Driving home from an illicit rendezvous, math instructor Juan (Closas) and his upper-class lover Maria Jose (Bosè) run over a cyclist, who they leave on the side of the road. Juan has pangs of conscience about the incident, especially when he learns the man has perished, and fears the police may be on his trail. Maria Jose, meanwhile, is terrified of being found out by her husband (Toso), not least because a rascally art critic (Casaravilla) keeps hinting that he knows all about her secret life.
Although it owes a debt to Hitchcock and American pulp fiction, Bardem’s elegant, noirish thriller is a poison dart aimed at the double scourge of class privilege and social hypocrisy in Franco’s Spain. Bardem, an outspoken leftist, suffered under the repressive regime, and with “Cyclist,” courageously challenged the values that thrived during Franco’s rule, depicting his characters oppressed by an atmosphere of fear and dread that engulfs them. Murder, blackmail, and sexual tension all add up to a potent cocktail of simmering intrigue in “Death of a Cyclist.”