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THE HITCHER
1986

poster

Film

Director:

Robert Harmon

Language:
English

Running Time: 94'

Main Cast :
Rutger Hauer - John Ryder
C. Thomas Howell - Jim Halsey
Jennifer Jason Leigh - Nash
Jeffrey DeMunn - Captain Esteridge
John M. Jackson - Sergeant Starr
Billy Green Bush - Trooper Donner
Jack Thibeau - Trooper Prestone
Armin Shimerman - Interrogation Sergeant
Eugene Davis - Trooper Dodge
John Van Ness - Trooper Hapscomb
Henry Darrow - Trooper Hancock
Tony Epper - Trooper Conners
Colin Campbel - Construction Man

Screenplay:
Eric Red

Awards and Nominations:
1986 - 3 International Thriller Awards to Robert Harmon, Cognac           Festival du Film Policier

Plot:
Before dawn, a young man, Jim Halsey, is driving along a Texas desert highway. He picks up a lone hitchhiker, John Ryder, who soon reveals a knife and challenges Halsey to stop him from killing again. Halsey rams Ryder out of the speeding car. Later, Halsey sees a family in a station wagon pass - with Ryder inside. When Jim finally catches up with the car, stopped off the road, it is too late to save them. Halsey drives into a deserted garage, but the phone is dead. Ryder enters, drops Halsey's car keys and immediately hitches a ride with a black pick-up. Halsey pulls up to a gas station. Suddenly, the pick-up, now with Ryder driving, chases Jim. Ryder drops a lit match, and Halsey escapes as the station explodes. At a cafe, Nash is hesitant to let a frantic Halsey inside. She finally unlocks the door and fixes him breakfast while he calls the police. Nash's good nature calms Jim. Then, he stops, horrified, when he discovers a dismembered finger. He flies out of the cafe. Outside, Halsey is arrested by Troopers Donner and Dodge, who take the suspected Hitcher to Sgt. Starr at the County Sheriff's Office. Very scared, Halsey falls asleep in his cell. When Halsey wakes up, his cell door is open. He then discovers the policemen all brutally murdered. Hearing police sirens, a terrified Jim grabs a gun and rushes off.

Spotting a bus station, he goes to the ticketeer, as Troopers Prestone and Conners enter. Halsey gets the jump on them and leads them into their car, where he makes radio contact with Captain Esteridge. Suddenly, Ryder drives by, shoots the two policemen and drives off. Totally distraught, Halsey contemplates turning the gun on himself. But he doesn't, instead wandering to a cafe - where Ryder slides in across from him. Ryder taunts the confused Halsey and departs, leaving Jim ammo cartridges. Halsey boards a bus. He runs into Nash and pleads with her his innocence. When the bus is stopped by Troopers Hancock and Hapscomb, Jim gives himself up. But Hancock is set to shoot Jim anyway. A shot rings out. Nash has Halsey's gun. She and Jim drive off in the squad car to the police station. In a high speed chase, Jim and Nash escape from two police cars. Then a police helicopter flies above. As the chopper lowers itself, Ryder races past and shoots it down. A hysterical Nash finally realizes Halsey's plight. They stumble off and, at night, find a truck stop rest area.

In their room, the two are calmed by each other's presence. Later that night, Jim awakens to take a cleansing shower. Soon, Nash feels someone next to her. It's Ryder. Entering the empty bedroom, Jim is stricken. He runs outside - into Esteridge, who leads the fearful young man to an 18-wheeler. Nash is tied between the trailer and cab - Ryder is inside, his foot on the clutch.
Halsey goes into the cab for Ryder's confrontation. He offers Jim a gun, but Halsey refuses it. A furious Ryder lets out the clutch.

Pandemonium breaks loose. The engine roars. Nash screams. At the police station, a terribly shaken Halsey insists on facing Ryder, who refused to answer questions by his interrogator. At dawn, Ryder is driven off in the prison bus. Halsey panics, although Esteridge assures him no escort is needed. Jim knows differently, and he takes Esteridge's gun and car. Speeding towards the bus, Jim pulls up behind. Suddenly, he hears shots. Ryder appears in the door with a rifle, and then leaps forward, crashing through the windshield. Jim slams on the brakes, sending Ryder flying out. As Halsey goes to check, Ryder makes one last desperate attempt. Halsey spins and empties his gun into his adversary.
It is done...

Notes:
John Ryder was the same name of Rutger's character in "Het Begon bij Tiffany".

C. Thomas Howell declared later that he was actually frightened by Rutger during the shooting, but that he learned from him every day just by watching him and listening to him on the set.

This role also gave Rutger the opportunity to enjoy himself in some pretty hair-raising action sequences - director Robert Harmon said that "Hauer is actually a great stunt car driver!"

Rutger's Notes:
The sandy dunes near the Mexican border were lying with patient anticipation as we were shooting an action scene where my grand self in character had to fly through the windshield of the car in which the grand character of C. Thomas Howell is struggling. I had to finish off the end of the stunt with a tiny bit of the performing art. Slide through part of prepared windscreen, turn around and situp and speak one liner. Something like: "HI KID....how's it going?"

What could be easier. Nothing, right. My grand coated character - as you may recall - has a fiesty gun in his hand while doing all this and this needed to not be lost in these escapades. Did not, indeed. As all this was in good progress and I landed in all completeness in the shotgun seat and started the "speaking" finale of these actions. My lips were already beyond: "Hi kid!" as I sensed a sssslight difference with the way the tongue was trying to pronounce: "....how ssssss it...". As I got there I realized some piece of my cheezy porcelain mouthful had changed. I stopped in the middle of this grand sentence and peeked in the famous rearview mirror. A tooth had been there. But not anymore. The 'Hitcher' was sweetly damaged and this would definitely not work for the character. The swooshy sss sounds worked for me but the company decided to charter a twin engine plane and I was on it by the end of the afternoon to be delivered to a dentist in Santa Monica asap.
Flying to Santa Monica would take about an hour. I had not been on such a nice twin engine plane before. Of course I had asked to sit up front, without front tooth and all. After getting in the air the pilot asked if I knew how to fly. I told him I didn't have time for the licence. He let me have it to see what I'd do. Nothing to do, these "brids" are trimmed to do most of the work. "Take her home", he said and gave me course and altitude. Just loved it. Smooth, great visibillity. The sun touching the horizon as we touched down and I was rushed into a dental seat close by. Nailing a temporary missing tooth solution took a few hours but all went well and soon enough we were back in the air on our way to the army airport near El Centro just north of the mexican border .Except it was night now. Cloudless and with a big full moon shining almost as bright as the sun. The world was a jewel from up there and the plane in hands all the way till just before landing. Sheer joy.

If anyone could have seen me I am sure I was smiling a lot.

Rutger with Robert Harmon

Trailer:

Rutger's Video Notes:

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