The Hitchhiker: Volume 1 DVD Review

Written by Peter West

DVD released by HBO Video

Various writers and directors
1983 - 1991 (series run), Region 1 (NTSC), Not Rated

Starring:
Page Fletcher as The Hitchhiker (1983 - 1991)

Movie:

"Last Scene" Episode: #2.2 – 15 October 1985

Starring:
Peter Coyote as Alex
LaGena Hart as Leda
Tom Heaton as Paul
Garwin Sanford as Duncan

Peter Coyote headlines this story as a director concerned his star is not putting enough into the last scene of the film he's directing. Coyote decides that the end result is justified no matter what the cost

Commentary by director Paul Verhoeven is a interesting account of how directing this episode opened the doors for his later films in the America.

"Nightshift" Episode: #3.1 – 11 March 1986

Starring:
Margot Kidder
Darren McGavin
Stephen McHattie as Johnny

Margo Kidder and Darren McGavin star in this supernatural thriller. Kidder is a nurse at a old age home who preys upon the elderly. She soon learns that predator sometimes becomes prey!

Commentary by director Phillip Noyce is a historical account of how this series changed premium television.

"Miracle of Alice Ames" Episode: #3.24 – 1987

Starring:
Vincent Grass
Emmanuelle Meyssignac
Joe Pantoliano
Coraly Zahonero

Sopranos star Joe Pantoliano (with hair) plays a corrupt minister who's idea of working for the lord is hooking in a hotel. Pantoliano faces his inner demons when he encounters a young girl with the "stigmata".

Ghostwriter" Episode: #2.4 – 12 November 1985

Starring:
Barry Bostwick as Tony
Willem Dafoe as Jeffrey
Dayle Haddon as Debby
Anthony Holland as Professor Pierce
Madeleine Sherwood as Vivian
M. Emmet Walsh as Detective Underhill

Faking his own death to add value to his body of work, Willen Dafoe finds that his wife and best friend plan on making his passing a reality. A excellent episode!

Commentary by director Carl Schenkel is a interesting discussion of how this episode was done. It includes a lot of behind the scenes info of the relationship between William Dafoe and Dayle Haddon who was personally terrified by Dafoe!

"Man's Best Friend" Episode: #2.9 – 11 February 1986

Starring:
Jennifer Cooke as Eleanor
Boyd Norman as Randi
Michael O'Keefe as Richard
Margot Pinvidic as Dr. Hazlitt
Joel Polis as Carl

Another great episode! Michael O'Keefe plays a man abandoned by his wife friends and job who finds a stray dog. Their friendship traverses on dangerous ground when people O'Keefe sees as threats start dying!

Commentary by director Phillip Noyce chronicles his involvement in the series and life directing in the states as compared to Australia.

"W.G.O.D." Episode: #3.4 – 26 November 1985

Starring:
Gary Busey as Rev. Nolan Powers
Brioni Farrell as Dalene
Ian Forsyth as Tony Lewis
Robert Ito as Seto
Geraldine Page as Lynette

A great episode where Gary Busey plays a minister who via his radio show asks his listeners to confess their sins to God. The tables are turned when a caller asks Busey to confess sins from his own dark past!

"The Legendary Billy B." Episode: #3.7 – 3 March 1987

Starring:
Kirstie Alley as Jane L.
Brad Dourif
Andy Summers

Kirstie Alley is a sleazy reporter who will do anything to get a good story. Unfortunately she crosses the line and becomes part of the story herself. A real good episode!

"Homebodies" Episode: #3.12 – 7 April 1987

Starring:
Christopher Collet
Jim McMullan as Bill O'Mell
Melissa Reeves as Denise O'Mell
James Remar
Angel Tompkins as Janet O'Mell

A confused young man with a hardened con as his only friend finds the family he desires in that of a home they are robbing.

Commentary by director Carl Schenkel is a nuts and bolts on this episode. Interesting thoughts from director Schenkel on working with star James Remar.

"Why Are You Here?" Episode: #3.8 – 10 March 1987

Starring:
Mitchell Anderson
Brad Davis
Helen Hunt as Donette

A TV reporter desperate for ratings explores the underworld of rich young society. Trying to create a story, he pushes them too far!

"In the Name of Love" Episode: #3.11 – 31 March 1987

Starring:
Greg Evigan
Lucy Gutteridge
Susan Tyrrell

A paid assassin decides to relax at a secluded spa and enjoy the company of a young tennis pro. Will letting her guard down prove fatal?

Review:

The Hitchhiker was the first made for pay TV series and literally changed the way television shows were made. The combination of first rate stars with European directors (and in one case Australian) made for quality TV that really had not existed to that point. All of the great shows you see on HBO like The Soprano's, Six Feet Under, Sex in the City and Deadwood all owe their existence to the success of The Hitchhiker.

HBO has put together a collection of ten of the best episodes of the series in the 2 DVD set. Having watched most of these when they were originally aired, it was a nice trip back 20 years to a different era of television. An enjoyable aspect of The Hitchhiker was always that little shot of nudity in quite a few episodes. I've tried to include the screenshots in this review.

I would have liked to see HBO present this series in a season format with multiple editions. Hopefully the sales of this collection will prompt them to do so. Run, don't walk to your favorite DVD store and take a ride with The Hitchhiker.

Video and Audio:

Filmed as if it was to appear on the big screen, The Hitchhiker has startling visual images. Personally I found though the picture did look better on my 4x3 tube TV versus my 16x9 rear projection HDTV.

On of the most striking things about the series was it's erie music. Each episode has a solid track however the Dolby 2.0 on a couple of episodes had issues with volume. I had to turn it much louder for dialog then lower it when music played. Overall very good!

Special Features:

The only extra is the five episode commentaries. But what excellent commentaries they are, I enjoyed all five.

Grades:

 
Movie: 4 Stars
Video: 4 Stars
Audio: 3.5 Stars
Features: 3 stars
Overall: 4 Stars

Want to comment on this review? Head over to the Horrortalk Review Forum.

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