The Hitchhiker (Ep. 08): Petty Thieves


Episode: “Petty Thieves”

Names: Steven Railsback (oh, Steven, is it…well, lah de dah), Marie Laurin, Paul Koslo and “John Colicos AS STREGGA”; music composed by Michel Rubini; story by Richard Rothstein, written by William Darrid; directed by Christopher Leitch.

We open on an exterior, sculpture-filled courtyard of an inner city Catholic church. This lets up know that this is no mere entertainment we’ll be watching here, because nothing says “ART” like shots of free-standing religious iconography. (Plus, you know, it’s cheap, because the stuff is already just standing there.)

The mood is further set by the background music, a would-be funkedelic hip hop odyssey that features heavy use of a drum machine and turntable scratching. The composer’s heaviest influences, unsurprisingly, seem to have been Herbie Hancock, Jan Hammer and Harold Faltermeyer. From this, I’m deducing that this episode was shot…hmm, sometime in the 1980s.

This estimate is not exactly gainsaid by the attire of the various people the camera chooses to rest upon. Watching a woman pulling one of those wire carts on wheels are Mickey, a white guy in a shapeless cloth greatcoat about two sizes too big, of the sort popularized (well, OK, not popularized, exactly) by Phil Collins, and a black dude wearing both a Walkman headset and red plastic framed mirrored sunglasses.

The two start moving on in the aforementioned woman. Mickey crossing the road with a strutting manner that suggests he’d been listening to the “Axel F” Theme a couple of hundred times too many. Meanwhile, the black guy begins to walk along right behind her, whereupon the woman becomes visibly nervous. Some might attribute this to racism. However, I prefer to believe, given that she’s appearing in an episode of The Hitchhiker, that she’s worried the guy will rip her blouse off in order to provide one of the show’s Obligatory Boob Scenesâ„¢.

The woman begins to run, but Black Guy moves to intercept her. This draws the attention of two plainclothes cops, who had been sitting in a nearby parked car. Blowing their stakeout, they leap into action and chase after the now fleeing Black Dude.

The twist, however, is that the guy wasn’t robbing the woman. He instead passed her a package (presumably of drugs). He was only pretending to steal her purse so as to draw the cops away on a foot chase. This accomplished, the woman drops the package into a nearby garbage can. At this point it is retrieved by Rico, a guy who looks sort of like Val Kilmer after a particularly hard week at Nick Nolte’s place, and who sports hugely blow-dried, fluffed up hair. Wow, dude, that is so not a good look.

After this elaborate and apparently pointless charade is executed, Mickey nonchalantly walks over to yet another nearby car. Rico hands him some money, including a little bonus. Meanwhile, Mickey receives advice from the obvious Boss Guy, Mr. Stregga. Stregga talks all fancy like (think an exceedingly lame rip-off of Casper Gutman), as when he comments on the bonus by noting, “Reciprocity is a sound fiscal policy, don’t you see?” Whatever, Your Lordship.

Mickey requests a more permanent position in Mr. Stregga’s organization, but is rebuffed. Rico calls Mickey a punk, while Stregga manifests what is obviously A Significant Cough. Rico hands him an inhaler, so I guess Stregga will be eventually denied the use of this at a Key Moment and expire. Here, however, Stregga recaptures his breathe and tells Mickey to come see him later. Mickey is also ordered to bring someone named Pearl along with him.

Elated, Mickey struts down the street. He passes by a tree, whereupon behind him, in slow-motion (!), steps into view…The Hitchhiker! (Why was he hiding behind a tree?)

Hitchhiker Intro: “Mickey does what he has to, to survive these Tough Streets. But even here there’s Love, and kind [sic] of Honor. And if he betrays it [sic], it could upset the Balance…and turn his soul inside out.”

Mickey continues on to a more abandoned area of town. He eventually arrives at and enters his and Pearl’s secret apartment. This is secreted in the upper story of an abandoned warehouse and accessible via a dilapidated fire escape. Pearl is sleeping on a mattress on the floor; while clasping a doll, in fact, which is kind of creepy. Mickey bends over her and Lush Romantic Music begins to play. Theirs’ must be a True Love, you see, so that Mickey’s Betrayal will be complete enough to turn his soul inside out (whatever that means), as indicated above.

