Time will tell if a fully restored DEVIL will help or hurt its reputation as the quintessential 3 am movie (a label first applied to DETOUR, itself the subject of a glittering restoration). This might be a time for folks to weigh in on their take regarding the film, which has available only in a threadbare TV print since the 1980s when I remember capturing a VHS version of it.
DEVIL received 3 honorable mentions in the Board's Top 25 poll back in 2005, including one from Alan Rode (Eddie chose TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY as his favorite Feist amongst his ten "extra picks," perhaps distancing himself a bit from his earlier invocation of legendary tough guy Lawrence Tierney, still alive at the time and part of a much edgier approach to noir that was currently "in play"--and, of course, DEVIL is 99.44% Tierney). Its scarcity has kept it from being widely reviewed, but its IMDB score is 7.0, with little variance between those who rate 1-10 and those who review.
The noir-o-meter brings the film in at 127 (6.4 out 10), with the character element score dominating (8.0), thanks to Tierney's hulking presence as an homme fatal. It clearly tilts to the hard-boiled side (77 on the MELO ranking, about 40% under the average score, and 137 toward the hard-boiled side in terms of the mixture of the character elements).
The late great Bill MacVicar was upbeat about DEVIL, giving it an 8/10. Here are some excerpts from his brief review:
"Over the decades, Felix Feist's The Devil Thumbs A Ride has gathered a fierce reputation as some sort of ultimate, quick-and-dirty film noir (like Detour). It's not quite that."
"Its dark star, Laurence Tierney, was more explosively, unpredictably violent in Born to Kill (and he had Claire Trevor at her malevolent best to play against). And Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker corners the market on the terrors of the lonely road, come nightfall."
"But the ensemble cast works well together -- Betty Lawford as good-time-gal Agnes is especially memorable."
"The end is somewhat troublesome; the necessary "restoration to normalcy" is abrupt and discordantly upbeat. The best films noirs close on a greyer, more ambiguous note."
Other IMDB reviewers are less approving:
"The Devil Thumbs a Ride thrives on account of Tierney's strong performance. He in turn exudes a charming veneer and a cold hearted darkness that unnerves throughout.
"The set-up is pretty thin and even the most forgiving of noir fans will attest that the sheer idiocy of the other passengers beggars belief. No matter what Tierney does, however crazy or evil, he will spin a yarn and the dopes fall for it. A plot strand that sees the head detective take a member of the public with him in pursuit of Morgan, is pushing it a bit too far."
And Dennis Schwartz at OZUS was downright dismissive, grading DEVIL at C- and delivering a final put-down line with evident relish:
"The unsuspecting innocents don't become suspicious that something's not right even when there are roadblocks and Tierney insists they take the back roads, and not even when he 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 Tierney tells them a teary-eyed tale about his rough childhood and being in reform school is the reason he acts this way about cops). He 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 Tierney 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."
Thoughts on this one are welcome...