- This essay will inevitably contain spoilers!


- A review by Richard Harrison (2010)

With the penchant for increased amounts of sex and violence in today’s cinema it would perhaps be deemed almost impossible for an ordinary film made almost 40 years ago to still have the ability to shock. But, Kenneth Rowles’ Take An Easy Ride is no ordinary film. Released back in 1974, the film is a pseudo-documentary about the perils of hitch-hiking, then a popular mode of travel, particularly amongst teenagers. However, though areas foreground the presence of the filmmaker (such as the voiceover which asks young people about their experience and knowledge of hitch-hiking, which allies the film to both documentary and also fabrication), some sequences are presented as if real. Thus, the sinister gloved driver and his behaviour and the story involving Suzanne are shown with all the freedom and frankness of shocking events that unfold before us. In fact, one of the interesting aspects about the film is its structure- it flits between stories in at times rather confusing manner, to show, one supposes, that hitch-hiking is going on simultaneously, at different times to different people.

Whatever its artistic merits as a piece of cinema, Take An Easy Ride is at times a harrowing piece of filmmaking, portraying as it does an era when independent transport was seen as a major asset yet was out of financial reach of many. Interestingly, it began life innocently- as an extended public information film for television about the possible dangers (to both quarters) of hitch-hiking- but wound up being extended (to a modest 38 minutes approx.) and placed on a double bill with Erotic Young Lovers at “blue movie” cinemas across the U.K. Perhaps the oddest piece of trivia about the film- and one of the strangest things I think I’ve ever had dawn on me during a film’s opening credits- is that the title music was used as incidental music for live action audio dramatisations of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories over 20 years ago.

This new Odeon Entertainment release of Take An Easy Ride contains the remastered film (which looks lovely- and unremittingly 1970s) as well as a fascinating feature The Ups and Downs of a Filmmaker, with Rowles himself (looking both benevolent and distinguished) being interviewed about his career (which included working with Jean-Luc Godard on Sympathy For The Devil). In addition, the 1972 pilot Rowles made for an aborted television series ( Go Girl) is also included. This is a sexy mixture of Avengers-style kitsch, animation and Treasure Island which would, if Rowles’ vision had been realised, have become one of the cult series of the 1970s. As it stands, it is a highly enjoyable inclusion- startlingly innovative in the use of short animated sequences to accelerate the plot and, like Take An Easy Ride, a production that captures the hedonism of the early 1970s.

All in all, Take An Easy Ride is a highly worthy DVD release, featuring as it does such a varied selection of extra features which, unlike some of its modern-day counterparts, offer more than one viewing pleasure. If the “main feature” shocks, there is always the sparky Go Girl. Failing that, there is the Rowles interview, trailers and a booklet. If all these do not capture the interest there’s always the nearest rental store- but that really would be taking an easy ride.

Take An Easy Ride is available on DVD from Odeon Entertainment.