Pearl wakes and they begin to make out. Given that this is The Hitchhiker, I foresee Pearl doffing her top in short order. First, though, Mickey gives her a necklace. Then he stands up and takes off his shirt (his shirt?!…wait, that can’t be right), while Pearl inquires nervously about what he’s been doing. Ah, gotcha, she’s the Innocent who Only Wants Mickey’s Love and wishes he would Give Up His Life of Crime.

Angered by his continued nefarious actions, Pearl stalks into the kitchen, helpfully treating us to a nice view of her panties. Sadly, this is more than counteracted by the sight of Mickey following after her while clad solely in a pair of red Speedos. Of which, I must report, we get all too many good looks at over the next several minutes. This being the case, this is probably the most legitimately scary Hitchhiker episode I’ve yet reviewed.

Mickey and Pearl continue their fussin’ and feudin’. They kiss, and argue, and cuss at each other (because you can swear on HBO, dude!), and Pearl curls up with another doll. Man, I’m telling you, that just ain’t right. Then we get the Obligatory Softcore Sex and Mandatory Boobage, although we had to wait a nearly unprecedented nine and a half minutes for it. For what it’s worth, the woman playing Pearl is more attractive than many of the women they get to appear on this show. However, that may just reflect my personal preferences, given that the actress playing her hasn’t gone in for giant ’80s hair or, even more miraculously, breast augmentation.

Despite Pearl’s qualms about Mickey seeking to work for a gangster, he takes advantage of her Fit of Passion to talk her into seeing Stregga with him. Hilariously, the camera pans from their lovemaking to a nearby doll, one sporting an expression of horror and large, urine-yellow colored painted teardrops. (!!) I mean, what the hell?! I can only hope the episode’s director is having us on, because otherwise…wow. Needless to say, though, this ‘eerie’ sight is accompanied by a big Shock Music Sting.

And Now It’s Time for The Budweiser “Ken Guesses the Episode’s Dramatic Denouement”: Uhm, Mickey ‘sells’ Pearl to Stregga, or something like that, and ends up with his soul trapped in one of her dolls, which we learn when at the end of the show the camera tracks in on a doll that looks just like him and bears, like the doll mentioned above, a look of horror and painted on urine-yellow tears.

Budweiser: It’s the King of Beer. And now, back to the action.

We cut to the two walking through town, with Pearl wearing patterned black stockings under a leather mini-skirt. For what it’s worth, this is not a bad look on her. They arrive at and enter a small coffee shop. This looks, predictably enough (given that this was filmed in 1984), like something out of Blade Runner; all smoky and very dimly illuminated by hazy light coming in through frosted window glass. I guess they didn’t have the set budget, however, to install a lazily-spinning industrial fan. However, there is opera music playing in the background, because that’s the sort of thing they listen to in gangster hangouts.

The pair joins Stregga and Rico at their table. It turns out that Pearl and Stregga have a History together, thus explaining her antipathy to Mickey’s employment plans. However, in the main this tidbit is overshadowed by actor John Colicos’ severe, literally eye-popping mugging as Stregga. The Hitchhiker was very seldom as overtly arch or campy as, say, Tales from the Crypt, so Colicos’ thick slicing of the ham is distracting at best.

Meanwhile, Mickey drinks this info in while vibrating in place. Either he has to pee very, very badly, or else actor Railsback prepared for the role by trying to remember how Robert DeNiro played his role in Mean Streets. If that is so, it would be charitable to assume that Mr. Railsback had not seen that movie in quite some many years, and probably also suffered from a severely faulty memory.

Mickey makes to seize control of the conversation, and neutralizes Rico by covertly pulling a switchblade on him. “You impress me, Mickey!” an excited Stregga responds, bidding him to continue. For what it’s worth, Colicos calls to mind Sidney Greenstreet more successfully than Railsback does DeNiro, although only to extent that would have any old movie fan cringing. Apparently he thought he could get away with his obvious yet tepid impersonation as long as he didn’t actually say, “By gad, sir!”

