Thumb Tripping


1h 34m 1972

Brief Synopsis

While a couple of young hippies hitch-hikes through the country, they meet a number of people. Some are nice, some are peculiar, but when they meet a man named Smitty, their trip turns dangerous.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Oct 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 27 Sep 1972
Production Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Big Sur, California, United States; Carmel, California, United States; Monterey, California, United States; Russian River, California, United States; San Francisco, California, United States; San Jose, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Thumb Tripping by Don Mitchell (Boston, 1970).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Synopsis

Outside Big Sur, California, sundry hitchhikers and vagrant hippies are rounded up by the police, dropped off in town and warned to stay off the beach. One young woman, Chay, is immediately attracted to Gary, a college student spending his summer hitchhiking up the coast. Chay accompanies Gary into Carmel, where they enjoy a round of bread they can barely afford while sitting in a romantic park. Although Gary is slightly more conventional than the free-spirited Chay, they grow close quickly, and after a day on the beach spend the evening with two men who are heating soup over a campfire. The four sing and laugh throughout the night and in the morning, Gary makes love to Chay. Back on the road, he states that he never turns down a ride, knowing that each new experience enriches him in ways he could not have imagined. Later, two men in a sports car, Smitty and Simp, nearly force them off the road, prompting Gary to shout an obscenity at them. Smitty and Simp pull their car over and, after demanding an apology, offer a ride, which Chay accepts in the spirit of Gary's earlier statement. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that the two men are dangerous, and Smitty taunts Gary that entering the car was the stupidest thing he has ever done, then threatens to rape Chay. When they pull in to gas station, Gary and Chay jump out. Gary insists that she run but she refuses to leave him, and as they argue, Smitty throws Gary's bag out of the car and the men speed off. Gary collapses on the ground in relieved laughter and the couple take to the road again, thrilled at their escape. They now head to San Francisco, passing many other hippies on the road, luxuriating in each other's company and the beautiful countryside. Later, a woman named Thelma and her two young children, Donald and Judy, offer the couple a ride. Judy soon admits that she is searching for her fifteen-year-old runaway daughter, prompting Gary to ask if perhaps she should allow the girl to live her own life, and triggering a rage in Chay, who is disgusted with Thelma's rough treatment of her children and conservative ideology. Suddenly, Thelma pulls the car over to inspect the site of a car accident she witnessed days earlier. Realizing that Thelma had failed to stop to help the accident victim, Chay attacks her as selfish and evil, and Thelma slaps Chay and drives away with her children. Gary comforts Chay, who states that she cannot accept every ride, as some are less worthy than others. They are interrupted by a trucker, Diesel, who has stopped to relieve himself and now gives them a ride in his semi. Gary and Chay are delighted by Diesel's voluble sociability until they stop at a truck stop and Gary notices that the trucker is lusting after Chay. As Chay dances to the jukebox, Diesel offers Gary fifteen dollars to allow him to sleep with Chay. Shocked, Gary demurs, and when they later stop at a warehouse where Diesel drops his freight of oranges, Gary demands to Chay that they leave. Despite her reluctance, he follows Diesel and announces his intention to depart, but Diesel locks him in the back of the truck and drives off. As Gary struggles in the dark, he hears Chay and Diesel making love. The next morning, they release Gary, and he strides off in anger, followed by Chay. She urges him to forget about the past night and travel on with her, and when he demands to know what happened, she states that Diesel forced her to have sex and she stayed to protect Gary. Knowing that she is lying but deeply in love, Gary paces silently. They sit for hours awaiting a ride, and when a convertible finally stops, Gary hesitates only briefly before joining Chay. The car owners are Jack and Lynne, a married couple with three children at home. They entice Gary and Chay to share their beer, and soon the foursome is drunk and raucous. Stopping to swim in a lake, Jack fondles a willing Chay while Lynne seduces Gary. Jack is at first jealous of Lynne's attentions and spiteful of Gary's education and potential future, but soon is distracted by his desire for Chay. After an afternoon of sex and drinking, the four drive to a roadhouse in Santa Rosa, where Lynne runs in wearing only her underwear and dances on the tabletops. Chay follows her and, in the ensuing revelry, kisses several of the male patrons. Spotting her, Gary is appalled and tries to pull her out, but she orders him to let her go. Jack storms in and grabs Lynne, causing the bar owner to throw the foursome into the pool in back. Bedraggled and sobered, they struggle back to the car, where Jack and Lynn fight bitterly and Gary sits in silence. At the Russian River, Jack and Lynne bid them goodbye, and as he awaits another ride, Gary tells Chay that she is not as free as she believes herself. "You made up your own rules so you don't have to deal with people," he tells her. In the morning, when a man stops to pick them up, the two say goodbye tenderly and Gary climbs into the car, leaving Chay behind.

