Cinema Jolly > 15:50


Felix E. Feist


Sunday 30/06/2019


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Director Felix Feist’s first film noir is a reckless and startlingly subversive B-movie thrill-ride that, without warning, careens from silly comedy to scary psychopathy. The meager plot revolves around a slightly drunk good Samaritan giving a ride to a guy who’s robbed and killed a cinema cashier. When they pick up two women along the way, things spin completely out of control. It’s merely a question of who will live through the night. Feist was eager to helm a feature again after years stuck in the trenches making shorts and travelogues for MGM, and RKO gave him ample freedom to adapt Robert DuSoe’s hitchhiker-from-hell novel, The Devil Thumbs a Ride. It was a test of his mettle since the film’s star, Lawrence Tierney, was notoriously devilish himself, a boozing and brawling demon with a police record longer than his list of film credits. Far from intimidated, Feist fully captured Tierney’s dangerous combination of ribald humor, sinister charm and hair-trigger volatility and violence. Feist’s willingness to juxtapose comedy ‘relief’ with moments of startling cruelty was unheard of at the time; the mix of sardonic humor and casual sadism wouldn’t be equaled until 1952, when Jim Thompson published The Killer Inside Me (Tierney and Feist would have been simpatico collaborators on a contemporary film version). Writer Barry Gifford remarked that “Tierney invests this basically stupid plot with such genuine virulence that Devil must be ranked in the upper echelon of indelibly American noir”. Due to rights issues, the film has been unavailable for years, but thanks to a brand new restoration by the Library of Congress, modern audiences (at least outside America) can once again see this singularly disconcerting example of B-moviemaking at its most berserk.

Eddie Muller

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1938) di Robert C. DuSoe. Scen.: Felix Feist. F.: J. Roy Hunt. M.: Robert Swink. Scgf.: Albert D’Agostino, Charles F. Pyke. Mus.: Paul Sawtell. Int.: Lawrence Tierney (Steve Morgan), Ted North (Jimmy Ferguson), Nan Leslie (Beulah Zorn/Carol Hemming), Betty Lawford (Agnes), Andrew Tombes (Joe Brayden), Harry Shannon (Owens), Glenn Vernon (Jack Kenny), Marian Carr (Diane Ferguson). Prod.: Herman Schlom per RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.. DCP. D.: 62’. Bn.