleeves.  And why would you wear a wool cap that does not cover your ears?  He asks her out for a pizza, but she blows him off.

At her yoga class, she complains, “Every man I meet is either a wimp, a creep, or an emotional cripple.”  As she goes through the routines, she has another fantasy.  She is in a park wearing a long white lacy gown, and for some reason, sporting Ayn Rand’s old hair-do.  A guy in a trench-coat and a black beret walks over a bridge and approaches her.  He hands her a rose, and begins kissing her.  Then he begins strangling her.  As she struggles, Jill snaps back to her class.

The next morning, she wakes up and turns on the TV.  She opens the door to get the newspaper.  Her neighbor is standing in her doorway, again wearing that stupid wool cap; this time indoors.  He says he was just about to knock and she slams the door in his face.  On the TV, she sees a news report about a murder at the same park she dreamed about.  The murderer left a white carnation on the body.  Well haha, Kreskin, in your dream it was a red rose.

Jill goes back to the park where the police have left the white outline of the body, but no crime scene tape, presumably to traumatize young kids for laughs.  And, hey wardrobe department, why is Jill suddenly wearing a black beret?  Is she the killer?  Is she empathizing with him?  Another dude comes walking across the bridge with a multi-color umbrella and approaches Jill.  He says, “They say murderers always return to the scene of the crime.”  It would be a pretty good line if it didn’t come out of the pie-hole which was smoking a Tiparillo with a plastic tip.  Turns out he is a cop, Lt. Tony.

Jill says she “doesn’t like overgrown boys who define their masculinity with props like guns and badges.”  The beret is starting to make sense.  But, he is a jerk, touching her hand; he does try to help, though.  However, she slams the metaphorical door in his face, too.

She goes to the Farmer’s Market and sees a customer from the bank.  She had turned him down for a loan and he did not take it well.  Ominously, in the foreground, a pasty guy with an absurd notice-me yellow scarf is buying a white carnation.  She is interrupted by Jim Buckley, a handsome Aussie dude she recently met.  He sniffs a rose and hands it to her, which startles her.  But is she startled because of the Carnation Killer (as the news called him)?  This is not a carnation.  The disgruntled bank customer glowers at her as she goes for coffee with Jim.

Jim takes her home.  She likes him, but does not invite him in.  She does, however, hook up with Mr. Bubble again that night.  In an unintentionally funny shot, she is shown in the tub fantasizing about Jim.  She has a beatific smile, and the water . . . say, around the hip area . . . is churning like the perfect storm.  I guess it is a Jacuzzi, but it really looks like she is giving herself a very energetic rogering.  Even if it was unintentional, I give the director kudos for that.

She fantasizes about Jim in a white tuxedo, sniffing a red rose and handing it to her.  They are in a dark alley with graffiti that says INNOCENTS SUFFER.  They begin kissing.  Then he pulls out a switchblade and stabs her.

She goes to the cops and tells them she had another premonition of the Carnation Killer.  Even though it was a red rose.  The cops reasonably ask what they can do based on the information she has provided.  Lt Tiparillo says he believes her.  They go cruising through all the alleys in the city.  Just as Jill is about to give up, she spots the INNOCENTS SUFFER graffiti.  He touches her face and she flashes back to the murder.  She runs off.

That night she calls Jim.  They meet, but as they start walking, they pass another bit of INNOCENTS SUFFER graffiti.  Jill freaks out and runs again, but Jim catches her.  She collapses in his arms and says, “Make love to me.”  As they walk to her place, he surreptitiously grabs a white carnation from a flower stand as they pass.

  • Why does Jill look like herself in the 2nd vision, but has black hair and goofy haircut in the 1st?  I guess the answer is that the unseen actual victim had that hair style.  And went to the muddy park in a long white lace dress.
  • I think the killer in the 1st vision was her neighbor, but who can tell with the wool cap and beret.  If so, then she is just seeing everyone as the killer.  How is that a premonition?  All she got was the location.
  • Her 2nd vision was under the INNOCENTS SUFFER.  But that never happens — they are going back to her place for the festivities.  So she is wrong again.
  • Is it just coincidence that she envisioned Jim and he really is the killer?  Apparently it was just random that she saw her neighbor’s face earlier.  Eventually the bank customer’s mug would have shown up.
  • And why does she keep envisioning roses if the killer uses carnations?

