Editor’s Notes: Hitch Hike, Passage to Marseille, & Green Lantern: The Animated Series will be released on their respective formats on February 16th.
Hitch Hike (Raro Video) stars Franco Nero (Django) as Walter Mancini, an alcoholic newspaper editor. He and his wife, Eve (Corinne Clery, The Story of O), are on a road trip across California to save their troubled marriage. Along the way, they pick up a stranded motorist (David Hess) who introduces himself as Adam Konitz. Konitz soon turns out to be a sadistic psychopath from an institution for the criminally insane. He’s running from the law and his two accomplices after stealing $2 million. He takes the couple hostage and orders them to head to Mexico. Walter and Eve try to find not only a way to get rid of the hitch-hiker, but also a way to deal with each other when both have their sights on the stolen money.
Rarely seen in the United States, Hitch Hike is an Italian production made in 1977. It contains a great deal of violence, much of it exploitative. Director Pasquale Festa Campanile relies on violence and misogyny to supply interest, with Eve stripped, raped and humiliated for most of the film, though she is clearly more emotionally mature than the men. Attempting to make the dialogue ominous and foreboding, the script only succeeds in making it sound pretentious and awkwardly bombastic.
The movie was filmed in Italy, with Italian locations effectively standing in for the American Southwest. The score is by Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Hateful Eight).
Special features on the new widescreen HD Blu-ray transfer from an original 35-mm negative include the half-hour documentary Road to Ruin and a fully illustrated booklet. The soundtrack is available in English and in Italian with English subtitles.
Passage to Marseille
Passage to Marseille (Warner Archive) stars Humphrey Bogart as Jean Matrac, a World War II French patriot who escapes Devil’s Island, survives a dangerous freighter voyage, and becomes a gunner in the Free French Air Corps. The film re-teams Bogart with many of the actors from Casablanca, made the year before — Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet. Both this picture and Casablanca were directed by Michael Curtiz.
Passage to Marseille portrays characters in a conflicted France. Matrac is a crusading journalist who opposes a policy of appeasement with Nazi Germany. Like Rick in Casablanca, initially Matrac is concerned only with his own fate and indifferent to France’s. For his outspoken efforts, he is beaten and imprisoned on a false charge of murder. Rains plays a patriotic officer committed to France’s eventual victory over Germany, while Greenstreet portrays Major Duval, a cowardly and opportunistic colonial officer who represents what would become the Nazi-friendly Vichy government. Peter Lorre is Marius, one of Matrac’s fellow escaped convicts.
In addition to Curtiz’s direction, the film benefits from a solid script and a collection of first-rate performances. At times, it tries too hard to copy the Academy Award-winning Casablanca, but it’s great to see the cast re-teamed in this patriotic wartime drama.
Special features on the Blu-ray release include a vintage newsreel, the Oscar-winning patriotic short I Won’t Play, the Oscar-nominated musical short Jammin’ the Blues, the cartoon The Weakly Reporter, the featurette “The Free French: Unsung Victors,” and a Warner Bros. studio blooper reel.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series
Green Lantern: The Animated Series (Warner Archive) is a two-disc collection of 26 episodes from the Cartoon Network series. The Green Lantern Corps patrols the galaxy, fighting evil. In the farthest reaches of deep space where few Lanterns patrol, a new evil is rising — the Red Lanterns. Hal Jordan and fellow Green Lantern Kilowog defy The Guardians of the Universe and board a new experimental spacecraft, the Interceptor, and race to the Guardian Frontier to confront the evil Red Lanterns. But a menace lurks beyond the Red Lantern invasion and Hal, Kilowog, and fellow Green Lanterns Tomar-Re and Aya discover an even greater evil that threatens to extinguish all life.
The Green Lantern (2011), a disappointing live-action theatrical feature starring Ryan Reynolds, tanked at the box office, but this series had better luck, even though it lasted only one season. The story line is strong, and the characters are developed interestingly. I’m not a fan of limited animation, but the art work does capture the colorful characters, both good and bad. Though Hal is the primary character, lots of attention is spent on Kilowog, Razer, Aya, and Atrocitus, with interactions among them well written.
DC’s Green Lantern never achieved the superstar status of its Superman or Batman, but this series finally pays proper homage to a distinctive and often under-appreciated superhero. DC competitor Marvel has dominated the feature-film market but DC has had greater success with its animated series.
There are no bonus features on the Blu-ray release.