So Mickey wants his job, and Stregga wants Pearl—or at least wants her humiliated for leaving him—and Pearl doesn’t want to lose Mickey, so I think you can put all the pieces together. Sadly, however, nobody asked about what I wanted, which was for there not to be another 17 minutes of show left at this point.

(Oddly, this episode runs a few seconds over thirty minutes, making it several minutes longer than most of these. I’m not sure why this is. Believe me, there have been several places already where they could have safely lost a minute or two of running time.)

Mickey seems fine with it all. Stregga has Rico pass him a very small bonus, apparently just to further humiliate the sobbing Pearl. “Is that all you get?” she wails. That’s actually a nice touch, indicating both Stregga’s subtle cruelty and emphasizing just how little Mickey really cares about Pearl. In fact, she stalks out weeping (sans tears, however, which apparently the actress couldn’t quite summon), whereupon Mickey pauses to reconfirm with Stregga that they have a deal before running off to ‘comfort’ her.

Cut back to the apartment. Accompanied by Eerie Discordant Musicâ„¢, Pearl is taking a bath. The tub, needless to say, is naturally surrounded by dozens of lit candles, because this is the ’80s. I wonder how many people burned down their houses trying to replicate scenes like this. The water level is just low enough to provide another Boob Shot, although the putative eroticism (such as it would be anyway) is severely undercut by the fact that she’s wearing a big white bow in her hair and humming to the similarly naked baby doll she’s sharing her bath with. Ick.

Mickey arrives with a cake, or something, and remains blasé about the whole whoring-her-out thing. He implies that his ultimate plan is to rip off Stregga—I think—although the director was obviously more interested in having Pearl rising from the water to deliver a rather blatant ass shot before she dons a robe. But then, this is The Hitchhiker, so I guess it would be even lamer if they pretended to be all coy about it. In any case, there’s yet fifteen minutes of show left. Thus we’ll surely see her naked at least one more time, probably when she is with Stregga and triggers the asthma attack that will kill him when he fails to get his inhaler.

As the Eerie Discordant Music continues to loudly blare, we get what I can only imagine is meant to be ‘character’ stuff, although basically again the scene really goes nowhere and could have been easily, not to mention profitably, cut. The big ‘moment’ is when Pearl nonchalantly burns her hand by holding it over a candle flame. This either indicates her severe emotional turmoil, or that she’s a huge G. Gordon Liddy fan.

We cut to arriving at Stregga’s office, attired in what appears to be a leather ensemble from the Sheena Easton for Sluts collection. (She has that curly-haired high-on-top, short-in-back cut, too; so the resemblance is hardly coincidental. In fact, think Jennifer Jason Leigh playing Easton in a biopic and there just about there.) She vamps around a little, accompanied by Sexy Music that is, at least, funnier than the show’s Eerie Music.

Then she unzips the front of her leather mini-dress and reveals, shockingly, that she’s wearing underwear, albeit of an elaborate, old-school Fredericks of Hollywood fashion. Meanwhile, Stregga pops his eyes and strenuously gulps and generally acts like he’s in a Tex Avery cartoon. Then we get another Boob Shot—this one is *right* in the camera, so they’re not even pretending—about a minute after the last one, and thus implying there will be yet another somewhere later down the line, given that we’ve still over twelve minutes left to go. Anyway, Boob Shot provided, they thankfully spare us the sight of her being pawed by this old man, and we cut away.

At a loading dock, Mickey is ‘undercover’ in a leather jacket and knit cap and pretending to fish off the pier. After a bit he is signaled by a guy positioned upon a nearby ship. Apparently this is an all-clear sign, as Mickey then slices open a large shipping sack and removes packages of Generic Drugs. The correct bag was one amongst a large stack of them. This didn’t seem like the best set-up, but impressively Mickey does indeed cut into exactly the right one, and moreover manages not to accidentally slice into the thin-skinned baggies containing the fortune’s worth of white powder.