Marilyn Hassett as fine as Jill [3] — actually, very good in a couple of spots (and I don’t mean the tub).  The rest of the cast was hamming it up, but I think that was probably at the request of the director.  He seemed to be going for a certain otherness here for reasons that elude me — the acting styles, the wardrobe, the umbrellas, Lt. Tiparillo’s touchy-feely moves.  But especially that little plastic tip on the Tiparillo.  The only people using little plastic holders to smoke are society-destroying, myopic megalomaniacs like The Penguin or FDR.

This was the last episode on the 2nd DVD of what one (i.e. me) could reasonably have expected to be their greatest hits.  Sadly, Amazon has already delivered the 3rd to me.  Stupid Amazon Prime!

  • Other Stuff:
  • [1] My Leather Jacket Rule:  Unless you’re Vic Mackey or The Fonz, don’t even try it.  You will look ridiculous.
  • [2] Surely this is the most nitty of picks — or is it pickiest of nits — but why does the dude take a small step back when Jill gets out of the tub?  Is her fantasy a punk in a grown-up’s jacket who sensitively sniffs flowers and is scared of naked ladies?  If there was just not enough room in the bathroom to film the scene, then shame on the director.
  • [3] Certainly a step up from her debut as Dancer #75 in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  • Teleplay by Gary Ross.  This was his first IMDb credit and his only TV credit. He went on to write and/or direct many great and/or successful movies, so maybe he needed rent money.

The Hitchhiker – Secret Ingredient (05/05/87)

Chris Taylor is the 1980s:  Yellow polo shirt that might as well have no buttons . . . collar turned up . . . worn under a suit jacket . . . padded shoulders . . . sleeves pushed up his arms.  I guess it is presentism to judge people in the past.  Hey, Shakespeare, what’s up with that air filter around your neck? [1]

Chris is pitching miracle supplement Fit Forever in what appears to be an infomercial, with the exaggerated speech and practiced awful jokes.  When the camera pulls back to reveal he is working this hard in a junky living room for a single uninterested housewife who is ironing, it is a pretty good gag and bodes well for the episode.

Maybe my optimism was premature.  This episode suffers the same lack of coherence as A Whole New You by the same writer.  He meets up with old girlfriend Cheryl in a restaurant.  He got her into the Fit Forever biz.  She has done so well, that she has been promoted, “I am no longer your distributor.  I’m your competitor.”  Wait, Chris doesn’t own the company, he seems to be selling door-to-door — how is that above a distributor?

She says, “I found something inside me that really makes a difference.  I’m stronger now.”  Well, great, you go girl!  The problem is that she mocks him for never having used the product, “not one day in your life”.  This is exactly the opposite of where the scene should go.  Given what comes later, it should have been made clear that Cheryl had never used the product so that we clearly understood later where her new strength really came from.  To  muddy things even more, Chris says “I put you on Fit Forever.”  He clearly means that she used it, but her response is immediately about her financial success so it is not clear whether he put her on it as a user, or put her on it as a career.

The shot so nice they used it twice

When Cheryl goes to answer a phone, Chris takes a look through her sales receipts to poach some customers.  I still don’t understand where they are.  It is clearly a restaurant — there is a cash register, glasses hanging from a rack above, liquor bottles.  It is morning and they are standing behind the bar, so clearly they have some connection to it, but what?  She takes a call — does she work there part-time?  I thought she was doing so well financially.  Why is he there?  In my A Whole New You post, I questioned whether anyone on the set spoke English.  That episode was set in France; I don’t know what the excuse is here.

Chris goes to an old folks homes to talk to one of Cheryl’s leads, wisely making it his first stop because their clocks are ticking.  The old woman says she is no salesman, but Chris says they have a built-in market with the residents.  He says they will all want it for the secret ingredient that makes them feel young again.  All for the low, low price of $5,000 — hey this is starting to sound like Aqua Vita.  While the old woman is writing the check, he sees a beautiful young woman; at least relatively i an old folks home.

