Saturday, December 31, 2005

THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE (1947) -
Felix E. Feist

There’s a lot of fun to be had in this devilishly sweet little noir confection -- and most of it is due to the casting of Lawrence Tierney, the titular “devil” who thumbs a ride. You probably remember Tierney as the hard-assed, cantankerous crime boss Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs (Mr. Pink: “Why am I Mr. Pink?” Joe: “Because you’re a faggot, all right?”). Well, he’s pretty much the same guy here but a younger, sleeker model with hair.
  
Tierney plays a gruff hard-ass, Steve Morgan, who hitches a ride with soused family man, Jimmy, on the way back from a birthday party. What the husband doesn’t know is that Tierney has just knocked off a bank and a bank guard during a hold-up and is currently on the lam. Steve smooth talks Jimmy into letting him drive since Jimmy’s a little tipsy, then into picking up two dames at a gas station, and then into holing up at a coworker’s beach house for a little more booze and bedroom action while he waits out the cops. Jimmy’s reluctant most of the way, even calling his angelically pure wife waiting at home in her nightgown. But Steve will do whatever it takes to keep from falling into the cops’ clutches, whether it involves fast talk or a faster gun.
 
Gas Station Attendant: (showing a photo of his newborn to Jimmy) He’s still learning how to walk.
Steve: Don’t worry. With those ears, he’ll probably fly first.
 
It’s lines like these that ultimately do Steve in and, ultimately, make this little B-Movie better than your average double-bill bottom card. Tierney’s sharp tongue and gruff demeanor (both on and off the set) will sorely be missed from modern cinema. If there is a hell, Tierney’s probably in it knocking back a few fiery rounds and insulting people’s children.

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