19 May 2001 | abooboo-2
Dark Nutty Thrill Ride
First of all, let's get something straight. "The Devil Thumbs A Ride" is the BEST title in the history of motion pictures. Hands down. It's not even close. What a vivid and startling image those words conjure up in the mind's eye.
This is a movie I've been trying to track down for years and it does not disappoint. It's surprisingly nasty considering the year it was made, though always with a wingy "now let's not take any of this too seriously folks" feel to it. It's as if the director, Felix Feist, was hired to crank out a simple little crime quickie with a good guy, a bad guy, a nice girl and a bad girl, but wasn't quite sure how to do that (sort of like a gifted baseball pitcher who just can't throw any pitch straight). So he tosses everything into a blender and twists it into a swirling, pulpy freak show. The bad guy seems too cool and in control, the "good" guy is sort of a creep, the nice girl meets a shocking fate, and the bad girl almost steals the show. Certainly a zippy, wicked ancestor of Tarantino and all the Tarantino knock-offs that litter the shelves at Blockbuster.
Feist was a breathless, inventive director who really knew how to move the camera and keep things humming along. (His movies are incredibly tightly paced.) The vacuum cleaner scene, played without dialogue, is a real highlight. And Lawrence Tierney of course, is excellent. When he advises "better let me take the wheel", you know it's going to be a wild ride.
There are some goofy B-movie slip-ups (the cop who agrees to let the gas station attendant come along on the chase for the killer, for one) but that only adds to its charm. One of the cruelest code-era films I've seen, it has a slapped on happy ending that seems to go about as well as perfume on a chainsaw. Richly deserving of its growing cult.