She looks even more relatively lovely when she leaves in her hideous orange Volkswagen Thing.  Again, I question the choices.  She is supposed to be an attractive, elegant woman.  Why do they have her driving this German POS (piece of Scheiss)?  He follows her home, as guys do.  When she carries a bundle of neatly-cut store bought wood into her house, he steals mail from her mailbox, as guys do.  He finds a letter addressed to:

Belinda Hascombe

1020 Faygate Lane

Washington

857112

My first though was, they don’t have cities in Washington?  Then I gave them the benefit of the doubt and thought, maybe it is Washington DC (and they forgot the DC, which I could totally believe from this bunch).  I figured the Zip Code would confirm that, but the Zip has a Twilight Zonish 6 digits.  Then I’m thinking, maybe this is supposed to be Canada — who knows what kind of crazy Zip Codes they use up there — but no, there is an American flag on the stamp.  And I wouldn’t say Faygate too quickly, either.  Just amazing.

He does not hesitate to walk right into her house, as guys do.  She is laying wood out by the hot tub, which he coincidentally hopes to do later himself — heyyoooo!  He tries to sell her Fit Forever and its titular special ingredient.  Belinda spots him as a Leo because he such a good salesman.  He tells her she is “an awesome chick” and would make a great Fit Forever distributor.  And believing in astrology, she’s used to peddling horseshit.  Fortuitously, she is having a party that night and can scam all her friends.  Chris opens his briefcase and his sales book is gone.

He panics and drives back to the Sunset Care Home.  He finds Cheryl there holding his book.  She has already copied it and makes a quip about his female distributors that I couldn’t understand even after multiple replays.  I’m sure it was great, though.

I’m not a fan of emojis, LOLs, etc but I did have to LOL at this.  When Chris pulls out of Sunset Care Home, we can see Belinda’s distinctive orange VW Thing ahead of him on the road — remember, Belinda is now back at her house.  They re-used the same piece of film (picture above).  I’m no director, but how long could it have taken to set up a second shot?  Or to edit around the car?  Or to use a more nondescript blue/brown/gray Oldsmobuick [2] that I would not have even noticed?  Or to not compound the problem by having 2 identifiable pedestrians prominently in the shots?  Or to use 2 cameras simultaneously shooting at different angles?  Or to not pan past the orange car, then swing back to actually catch it a second time for a few frames?

Back at casa de Belinda, she comes out of the house and gets into her car which — what the heck? — now has the convertible top down.  Ach du Lieber!  Chris pulls up as she is leaving.  She says she’ll be right back and is fine with the stranger waiting alone in her house with her bank statements, jewelry, and underwear.  I guess she never locks her house since he goes right back in.

Oh, he isn’t alone.  Belinda’s friend Elizabeth is there — her punky, slutty, gothy friend Elizabeth.  Maybe I’m just looking for trouble now, but that is some lame-ass character-naming there.  At least Esther Nairn was played for a joke.  She downs a glass of Fit Forever.  Despite Chris touting the secret ingredient, she says “something is missing” and pours the rest down the drain.

He asks her how many friends are coming to the party.  She says 10 or eleven.  I’ll be charitable and assume she isn’t including herself and Belinda in that count — that would get them the requisite 13 for a coven.  But why would she have even suggested 10, which would only get them to 12 women?  Surely the writer knew a coven needs 13 witches.  Right?  Right?  She says she just hopes there is enough of him to go around which is a pretty good line.  He asks her sign and she says, “Over 1 Billion Served.” What, did some else write the 2nd half of this episode?  Like a writer?

That night at the party, the music is playing, wine is flowing, and Chris is the only man there.  He sees Elizabeth slip into the hot tub naked and joins her.  She grabs a can of Fit Forever and dumps in into the bubbling water.  Belinda and her guests — including Cheryl — now all dressed in white, circle the hot tub.  They chant, “We banish you.”

Belinda says, “Better luck next lifetime” and Cheryl clubs him in the head.  This sequence is pointlessly repeated — literally the same footage — two more times.  The screen goes red and returns to show Chris floating lifelessly in the water surrounded by the witches.