Mickey sticks the bags inside his jacket and walks off, unaware that he’s being watched by some guys in a (very) nearby car. This despite the fact that said car, with two guys in it, has just sort of sitting there in the open on an otherwise nearly abandoned dock. (Good job by that look-out guy watching from a raised position on the deck of the ship, I’ve got to say.) As you’d expect, on this show, anyway, the men are the same undercover cops seen at the beginning of the show.

“We’ll take them down tomorrow!” one of them helpfully exclaims. Needless to say, they’ve just seen Mickey grab a couple of bags of drugs (and really, Stregga imports two kilos of drugs *every day*?). Therefore the only real reason they’d wait to make the bust is to make sure tons of back-up were on hand for the busts. However, aside from ruining the ‘story,’ the show’s budget would never allow for that. And so, sure enough, the cops will again show up solo in the pertinent upcoming scene. Which, getting back to it, calls into question as to why they’d wait, given that they’ve got a bird in the hand right now. IITS, you say? Pretty much.

Cut to Mickey in Stregga’s office, after having delivered the goods. Because, you know, the neighborhood crime boss is naturally going to personally receive, in his own office, several large packages of highly incriminating drugs from whatever low-level hood he assigned to retrieve them. These packages will moreover sit on his desk in clear sight while Stregga counts out the money he pays to that day’s bag man. A set-up like that couldn’t possibly go awry.

[Future Ken: I should note that when the cops do make a move later, it’s at the pier, despite the fact that the bust would be a thousand times more significant—not to mention easier—if they just trailed the lowly courier to Stregga’s office and busted the supposed mob bigwig with the drugs.]

Mickey eagerly inquires about his next assignment. To his dismay, however, he learns that the treacherous (sorta) Stregga is not actually giving him a permanent job. Wow. What a burn. Meanwhile, Stregga’s explanation is amusingly moronic. “I never use the same fisherman twice,” he explains. “His luck might run out.” So apparently the idea is that Stregga brings in a shipment of hard drugs every day, using the same system that involves a guy in an isolated yet openly visible location lurking suspiciously around a mound of cargo sacks, and thinks the key to keeping this set-up safe is to change the guy doing the lurking. Wow, he’s a regular Professor Moriarty.

Of course, the real point is that Stregga is putting the presumptuous Mickey in his place, after having already humiliated and reaped a little revenge on Pearl first. A stunned Mickey inquires about the “big bucks” he’s been expecting to make. “You may keep the fish!” Stregga replies, popping open his eyes and smirking. At this, the furious Mickey snatches up his fee and staggers from the office.

The next day, another guy is sitting in the exact same spot on the exact same pier, with the plan being that he’ll receive the exact same signal from the exact same guy on the exact same ship, and in the exact same fashion goes over to a shipping pallet in the exact same spot and slice open one of the sacks in the exact same manner as Mickey did, and retrieve the exact same amount of drugs. Popeye Doyle would never have busted these geniuses.

However, things go awry when the revenge-seeking Mickey shows up with Pearl in tow (??), the latter ‘disguised’ by being dressed like a longshoreman. For absolutely no reason whatsoever, the new bag man walks away amidst some other cargo as soon as the drugs are stationed right next to his position. This conveniently allows Mickey to follow along and knock the guy out. He then signals Pearl, sitting but several yards away, and makes to hide (sorta) behind a nearby post.

Let’s take a moment here, because I’m pretty confused about what Mickey thinks he’s up to. Since Stregga is presumably mobbed-up—because otherwise why would he always be listening to opera music?—it’s sort of difficult to imagine what the rest of Mickey’s master plan is. Stealing a shipment of drugs from the Mafia, especially the day after getting in a fight with the local mob boss, doesn’t seem like a very brilliant idea. In any case, we’ll never find out, I guess, as things go quickly awry when the cops make their play. (Oops, sorry.)

