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Loosely based on the Alistair MacLean work of the same name, this mild potboiler fits more comfortably into Cannon’s mini-trend of Indiana Jones knock-offs, but also functions as a low-rent APOCALYPSE NOW. Director Steve Carver (THE ARENA) does not have the re- sources needed to provide the level of adventure and spectacle needed (the ending is quite poorly staged), but RIVER OF DEATH still displays more pol- ish and better production values than similar efforts of the pe- riod from Harry Alan Towers, acting here as co-producer and co-writer (“Edward Simpson”). It is all rather charmingly quaint for 1989, but fairly well- paced and makes good use of its Port St. Johns locations. As the Nazi cohorts turned bitter rivals, Pleasence is amusingly hammy, while Vaughn does not even attempt a German accent. L.Q. Jones and Herbert Lom also appear in supporting roles that allow them to employ their familiar characterizations.


A theatrical trailer (scored


wi th music from INVASION U.S.A.) is offered, along with an audio commentary featuring Dudikoff, Carver and, alas, Bill Olsen. The discussion has numer- ous mistakes that a prepared moderator would have caught and corrected. When Pleasence first appears onscreen, Dudikoff says, “I’ve got so many great stories about him,” but we don’t hear any because Olsen does not follow up. The track also suffers from a lack of editing; Carver can be heard saying “Is there any way to raise the volume on this?” at one point, Olsen starts choking a few min- utes later, and a cell phone goes off several times near the end; all these moments could have been cut out. Admittedly, these are not hugely important films, but the tracks should immortalize the sto- ries behind them and feature per- sonnel who are not getting any younger; it is a shame that these opportunities are being squan- dered through lack of quality con- trol. On a happier note, the 1080p 1.85:1 presentation is extremely


sharp and colorful, with excellent detail, and the economical Ultra Stereo mix comes across just fine.


THE HITCH-HIKER


1953, Kino Classics, 71m 7s, $24.95 DVD-1, $29.95 BD-A By Chris Herzog


The best film noirs tend to play out like the detective magazine short stories from which so many of them were adapted: a quick set- up, followed by a falling-dominos series of plot developments that proceed logically, inexorably lead- ing to a violent conclusion. Wild coincidences and one-dimen- sional heavies are sometimes un- avoidable, but the most engaging examples remain darkly plausible. Director Ida Lupino’s road-trip nightmare THE HITCH-HIKER holds up after 60+ years in part by staying believable and avoid- ing the clichés and excess that tend to creep into the best Holly- wood product. We recognize little parts of ourselves and our lives in all of the film’s characters and


Robert Vaughn, Michael Dudikoff and Donald Pleasence top off the matinee melange of plagues, lost cities and mad Nazi science that is RIVER OF DEATH.


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