Crew

Bud Alper

Sound Mixer

Bill Bates

Props Master

William Bates

Art Director

Stephanie Black

Composer

James Brubaker

Insert car driver

Floyd Butler

Composer

John Caper Jr.

Music Editor

Jerry Cash

Makeup

Terry Chambers

Assistant Editor

Robert Chartoff

Producer

Don Christie

Stills

Walter Coblenz

Assistant Director

Ray Cork Jr.

Composer

Janet Crosby

Prod Secretary

Oscar "pete" Denenberg

Assistant Editor

Joseph Ellis

Assistant Director

Ron Ellis

Electrician

Harry Elston

Composer

Charles Enzen

Cinemobile driver

Jerry Fuller

Composer

Ralph Gurling

Camera Operator

Gloria Henson

Prod Secretary

Marsha Kleinman

Casting

Dick Lane

Assistant Editor

Joseph E. Levine

Presented By

Joseph E. Levine

Executive Producer

Lambert Marks

Costume Supervisor

Don Marshall

Gaffer

Ralph Marshall

Best Boy

Ed Martin

Camera

Michael Masser

Composer

Verne Matthews

Grip

Richard Meinardus

Camera Assistant

Don Mitchell

Screenwriter

Gene O'brian

Boom Operator

Arnold Orgolini

Loc auditor

Craig Pinkard

Utility man

Bonnie Prendergast

Script Supervisor

Chuck Record

Key grip

John W. Rogers

Production Manager

David Ronne

Addl Sound rec

John Sexton

Props

Gerald S. Shepard

Film Editor

Jennifer Shull

Casting

Jerry Sims

2d unit Camera

Walter Spear

Loc contact

Bob Spence

Camera Assistant

Harry Stradling Jr.

Director of Photography

Bob Thompson

Composer

Bob Thompson

Music Composition and Conducting

Jim Thornsberry

Transportation

Kathy Wakefield

Composer

Mary Weinstein

Prod Secretary

Irwin Winkler

Producer

Bob Yeager

Unit Publicist

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Oct 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 27 Sep 1972
Production Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Big Sur, California, United States; Carmel, California, United States; Monterey, California, United States; Russian River, California, United States; San Francisco, California, United States; San Jose, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Thumb Tripping by Don Mitchell (Boston, 1970).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

An illegible copyright statement appears onscreen; however, the film was not registered for copyright. Although almost all contemporary sources list Gene Fowler as the film's editor, Gerald S. Shepard, who was credited onscreen, was the sole editor. Hollywood Reporter printed a correction to the erroneous Fowler credit on September 29, 1972. Don Mitchell's first novel, Thumb Tripping (a slang term for hitchhiking), was a semi-autobiographical collection of separate but connected stories detailing a hitchhiking trip he took with his girl friend, whom he would later marry. He was twenty years old when he wrote the book and twenty-two when it was published in 1970. Avco Embassy had registered the title for use as a film as early as October 1969, as noted in a Daily Variety news item. In December 1969, Hollywood Reporter announced that Mitchell was reporting to producer Irwin Winkler to begin work on the film adaptation of his novel. Publishers Weekly stated in May 1970 that one of the novel's stories was being published in Esquire and another in The Atlantic.
       Although Hollywood Reporter announced in April 1970 that the producers planned to shoot the film in Hollywood, contemporary sources reported that it was shot on location in California in Big Sur, Monterey, Carmel, San Jose, San Francisco and around the Russian River. According to Filmfacts, when the production began Avco Embassy announced that Joy Bang would play "Chay." A Hollywood Citizen-News article of July 3, 1970 stated that the dialogue heard in the finished film was obtained while the director shot footage in moving cars, rather than the more common practice of dubbing in the dialogue later. That article and press materials pointed out the youthfulness of the film's principal players, including Mitchell, twenty-three-year-old director Quentin Masters, and the twenty-two-year-old stars, Michael Burns and Meg Foster. Thumb Tripping marked the only American film made by Masters, an Australian director. According to modern sources, Donald Elson played the gas station attendant and Hugh Bayless appeared in the film.
       Thumb Tripping was shot during the summer of 1970 but was not released until October 1972. Several reviews mentioned the delay, stating that the trend of what Variety called "youth-on-the-road" pictures had died out since the film's inception.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1973

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1973