There are other issues, too. Mickey, walking around in clear view, follows along after the new bag guy and knocks him out. He then openly walks a short distance to another barely ‘hidden’ position, having left the disguised Pearl in the fishing spot. Seconds later, the ‘look-out’ appears up on the ship, glances around for literally two seconds, and gives Pearl the all-clear sign. This apparently was Mickey’s plan, based on the idea that the look-out doesn’t, I guess, actually make the scene until immediately before issuing the all-clear signal.

Shouldn’t a look-out, I don’t know, actually spend some time, well, looking out at things? How can this guy give an all-clear if he spends at best three seconds surveying the scene? The day before he apparently failed to notice the two guys sitting for no apparent reason in a car on an otherwise deserted pier, and today we’ve seen Mickey and Pearl openly moving around all over the place without drawing any attention, either. I don’t know what Stregga’s paying that look-out, but it’s entirely too much.

In any case, none of this in any way accounts for Pearl’s presence. Mickey could have shown up, lurked around a while, knocked the guy out, and taken his place himself just as easily. More easily, in fact. Of course, the real reason that Pearl is on hand is because the ‘plot’ requires it. As soon as she digs out the drugs, the two undercover cops come roaring up in their unmarked car. Because they have no backup, despite having planned on making a bust today, Mickey and Pearl, with the drugs no less, are thus able to go running off down the pier.

There’s a very short and extremely lame ‘action’ bit, where the cops drive after the jogging fugitives. However, Mickey gets off a (to say the least) lucky shot and hits the driver. The car slews to a stop, and the other cop and Mickey engage in a brief gun fight. Pearl catches a bullet, thus providing the real reason why she is in the scene. However, Mickey grabs her and they awkwardly continue on their way. I realize that in real life it’s far harder to hit anything with a pistol. Even so, how the cop didn’t manage to riddle both of them given the range he’s firing at remains entirely an example of naked plot contrivance.

As the two clumsily and slowly make their way through a fence, the cop conveniently runs out of bullets. Declining to actually pursue on foot the people who just shot his partner (despite the fact that one of the fugitives is badly injured and can barely move), or even just grabbing his partner’s gun and tossing a few more shots their way, he basically just allows them to make their escape.

Mickey manages to all but carry Pearl back to their apartment, although needless to say they skip showing us the logistics of him getting her there and on up the fire escape. “You and me, baby, we’re like one,” Mickey tells her, repeating a line of hers from earlier in the show. (I mention this for reasons that will shortly become obvious.) Mickey then cares for her, if you count putting a moist dish towel on her gunshot wound medical care. However, he also further betrays her by failing to get a doctor, lest he draws the attention of either the cops or Stregga. He lies about this to her face, though.

“We’re one, huh, baby?” she smiles, and then naturally croaks. Oh, the Humanity. Mildly distressed, Mickey tosses one of her porcelain dolls at the wall and shatters it. Then the camera, accompanied by an Eerie Music Sting, zooms in on the burn on Pearl’s palm, from when she held it over the candle earlier. Needless to say, this is so otherwise pointless that it must Portend Something.

We cut outside, where Mickey is using a payphone. Continuing to betray Pearl’s memory, he calls Rico (!) at Stregga’s office. He tells him Pearl committed the drug robbery without his knowledge and has split with the merchandise. (Apparently the local news media doesn’t have any interest in broadcasting stories about how two criminals shot an undercover cop during a major narcotics bust.) Mickey is ordered to find the drugs and return them, and Rico hangs up. Sitting nearby, Stregga notes that it’s the Witching Hour. Rico, who’s been polishing his blowtorch (!!!), lights it and laughs evilly (sort of), noting “It’s a lovely night for a walk!”

Then we cut back to Mickey in the phone booth, whereupon…


Warning: Read no further if you do not wish to
learn the super-shock surprise twist ending
of this amazing episode of The Hitchhiker!!!


He suddenly grasps his hand in pain. To his shock, the burn scar just highlighted on Pearl’s hand now appears in his own. He begins to run down the at one moment deserted, the next moment filled with partying Chinese-people (!) street. It looks like a festival, presumably Chinese New Year. (It must be the Year of the Bore.)

