The last time I saw Edmond O'Brien, he was already dead--in D.O.A., hopped up on atomic poison, running through the city, looking for his last answers. In The Hitch-Hiker, though, he's waiting, biding his time, the tell-tale eye of the hitch-hiker always open, even asleep--despite its "hideous veil"--compelling him to look back all night long.
Ida Lupino directs without sentimentality: the Mexican wastes look like Greed's Death Valley, while the Mexicans themselves peer at the three Americans--two married men gone fishin', one mad-dog killer--and decide either they're not worth troubling over, or trouble enough--and the hitch-hiker murders quite a few kind souls before meeting our heroes--and those deaths, despite the horror-movie grind of brass and tympani, occur so casually we begin to see them as the killer does: easy pickings.
--Oh, and "heroes" may be too strong a word: The finale at the dock is played out in cool silence, the policia timing their move efficiently, no need for sudden lunges and amateur rescues--and, although our two gringos are veterans, and one assumes have learned how to handle themselves, they are no match for the post-War villain, with a code as unforgiving as a hungry bug, terrified in the end that he can't do anything right. No, cooler heads--like Lupino's--must prevail, and so it is almost an anti-climax, with no room for sloppy work.