The Hitchhiker – Dead Man’s Curve (02/11/86)

Successful romance novelist Claudia Reynolds is going to her 21st high school reunion, so she ought to be 39.  Susan Anspach is 44 . . . f*in’ actors, man.

As she approaches her hometown, local dipshit Lance pulls out onto the highway in his red ’57 Chevy [1] to harrass her.  This is right before the directing credit for foreign dipshit Roger Vadim. [2]  How long was Lance waiting there for her?  Was he also laying in wait last year for the 20th anniversary reunion which ya might think she would have been more likely to attend?  Well, I guess she RSVP’d, but that still must have been a long day just awaitin’ for her to drive by.  He recklessly pulls ahead of her taking the most absurd hairpin turn in the US, speeding toward town.

When Claudia pulls her Mercedes up to the hotel, locals flock around her making a fuss.  Especially insane is her old friend Mavis who is happy as a Pekingese to see her.  She introduces Claudia to her young escort for the weekend — Lance.  She busts him for driving like an idiot.  He offers to “let me make it up to you” and grabs her bag, but she takes it herself.  If she doesn’t have enough problems, her old boyfriend is now the sheriff and he takes her bag upstairs.

The sheriff gets a little handsy and she gets rid of him.  Seconds later, Lance shows up with a bouquet of flowers.  Marion Crane didn’t get hassled this much checking into her hotel.  He cuts his hand opening a window, quotes from one her books, and suddenly she is charmed.  They go out for a drive.

Lance spins his car to a stop and offers Claudia a drink from a flask.  They find an old barn where they can have a roll in the hay, and see scrawled onto the wall “CLAUDIA SUCKS” which must be pretty encouraging to Lance.  They start making out and the jealous sheriff shows up.  Claudia plays the celebrity edition of do-you-know-who-I-am-now? that so endears famous, rich, privileged idiots to middle America.  Nice work making the low-life sheriff sympathetic, Vadim.

They go back to Lance’s place and he has a three-way with Claudia and her body double.  Afterward, as she cleans up, she finds a shrine to her in Lance’s bathroom.  He has pictures and copies of her books.  She realizes he is the son of Beau Bridges (the DVD won’t play and the You Tube sound is terrible so I might not have that exactly right).

Lance: I’ve been alone just like you.  My father went off and died.  My step-father ran off.  My mother . . . well, you don’t want to know.

Claudia:  You’re Beau Bridges’ son aren’t you?

Lance: Very good.  He went around with Susie Brennan a while.  But he couldn’t forget you, the way you ran out on him.  Went and killed himself on a curve.

Claudia:  It wasn’t like that Lance.

Lance:  Problem was, Susie was pregnant, see?  That’s where Tom Otterfield came in.  They got married, the whole bit.  Thought the kid was his.  At least he did until he read some book that hinted it wasn’t.  I wonder where he read a thing like that?

Claudia:  I’m sorry Lance.  I didn’t mean it.

Lance:  You’re not running out on me, Claudia.

I had to transcribe that to make sense of it, but I’m not sure it helped.  I get that Claudia wrote a roman à clef [3] about her small town.  But Lance’s father knocked up Susie while hoping to win back Claudia?  How is that Claudia’s fault?  And Susie lied to Tom about the baby being his?  How is that Claudia’s fault?  Is Lance suggesting his father killed himself?  On that crazy road, that isn’t necessarily true.  Anyway, his death occurred long before the book, so Claudia had nothing at all to do with that either. Didn’t her book have the standard disclaimer about “resemblance to any hayseeds, living or dead is purely coincidental”?  And what does Lance mean about her running out on him?

Lance seems threatening at that moment, but I am confused when he produces a pink dress.  Where did that come from?  They are at Lance’s place.  Did she wear that to the prom with his dad?  If so, cheers if she can still fit in it; but jeers for Lance banging his father’s prom-date.

Despite Lance’s dark turn, he drives her back to her hotel.  She goes up to her room and phones her agent to say she is flying back immediately.  Then she goes down the front stairs where Lance is parked.  Seeing the jealous sheriff at the base of the stairs, she takes the back stairs down and goes to her car to escape.  Wait, there are back stairs?  Then why was she originally going back down the front stairs to cross paths with Lance?

Darn the luck, the sheriff chased Lance away from the front door and Claudia runs into him in the alley.  He forces her into the car.  For some reason he is insistent on taking her to the reunion, maybe for those little triangular cream cheese-sandwiches. [4]  The sheriff sees this and chases them.

Lance again accuses Claudia of killing his father.  Out of the blue, she blurts out the true story.  Her before-he-was-sheriff boyfriend actually killed his father.  They were in a drag race and the sheriff cut him off, forcing him off the road.  Of course, you might as well blame Darwin for a crash while drag-racing on a road with a hair-pin curve.  Along about this time, the sheriff rams Lance’s car.  Yada yada, the sheriff goes flying off the road like the General Lee and explodes.

This seems to be heartbreaking to Lance, but I don’t know why.  He didn’t kill the sheriff, I swear it was in self defense.  He just witnessed the death of the man who killed his father — maybe you don’t drink champagne, but do you cry?  Claudia holds him and gives him a kiss, saying “It’s going to be OK.  Both of us.”  Hunh?  For cryin’ out loud, you’re a writer!

What the hell?  From Claudia’s point-of-view, Lance tried to abduct her for some sick reason.  From Lance’s POV, there is still that matter of her book which outted his real father, driving away his step-father, and sending his mother who-knows-where.  So why are they so kissy-face now?

Well, Susan Anspach looked beautiful as Claudia.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I might have the make and model wrong, but it was definitely red.
  • [2] Really, how much longer do we have to pretend Barbarella isn’t just dreadful? The photo in the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun was only Jane Fonda’s second worst picture.
  • [3] Hey Google Voice, it ain’t roman à CLEFF.  Stop being evil and get back to work.
  • [4] WTF aren’t those sold in stores?

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