Given the show’s budget, this completely pointless element is rather cheaply ‘realized.’ There are several dozen extras, a few of whom naturally can’t resist looking right into the camera and smiling. They also managed to rent the obligatory ‘dragon’ costume for the street parade, which entirely consists…of the guys wielding the dragon costume. Hilariously, however, they apparently couldn’t even afford actual fireworks, which are kind of mandatory for this sort of thing. (Either that, or they couldn’t get a license to blow fireworks off in the street.) Instead, they rather cheaply make do by supplying several of the extras with sparklers. (!!)

Mickey stumbles along, and soon the street is not only once more deserted, but is suddenly, ‘atmospherically’ (sort of) fog-strewn. Along the way he continues to shout in pain. He finds himself—and I swear, this is the twist ending—actually transforming into Pearl. Because they’re one, get it? You know, that line they said three or four times? That’s why they kept repeating it. The ‘shock’ ending is that he is literally transforming into his dead girlfriend, at least physically.

Mickey runs around for a while, reacting in horror to his new, girlish figure and perky breasts. (At one point he seems to manifest her gunshot wound as well, although it doesn’t slow him down at any apparent degree.) Then Rico, ‘artistically’ backlit with a klieg lamp (!), suddenly emerges out of the suddenly very thick, swirling fog. Wow, that was fast. This must be a very small town.

Rico has been, as you would fully expect, just wandering around the streets with his apparently much souped-up, lit blowtorch in hand. (!!!!!) Presumably this is a cross homage to both Bela Lugosi in Return of the Ape Man, who also roamed deserted nighttime streets with a lit blowtorch (albeit while more stylishly clad in a tuxedo), as well as the flamethrower-armed cops from the climax of The Brainiac. In any case, ignoring Mickey / Pearl’s screams, Rico steps forward and delivers upon our protagonist a fiery demise.

As Mickey / Pearl’s echoing screams die out, we cut away (I’m not sure why he isn’t actually on scene, but anyway) to find…The Hitchhiker!

The Hitchhiker Wraps Things Up: Pearl loved Mickey like no one else, and they were one against the odds. [??] But when he used her badly, he suffered her fate [yeah, thanks, I think we got that part], and was tried by his own conscience [uhm, what now?], sentenced by an unwritten law [Dude, WTF are you talking about?!].” (Wow!)


As you may have noticed, I was completely wrong with my prediction about the nature of the episode’s twist ending. I assumed it would revolve around Pearl’s collection of dolls, which were repeatedly spotlighted for, as it turns out, no real reason whatsoever. However, the manically stupid nature of the stories and the sheer ineptitude with which the average Hitchhiker episode is constructed is really why I so love the show. The ending for this particular chapter was so dumb that I was literally laughing with delight as it unfolded before my eyes.

In the end, the ‘twist’ ending revolved around an inane line of dialogue. This was so apparently inconsequential that I didn’t note it in the body of the review. I did, however, find it dumb enough to include it include in the brief Immortal Dialogue found section below. As if realizing that this ‘twist’ seemed to come out of nowhere, they end up repeating the line ad nauseum during the last several minutes of things. The transformed Mickey keeps saying “We’re one guy!” over and over again, because quite apparently they knew the audience was unlikely to pick up on this singularly retarded bit of ‘foreshadowing’ otherwise.

And foreshadowing is (nominally) important in a show like this, as each episode’s repugnant lead character is meant to suffer some ‘apt’ and suitably ‘ironic’ fate. As this show generally follows the Just Desserts style of storytelling most commonly associated with the EC horror comics of the ’50s (and more directly adapted by the subsequent HBO Tales From the Crypt show), foreshadowing of that dire fate is vital. Of course, if such a show is competent, the Just Desserts are apt in a pleasingly unpredictable way, and delivered in a wittily surprising manner. One obviously one doesn’t hold such expectations here.

Hence my belief that the oft—and, as it turns out, pointlessly—featured dolls would come into play. (And note how they also emphasized Stregga using an inhaler early on, and then completely dropped that idea, too.) Even the impact of Mickey’s death was botched. Instead of being a complete loser, Mickey could have been far slyer than everyone believed him to be. He could have actually betrayed Pearl on purpose, rather than through weakness, and successfully pinned the drug heist on her.

