The Devil Thumbs A Ride ( 1947)

Directed by Felix E. Feist


Steve Morgan (Tierney) is a charming sociopath who has just robbed and killed a cinema cashier. Seeking to escape, he hitches a ride to Los Angeles with unsuspecting Jimmy ‘Fergie’ Ferguson (North). Part way the pair stops at a gas station and picks up two women. Encountering a roadblock, Morgan persuades the party to spend the night at an unoccupied beach house. The police close in as one by one Morgan begins killing the threesome.


Tierney is One Bad Dude!

25 July 2005 | by drednm (United States) – See all my reviews

This little gem sure packs a punch—or a low blow. Lawrence Tierney is wonderful as the psycho who tricks a dope (Ted North) into giving him a ride from San Diego to Los Aangeles. Along the way they pick up two stranded women: a tough blond (Betty Lawford), and an innocent (Nan Leslie). Of course Tierney is on the lam from a robbery and murder but he fools them into dodging the cops (after he runs one down) by going to the dope’s friend’s beach house for the night. Several sub plots involve some interesting characters. No on is really what they seem to be. The dope is driving drunk across state but he’s actually a devoted husband trying to get home. Tierney is a vicious killer. The blond is a willing accomplice, and the innocent wants to be an actress. The cops (especially Harry Shannon) are almost comical in their rapport, and the gas station kid (Glen Vernon) turns out to be a card shark. Great characters here with everyone having some nice screen time. Andrew Tombes is the night watchman who makes a spectacular drunk. Minerva Urecal is the widow with THE phone (Laguna Beach was the STICKS in 1947), and Marian Carr is the little wife who makes a surprise appearance. Josephine Whittell is the mother in law. Dick Elliott is the guy with the stupid dog.


Tierney is the driving force and he’s really good in his patented tough guy role. Lawford is surprisingly good. She hadn’t made a film since 1937 and never made another after this one. She kept reminding me of Lizabeth Scott. Vernon almost steals the film as the gas station kid who goes along for a ride with the cops. North is the weakest actor but his dope part doesn’t really call for much. Interesting little noir film with a totally unrepentant main character. He never even bats an eye!

Meh, not nearly as good as many other noir fans say but still entertaining

Author: TheMarquisDeSuave from Worcester, MA
1 August 2006

This b-film has a few things going for it. First of, Lawrence Tierney is superb. He chews the scenery greatly and makes a suave yet intimidating villain. Unfortunately, he comes across as the most likable and least moronic character in the film. Another plus is the pace. It is very quick making this a good way to spend a rainy afternoon. There are several tense sequences, in particular the vacuum scene.


However, its not as good as many on this site hype it up to be. After reading all the great reviews and hearing good things from people whose taste I respect, I was gravely disappointed. I’ll just say that I’ve seen plenty of classic film noir and consider myself pretty well versed in the genre. This is one of the lesser ones I’ve come across. A major problem for me were the characters. Tierney’s character was a good villain, but the rest were annoying and moronic. The hero of the film Fergie came across as being a real wimp. The “wisecracking dame” stock character was particularly annoying this time around. The “hard boiled” dialog was pretty ridiculous if amusing.

gif devil thumbs

All in all, a great Tierney performance. This flick is a rarity, but unless you’re a die-hard noir fan, its not worth shelling out bucks for a bootleg. If it turns up on TCM again check it out for entertainment value (or AMC, but thats not very likely considering their programing nowadays). (5/10)

Lawrence Tierney robs, kills, manipulates and intimidates

Author: msroz from United States
30 August 2016

Last night, I watched “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” (1947) yet again. Nearly all reviewers give this solid film noir a thumbs up. So do I. I’d rate it 3/4 or 7.5/10 if I could. Lawrence Tierney is nothing short of terrific. Is he acting? Well, of course he is, but you wouldn’t know it. Whoever cast him or got him this role knew exactly what they were doing. The beauty of his well-written part is that he’s not a psycho who goes around killing people for pleasure. He has a low hurdle for killing, but he also manipulates and intimidates people. He constantly uses psychology on their vulnerable points. I cannot explain why I (or we) enjoy watching a character like this who combines charm, intelligence, and amorality as he attempts to elude capture. We do not like him, especially after a second murder. By then we want him nailed. But before that, he seems to show us or warn us about the fragility of trust and of giving strangers a ride.


This is a hard-boiled and suspenseful noir, but by no means due to constant violence. Nearly all the action takes place at night. A good part of it is in and around a car with 4 passengers, and then in a beach house. No one chews the scenery. No one overacts. The ensemble cast members are all believable in nicely-etched parts that are not stereotypes. Felix Feist deserves credit in the writing and directing departments, working from a novel as a basis.


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