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DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE, THE(director/writer: Felix E. Feist; screenwriter: from the novel by Robert C. DuSoe; cinematographer: J. Roy Hunt; editor: Robert Swink; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Lawrence Tierney (Steve Morgan), Ted North (Jimmy ‘Fergie’ Ferguson), Nan Leslie (Beulah Zorn, alias Carol Demming), Betty Lawford (Agnes Smith), Harry Shannon (Detective Owens, San Diego Police), Glen Vernon (Jack Kenny, Gas Station Attendant), Marian Carr (Diane Ferguson), Andrew Tombes (Joe Brayden, Night Watchman), William Gould (Police Capt. Martin, San Diego Police), Josephine Whittell (Diane’s mother), Phil Warren (Pete, Roadblock Motorcycle Cop), Robert Malcolm (Deputy Sheriff Grover); Runtime: 62; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herman Schlom; RKO; 1947)
“It ends up as a ride to nowhere.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Felix E. Feist (“The Man Who Cheated Himself “/”Donovan’s Brain”/”The Threat”) directs and writes this ugly hitchhiker crime drama that has little entertainment value, the characters other than the main protagonist are too incredibly dull to ring true and it has no redeeming social value. It’s based on the novel by Robert C. DuSoe. The low-budget programmer is helped only by its noir look, fast-pace, the manic performance by Lawrence Tierney and the offbeat nature of its story.

Lawrence Tierney plays Steve Morgan, a manipulative sociopath criminal (not really quite the devil) who has just robbed and killed an elderly San Diego theater manager at the Bank of San Diego’s night deposit box and then calmly hitched a ride with a slightly inebriated friendly traveling salesman Jimmy ‘Fergie’ Ferguson (Ted North). The happily married man of two years celebrated his birthday with his out-of-town pals and is now anxious to go home to LA. At a filling station they give a ride to two gals who do not know each other except they missed the bus to LA, the aspiring Hollywood seeking nice girl with a secret troubled past Carol Demming (Nan Leslie) and the older more hardened lady of the world Agnes Smith (Betty Lawford). Jack Kenny (Glen Vernon), the alert gas station attendant, hears on the radio a description of the murderer and reports it to the police. When he identifies from the mug shot Steve Morgan, he convinces the less than enthusiastic investigating San Diego detective, Owens (Harry Shannon), to take him along with him on the road chase to help in the identification. The cop is a character who is peeved that he was taken away from his police station poker game when he was losing, and seems grouchy about doing his job.

The unsuspecting innocents don’t become suspicious that something’s not right even when there are roadblocks and Steve insists they take the back roads, and not even when Steve takes over the wheel and runs down a motorcycle cop who chases them and shoots at the car without asking questions (these cats are too dumb for words, which some folks might find entertaining; especially, as Steve tells them a teary-eyed tale about his rough childhood and being in reform school is the reason he acts this way about cops). Steve persuades the riders to stay for the night at a vacant beach house owned by one Fergie’s more successful colleagues. It’s not long before even these dullards learn that Steve is a killer, while the cops close in.

Feist fills both the police car and the hitcher’s car with noir characters, but it ends up as a ride to nowhere.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”