Here, obviously, Rico and Stregga know Mickey was in on the drug theft too. Having them fall for this Mickey’s story would have rendered them entirely too idiotic, even by the standards of this program. However, this means that they would have killed Mickey in the long run too.

If you’re going to do this ending, with the transformation and everything, then the way to make it work—as much as it could—would have been for Mickey to have betrayed Pearl (in a manner that surprised us as well as her), murdered her, successfully set her up as the fall guy, and apparently have gotten the drugs and everything else he wanted. Then, when he turned into Pearl and died a horrible death at Rico’s hands, it would have actually been ironic and fitting. Here, since Mickey suffers the exact same fate that he’d have reaped had Rico found him in his own body,* it’s just monumentally dumb and pointless.

[*On the other hand, wouldn’t they have taken ‘Pearl’ alive and tortured her until they got the location of the drugs? I guess arguably they thought they’d get the info from Mickey, but still. The way it plays, it’s like they don’t even care about the drugs, which makes little sense.]

Notice that I came up with this (admitted elementary) revamp in about five minutes, and provided a set-up that at least is several times better than the one they paid some professional writer thousands of dollars to deliver.

Notice also that the Hitchhiker’s little speeches are, as ever, utterly disjointed and make no damn sense. In the beginning, he warns of dire consequences should Mickey “upset the Balance,” in which case he would find “his soul [turned] inside out.” I don’t know what that means, but it especially doesn’t seem to have anything remotely to do with his comeuppance here.

Meanwhile, in the epilogue the Hitchhiker opines that Mickey was “tried by his own conscience,” which corresponds to absolutely nothing we see here, and “sentenced by an unwritten law.” First of all, ‘an’ unwritten law indicates that they are referring to one specific one. And that would be…? Second, you’re not “sentenced” by a law, but according to a law.

Immortal Dialogue:

Mickey, arguing with Pearl: “A f*ckin’ hooker with a room full of dolls just ain’t normal!”

Pearl, right before having sex with her beau: “You and me, Mickey. We’re like one guy.”

Gratuitous Naked Boobies? Hel-low, Hitchhiker episode.

First Appearance of a Nipple: Well, we see Railback’s at about the seven and a half minute mark, but that’s not what we generally mean by this category. That occurs at the 9:35 mark, which for one of these is bizarrely restrained.

Loads of ‘Adult’ Language? Several uses of the ‘S’ and ‘F’ words, because this is CABLE TV, BABY, and we can use that sort of thing here! Whooo!

Whatever Happened To…:

