Hitchhiker, The: Volumes 1 and 2 (DVD)

The Hitchhiker Volumes 1 and 2 (click for larger image)Starring Page Fletcher, Willem Dafoe, Gary Busey, Kirstie Alley, Tom Skerritt, Sandra Bernhard

Various directors

Distributed by HBO Home Video

I’ve never picked up a hitchhiker. And no one ever seems to pick up Page Fletcher, the “Hitchhiker,” as he travels from place to place, bringing blood, murder and suicide in his wake. His destination is unknown and his origins are a mystery. Perhaps he is the specter of death?

The Hitchhiker series is is quite old. It started its 8-year run in 1983. I may have only been 3 years old at that time, but I remember the show well thanks to repeats years later. The memories are kind of foggy as far as the quality of the program, but thanks to HBO The Hitchhiker is alive and well on DVD.

Most stories in The Hitchhiker start off with a brief introduction by Page Fletcher, rarely expressing any emotion in his worn leather jacket and Canadian tuxedo. The intros are a bit over the top in a noir-like style that hardly seems fitting when the end credits roll. There is never a feeling of satisfaction after watching an episode. This could be blamed on the show’s age and the bigger, better things that HBO has put out since.

After watching a few episodes, it should be clear to the viewer that this series paved the way for Tales From The Crypt. Many of the half-hour episodes are quick to lay out the characters, their life/death chances and a sex scene. Often the audience can spot a “twist” coming from a mile away, but that is one of the many risks when trying to tell a story in under 30 minutes. Nothing comes off as shocking or scary for that matter. The only time this reviewer jumped was when Sandra Bernhard appeared on the screen sporting a nasty neon hair job and that perplexing face that used to scare the piss out of me as a tot. A handsome woman she is not.

The Hitchhiker Volumes 1 and 2 (click for larger image)The Hitchhiker plays more like an installment of “I Love the 80s” than a thriller. The stories melt away, and one is left looking in awe at the fashion and hairstyles. Once too many times the men appeared more attractive than the women thanks to flowing hair and a good amount of make-up. While there aren’t too many direct political or historical references to the time two decades ago, The Hitchhiker still shows its age even when flamboyant fashion never rears its head.

The video transfer of these first two volumes goes from decent to outright poor. One particular case of eye burning torture is the story “A Whole New You.” If this reviewer had not seen himself put in the DVD, he would have mistaken it for a pirated copy. Maybe this episode always looked bad, but who knows. Luckily this one episode is the only glaring case while many of the others are just grainy. Don’t knock HBO though. It is a large gamble releasing this series on DVD. They could have taken the time and money to spruce them all up, but what if The Hitchhiker didn’t sell enough to make up for that cost?

What I will knock HBO for though is the diminutive number of extras on Volume 2. There are a whole two commentaries in the second DVD release. TWO! The first one had a good number of commentary tracks featuring directors; why so little this time? Listening to the directors isn’t all that great but at least gives the buyer something else to look forward to. Was a “behind the scenes” or a couple of interviews too much to ask for?

Who do we suggest The Hitchhiker to? That’s a tough one. Personally, I liked looking back at a show I caught nearly every Friday night as a kid, but compared to later projects by HBO, this one seems like a washout. If you were a big fan, then it certainly is for you to relive the stories near to your heart, but it offers nothing great to any newcomers … except for some ideas for your next 80’s themed party.

Special Features
Audio commentaries including directors Paul Verhoeven, Phillip Noyce and Carl Schenkel and actor Harry Hamlin

3 1/2 out of 5

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Mike Phalin

Mike Phalin is a contributing writer, reality television star and engineer.

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