Once some­one gets the fever for mak­ing films, it’s hard to stop. Even those work­ing on low bud­gets feel that temp­ta­tion. Frederick Friedel was in post-pro­duc­tion on his first fea­ture Axe when he decid­ed to make anoth­er film with the tal­ent he had worked with on his debut. The result was Kidnapped Coed: like Axe, it’s a quirky blend of dri­ve-in-friend­ly con­tent and art­sy indie-flick exper­i­men­ta­tion but it goes even fur­ther into unortho­dox ter­ri­to­ry .

KidCoed-posKidnapped Coed starts in a hard­boiled crime thriller mode: Eddie (Jack Canon) kid­naps Sandra (Leslie Rivers), the daugh­ter of a rich man, with the inten­tion of hold­ing her for ran­som. The two spend time in close quar­ters as they wait for the ran­som to be ful­filled and find them­selves on a strange odyssey where they are par­ty to events both comic and hor­ri­fic. Somewhere along the way, they begin to devel­op feel­ings for each oth­er but unpre­dictable things hap­pen before their jour­ney comes to an end.

The result is an intrigu­ing odd­i­ty from the dri­ve-in era. Kidnapped Coed’s ear­ly sce­nes are as taut and bru­tal as the sim­i­lar crime-noir sce­nes that open Axe but once it gets through its first act the sto­ry­line begins mutat­ing into new and unusu­al shapes. It’s put togeth­er in a way that sug­gests some­one who isn’t behold­en to con­ven­tion­al sto­ry­telling rules: tonal shifts can be abrupt as well as shifts in char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the final twen­ty min­utes of the film. That said, the unpre­dictabil­i­ty also means it’s nev­er dull and reflects the ethos of the road movie (i.e., the point of the trip is the jour­ney, not the des­ti­na­tion).

Kidnapped Coed is also inter­est­ing in how it rep­re­sents a step up in tech­nique for Friedel. Working again with gift­ed cin­e­matog­ra­pher Austin McKinney, he cre­ates a love­ly visu­al back­drop for his unortho­dox sto­ry­line that is full of gor­geous track­ing shots and painter­ly wide-shot imagery. Friedel is also more skill­ful with his cast: Canon gets a more com­plex char­ac­ter to play this time around and han­dles the nuances well while Rivers brings a com­pelling, vul­ner­a­ble pres­ence to some dif­fi­cult sce­nes.

In short, Kidnapped Coed is an inter­est­ing piece of work from a direc­tor who should’ve got­ten more chances to devel­op his craft. Even when it’s uneven, Kidnapped Coed still has a brave, art­ful approach that keeps it inter­est­ing — and fans of off­beat ‘70s dri­ve-in fare should seek it out.