The titular Hitchhiker seems a little more interactive this episode.  A Fit Forever can rolls down the road and he stops it with his foot.  Now just WTF did that can come from?  He closes, “Chris promised a secret ingredient.  He gave up everything to deliver the goods.”  And tosses the can away.  They should call this The Litterer.

I have to constantly compare this to A Whole New You because they are from the same writer and have some of the same problems.  This episode, however, is far superior.  It does not star Elliott Gould, which is a good start to any production.  Dean Paul Martin does a great job as the unctuous salesman.  He is even able to sell some gags appropriated from Steve Martin.  I totally bought it as awkward humor from his character rather than laziness from the writer — and that is almost never successfully done on-screen.  Candy Clark as Cheryl elevates the episode with her 1980s perkiness.

Most of the problems above are just sloppiness [3], not show killers.  They just compounded the problem that this is a pretty straightforward story:

  • Chris was not a great guy, but did he deserve to be killed?
  • Was he just a random dude that they needed for a sacrifice?  I would guess not since Cheryl set him up to meet Belinda at the old folks home.
  • Why didn’t the old woman buy the $5,000 of product from Cheryl?  They seemed very friendly.
  • Was she in on the set-up?  If so, then why didn’t they show her wearing the ankh symbol that the other women wore?
  • What did Elizabeth mean when she said something was missing from the drink?  It feels like that was meant to be significant.
  • Why did Elizabeth pour the Fit Forever into the hot tub?  Actually, bathing in one of these miracle cures rather than drinking it seems seems like a concept that could have set up a much better episode.
  • And what is this freakin’ special ingredient that is so special that they mention it repeatedly and named the episode after it?  Nothing is done with it.  Nothing.  It does not even rise to the level of a McGuffin.  It is a goose-egg.  It is an egg McGuffin.
  • Maybe if the coven had started selling New & Improved Fit Forever with a special ingredient, they would have had something.  Oh yeah, spoiler alert for the 1973 Soylent Green.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I originally made a note about George Washington’s wig, but turns out it wasn’t a wig.  What a yankee doodle dandy.
  • [2] A shout-out to Fletch which co-starred Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Belinda).
  • [3] The sloppiness is surprising since the director went on to great shows like Fargo and Breaking Bad.
  • The episode did not air as scheduled due to Dean Paul Martin’s recent death in a jet crash.  An HBO spokesman said “on review, some of the lines were in poor taste” so it was replaced by The Legendary Billy B.  You know, the episode about the dead 1960s rock star . . . which Martin was in the 1960s.  It’s not logic, it’s HBO.

The Hitchhiker – Out of the Night (10/29/85)

A blind Stan Lee doppelganger is walking his dog.  He passes a Bob Dylan doppelganger.  Someone yells, “F*** you all!” since this is HBO and guest star Kirstie Alley is unlikely to take her top off.  We hear a gunshot.  He looks around to see where it came from — the blind man looks around, I mean — this is The Hitchhiker, after all.

We cut to an 18 year old kid running away from a motorcycle cop.  He passes through an intersection which has a traffic jam of old-timey classic cars, then runs into the kitchen entrance of the San Marino Hospitality Inn.  The butcher-knife wielding chef chases him out.  He enters the lobby of the hotel which is filled with Felliniesque menagerie of weirdos, freaks, drama queens, and weirdos.  Did I mention this is set in California?

He sees the chef talking to the cop.  The cop pursues him with his gun drawn, for some reason bringing the chef along.  The cop says, “Are you sure it was him?”  Is he sure it was who?  It’s not like the chef identified someone from a mugshot.  He just said he said he saw an 18-year old kid.  The cop says, “He sure made a mess of things.  I can’t wait to get my hands on him.”

The kid is also packing heat.  He wanders into a bizarre room, made more bizarre by the from-nowhere entrance of Kirstie Alley.  As he spins around, she shoves a puppet in his face and is lucky he doesn’t shoot her.  She shouts, “They don’t like me either, but they’re stuck with me.”  He asks who she is and she pulls a card magically out of the air.  It says:

NECROMANCY

ONEICROMACY [1]

THAUMATURGY

The card changes before his eyes to say The Amazing Angelica.  He asks how she did that, but she says she has a lot better tricks.  She then pulls dead flowers out of a hat which is not a better trick.  She leaves, and the card goes blank, which is an equivalent trick.

