Take An Easy Ride (1975)
"Every motorist has the opportunity to pick up a hitch-hiker. For a lorry driver or commercial driver, it could cost them their job. At times you could wish the wife and kids were out of the way as you pass the mini-skirt thumbing a lift. The producers of this film wish to give you the opportunity to decide for yourselves whether hitch-hiking should be banned. Is it a form of Russian roulette?"
Have you ever wondered what a cross between an old public information film, a sex comedy and Wes Craven's Last House On The Left might look like? No? Neither had I, quite frankly. But then I saw Take An Easy Ride, and now I know, whether I wanted to or not, because it's all there in its 38 minute running time.
Watching Take An Easy Ride is an uncomfortable experience. Any film that attempts to ram home the "do you know where your children are?" message whilst offering titillation to the dirty mac brigade is always going to be. Unfortunately, the heavy-handed moralising is rendered pretty much redundant by a variety of early 70s clichés which bring a huge amount of hilarity for us more enlightened 21st century folk.
Much of the film is presented in the style of a documentary, complete with jaunty music and serious voiceover. There's even what looks like a couple of "real" talking heads in amongst all the obvious fakery. But don't worry, this isn't some kind of Blair Witch style mockumentary - any attempts for a verite feel are quickly abandoned by the film makers in order to shoehorn in a quick bit of soft porn group sex.
The makers of Take An Easy Ride appear to want to provoke an argument about hitch-hiking. Is it a cheap and fun way for the long-haired youngsters of today to get around, or is it, as explained in the introduction, "a form of Russian roulette"?
By the end, it's pretty obvious what those film makers believe, thus rendering the argument redundant (although the arguments about what the bloody hell they were thinking making it in the first place must have carried on long into the night).
The film opens with the above quote playing over some very chipper music and pictures of the open road, then jumps to some talking heads being "questioned" by the voiceover man - some seemingly real, others obviously not: "There 'as been fairly recent reports of young girls being raped " reads a Cockney off his cue cards, unconvincingly, adding: "And vice-versa!"
The narrative takes the form of several unlinked hitching tales - two girls on their way to a festival run into trouble, a sexy blonde foreign hitcher ("Excuse me, do you hitch-hike?" asks the voiceover as she is stopped in the street. "Oh yes, I used to hitch " she replies, "but it's not a pretty story."), two girls on their way to the same festival don't run into trouble, and a pair of busty criminals turn to murder.
In the interests of the reader's sanity, I'll split the rest of this review into the stories themselves, rather than trying to keep the flow of the film (which is vaguely confusing).
A lorry driver picks up a couple of girls, but after an unpleasant scene in a transport café which portrays every other trucker in the country as a leering perv, he turns out to be the one nice apple in the barrel, despite taking surreptitious glances at their bare legs whilst driving.
Two meaty 30-something ladies steal a knife from a transport café and jiggle away as fast as their platforms will allow. After an unconvincing spot of pot smoking in a field ("It's good dope" / "Where d'you fancy next? London?" / "Oh, sod that." / "We need a whole new scene." / "Yeah, a completely different trip." All delivered in bored RADA accents) they get a car to pull over and stab the surprised looking driver to death, his last words being: "Hey, is this a joke?"
Our leggy Swedish blonde gets picked up by a Rolls Royce and ends up spending the night in a hotel with the middle class couple who offered her a lift. Before you can say "pure exploitation" she's involved in a semi-consensual steamy three way sex sesh with saucy Margaret and distinctly portly Alan. "After I got away from that scene, I went to the police - but they never caught him," she tells us, before informing us in a monotone that her boyfriend then finished with her, because she fell pregnant.
Wondering what I meant by linking in with Last House On The Left? The main story involves a couple of young girls who want to go and see a band called "Magic Wand". Despite one girl being given enough money by dad for both their train fares, the other one decides they'd be better off hitching and saving the money. They get picked up by a bloke in a convertible with a West Country accent (the man, not the car) whose face we never see, just his black gloves. We already know he's a wrong 'un who keeps porn in his glove compartment and enjoys the company of strippers (shades of Night After Night After Night there, too). When it becomes apparent that he's driving them away from their destination and into much darker, tree-lined roads (cue spooky music and much close-up eye acting), the girls begin to get nervous. He pulls up by a river and subjects them both to particularly vivid sex attacks (the second one even more protracted than the first - don't worry, you don't actually see anything but it's still an unpleasant scene).
The girls are found and the nice girl's parents informed, the Police Inspector sensitively asking the mum: "I must know if your daughter was in the habit of taking lifts whether she went out with a man, or men, regularly."
On arrival at the hospital, any pathos or distress this gruelling segment may have brought on instantly evaporates when the parents are told by the doctor, in a matter-of-fact tone: "There's one thing you must understand she is blind."
The film finishes with the police heading off, sirens blaring, to (presumably) another hitch-hiking - related disaster, and the gloved nutter pulling over to pick up two more girls.
So, what do we learn from Take An Easy Ride? That no-one should ever let director / producer / editor Kenneth Rowles near a camera again, for one thing Is hitch-hiking a good thing? Any sensible person already knows the answer to that one - although it has to be said that judging by this film, it's the number one pastime (either as hitcher or hitchee) for any perverts, killers or badly dressed Swedish porn actresses out there.
Last updated: February 27, 2010
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