  • Steve Railsback…oh, sorry, Steven…was a busy character actor in the ’80s who specialized in genre fare. Ironically, though, his chameleon-like ability to disappear in his roles probably actually limited his career. His career was defined early on when the won the coveted role of Charles Manson in the hugely-rated Helter Skelter TV movie. Four years later he top lined the well-reviewed art flick The Stunt Man with Peter O’Toole, and then settled into a long series of genre appearances. 1982 alone saw Deadly Games, Escape 2000 and Trick or Treats, and the years ahead saw him headlining the roundly savaged sci-fi mess Lifeforce (1985), and appearing in many other titles The Survivalist, The Wind, the big bug movie Blue Monkey, Alligator II: The Mutation, the notorious E.T. knock-off Nukie, and so on. He continues to work today, and recently played a cameo in 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects. He has also been a popular TV guest, appearing not only here, but in such shows as the ’80s version of The Twilight Zone, Charmed and Supernatural. In this regard, he is probably best remembered as the character Duane Berry in a pivotal two-part episode of The X-Files. Mr. Railsback also starred in the recent (and typically dismal) Sci-Fi Channel ‘original’ The King of the Lost World.
  • Pearl was played by the attractive actress and Playboy model Marie Laurin, who like many actors on this show mostly appeared on TV shows. Her résumé in this regard includes guest roles on shows including Three’s Company, Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Matt Houston and Knight Rider. She also appeared in a few genre films like the Alien knock-off Creature (in which, yes, she is naked) and 1995’s Burial of the Rats. She stopped working after that, presumably because her breasts started sagging.
  • Paul Koslo (Rico) was himself a busy actor, playing mostly toughs and thugs in films from the early ’70s on. These included Nam’s Angel, Vanishing Point, The Omega Man, Cleopatra Jones, The Stone Killer, Mr. Majestyk, Freebie and the Bean, Rooster Cogburn—and those are just some of his credits from 1970 to 1975! (Of course, many of those roles were bit parts.) He was also busy doing tons of TV work, guesting in such programs as Mission: Impossible, Ironside, Cannon, Gunsmoke, Switch, Dallas, The Rockford Files, Police Woman, Misfits of Science, Highway to Heaven, Hunter, MacGyver, The Flash, and, of course, David Cassidy – Man Undercover. Needless to say, later in his career, in the late ’80s and ’90s, he appeared in a lot of DTV genre schlock.
  • John Colicos (Stregga) was a very familiar character actor, and perhaps remains best known for playing the villainous Baltar on the original, not-quite-as-good Battlestar Galactica. He also played the pivotal Klingon character of Kor in the original series Star Trek episode, Errand of Mercy. (He later reprised the role decades later in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.) Kor remained the model of Klingon characters until Christopher Lloyd’s Cmdr. Kruge in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which ushered in the idea of Klingons being honor-bound warriors. Mr. Colicos had been acting since the ’50s, himself appearing in a large variety of movies and TV shows.
  • Sardu

    Oh man, I feel like I’ve been in Hitchhiker withdrawal for a year now, and the fix feels GOOD! Great recap.

    BTW, little typo- that’s “Axel F” theme, not Alex F” theme.

  • Thanks, Sardu! Correction noted.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    But when he used her badly, he suffered her fate…

    Um…she was shot to death, and he was burned to death. How did he suffer her fate? He wasn’t betrayed and killed! He stole from them first! Shouldn’t her gunshot wound have appeared on his body so that he slowly bleeds to death, perhaps with Rico or Stregga (Stregga?) standing over him and refusing to give him any real aid, just as he did to her? That’s not any less lame than what they did, but it at least wouldn’t have made The Hitchhiker look like a putz for wrapping things up with something completely nonsensical.

    Of course that doesn’t help the inexplicable ‘conscience’ part or the they-never-showed-us-anything-of-the-kind ‘we’re one against the odds’ part, so forget I said anything.

  • Beppo

    Wait, Steve Railsback was in Escape 2000? I’ve seen that episode of MST3K about a million times and I’ve never noticed him. Leave the Bronx!

  • Actually, he does manifest her gunshot wound (apparently, at one point he cries, “I’m bleeding!”). However, as noted, he then continues to run around all over the place without any further sign of distress.

    Until the BBQ, of course.

  • ADAMBOMB 1701

    Actually, it’s “John” Colicos, not “Joe.” Unfortunatlely, he passed away in 2000.

    Note that neither HBO nor USA run “The Hitchhiker” anymore. HBO doesn’t even put it “On Demand.” Guess HBO has gotten hoity-toity since “The Sopranos,” and USA is trying to break with its past ever since it became part of NBC.

  • Well, the show never made much sense on USA, because frankly the nudity and swearing were really about all the program could hang its hat on. On the other hand, this followed USA’s programming strategy. I was always amused back in the day that USA’s signature show, Up All Night, featured gore and sex-filled movies from which they had stripped all the gore and sex.

    Thanks for the correction, too.

  • Falcion

    There were at least 2 movies called Escape 2000. The MST3K episode was originally called The Bronx Warriors 2. The other I know of was also known as Turkey Shoot and was basically a The Most Dangerous Prey butchery.

  • Thanks for the new “Hitchhiker” review, Ken. You’re absolutely right about things not making sense on USA. “Up All Night” presentations were equally bizarre. I was reminded of theaters back in the 70’s in New Jersey that showed “R” rated versions of porn flicks. What was that about? The same thing used to happed (maybe it still does) on Cinemax.