The kid finds himself at the bar, but doesn’t know how he got there.  He asks if the bartender knows a guy name Baxy, same as he asked the chef.  He doesn’t, but the waitress does.  She says, “Baxy can’t help anyone, not even himself.  He’s a major head case.”

The waitress disappears; suddenly there is an older woman sitting beside him and the bar is full of people.  She says the waitress doesn’t care about him, but that is also the kind of girl her son likes.  The kid sees the cop, and asks the woman to help him sneak out.  They go up to her room.  She asks him what happened and he says if he told her, she would hate him.  When she tries to kiss him, he freaks out.  There is a knock at the door and he sneaks out the open window.

Suddenly he appears in an elevator with Kirstie.  As going down goes, that’s better than going out the window.  But again he has no idea how he got there.  She says she is putting on a show tonight and if he comes with her, he will be history around here.  He sees the waitress walk by and follows her as she goes into a sauna.  We get a nice topless scene.  They begin kissing and she slides off his jacket.  His shirt has conveniently disappeared, but his gun has not.  She freaks out when she finds he is not “just glad to see me.”  He leaves and she says he will end up just like his pal Baxy.

Again, suddenly, he is a waiter at the Conference of American Cardiologists.  Again with the suddenly — all the diners become white-coated physicians.  He escapes, and Kirstie again appears.  She drags him before a cheering crowd.  At this point, it is pretty clear what is happening.

Unfortunately, we get an interminable scene — OK, 3 minutes — of Kirstie Alley grotesquely hamming it up in front of a crowd.  It finally ends to reveal the kid is a patient in an operating room — he is Baxy.  As the doctors finish up, they say he had attempted suicide, but will recover.  The surgeon, the same actor as the cop, goes downstairs to inform his family.  He approaches the older woman seen earlier and says, “Your son is going to be fine.”  The girl seen before as the waitress is with her.  I think the producers were worried that people — as I did — would think that was his sister and that he dreamed a topless make-out session with her.  There is a clunky “You must be his sister / No, his girlfriend” bit of dialogue inserted to make it less sexy creepy.

Most impractical operating room ever!

This one actually benefits from a second viewing.  I didn’t care for it on the first go-round.  The second time, however, I was able to see all the foreshadowing, and how an impressive number of lines of dialogue were parallel to what would be happening in the operating room.  Some of the scenes that seemed a little creepy, like his mother kissing him on the bed, could be interpreted as a caring mother, but more-so on a second viewing than relying on my memory.

I appreciated the visual style as it reflected the randomness of dreams.  The titular hitchhiker’s intro was a little off, though.  The kid hallucinates this crazy hospital with all the classic old cars out front.  And there is the hitchhiker right in the middle of it. Was he in the kid’s dreams?  I thought it was weird when he was in France.

No other episode has improved so much upon further reflection.  If not for that god-awful scene with Kirstie Alley near the end, it would have been a success.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Did they mean ONEIROMANCY?  Could this series really be that lame?
  • In Baxy’s imagination, the building sign said SAN MARINO HOSPITALITY INN.  Back in reality, it says SAN MARINO HOSPITAL with an IN sign beside it.  Pretty clever, but you really have to look for it.
  • The chef with the butcher knife was the surgeon’s assistant.  When the kid initially entered the kitchen, we saw him cutting into a fresh piece of meat — again pretty clever.
  • Given some of the bartender’s lines (kill the pain / pump the gas), it is clear that he was intended to be the anesthesiologist.  It is a major faux pas that the director did not get a shot of him in the operating room; at least not a shot without the surgical mask.
  • Why did he dream of a conference of cardiologists when he had a head wound?
  • Written by Marjorie David who also wrote The Legendary Billy B.  Maybe I should go back and watch that one again.  Not gonna happen.
  • The cop was also in the excellent Trial by Fire.

The Hitchhiker – The Curse (02/25/86)

Local douche-bag Jerry Macklin takes an ancestral mask off his wall to show his party guests.  He shouts to his business manager, “What did I pay for this one, Mike?”  $4,000.  “I took this to an appraiser and he valued it at what?”  $16,000.  He figures to donate it to a museum, take a tax write-off and double his money.  He sees a another woman giving him the eye across the room and goes to her.

He asks if he knows her and she says no.  This is where being a woman is handy; his next question to a dude would be “WTF are you doing in my apartment?”  Her name is Tanya. Mike interrupts while Jerry is hitting on her.  Someone fell through a rotten railing at one of his properties and plummeted a couple of stories.  Since Tanya has disappeared, Jerry goes to check it out.

The place is definitely a fixer-upper, has character, is a slum.  He goes in and checks out the crumbling building.  He sees a snake slither into an apartment and, inexplicably, follows it.  The old woman living there knows his name.  She thinks it is strange that he owns the building but has never been there. He says he owns stock in General Motors but has never been to Detroit.

She asks what he is going to do about people being hurt in his building.  He says, “I’m going to make repairs.”  As she is stroking the snake, he says he will fix the railing, and fix the heat, “all kinds of stuff”.

He tells Mike about the building as they are working out at a gym.  There are 2 easily mockable things in this scene. First, Mike is wearing insanely short shorts.  Second, Jerry is only lifting 2 plates on his machine.  What is that, 23 pounds, sport?

Jerry wants to do the right thing.  He asks Mike how much it would take to fix the place up.  Mike says it would cost him the beach house he had been dreaming of.

Back at home, Jerry stares wistfully at a model of his dream-house.  There is a very creepy shot of a snake crawling around a hanging plant basket.[1]  Jerry carefully carries it to the bathroom and cleverly puts it in the shower stall.  He calls the super and says, “This is Mr. Macklin in 7-B.”  There is a knock at the door.  He abandons the call and opens the door to reveal 1) Tanya, and 2) that he lives in apartment 7-5, not 7-B.

Nice work with those 2 plates, he-man!

Tanya gives him a massage as he tells his favorite story, how he got rich.  Mike calls.  While Tanya slips into a negligible negligee, Jerry tells him to sell the building.  Tanya unbuckles Jerry’s belt — hey, she’s a snake handler, too!  Wait, you don’t think . . .

Tanya rubs him down with oil, then they have the sex.[2]  Jerry wakes up alone in the morning.   He sees a spot of blood, then more, then way more.  His right leg is a bloody mess.  He goes to the emergency room.  They clean off the leg and reveal a fresh tattoo of a huge snake from his ankle up to his thigh.

After he is cleaned up, he goes back to the building.  He accuses the old woman of siccing Tanya on him.  She says she didn’t sic anyone on him . . . wink, wink.  He shows her the tattoo (and the most precious little anklet sock — seriously dudes, there is no acceptable style where a guy wears less than a full sock).  She says he brought it on himself — literally on himself — by not making the repairs.

He says he will make the repairs and give the building to the tenants.  He asks if that will satisfy her.  She says, “It is not me you have to satisfy.”   He rips open his shirt and sees the tattoo has moved up around his chest.

Later at his apartment, he sees the tattoo has advanced over his shoulder and is up to his neck.  Tanya comes in.  She gives him a knife and tells him to cut off the head of the serpent before it strikes.  He sees the snake around his ankle begins to ripple.  His skin bulges.  We can see something running beneath the tattoo, working its way up to his neck.  A snake bursts its head through the skin near his neck.  He screams and falls to the floor.

When he gets back up, the snake and the tattoos are gone.  He throws the model of his beach-house out the window.  He looks out the window.  He sees the old woman walking away.

This is an example of what The Hitchhiker should be.  It is an interesting story, well-shot, an genuinely creepy.  Well-done.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] This is worth the price of admission for me.  There was a scene in the old movie Frogs which had a snake in a chandelier.  The question of how that snake got into the chandelier was a conundrum that still boggles my mind.
  • [2] In the commentary, Harry Hamlin says he got the idea of their sex scene from a copy of an old nudie magazine called Eros.  Really, no one could independently come up with the idea of inter-racial sex?