Tue, Mar 31
8:00 pm to 10:00 pm

SlabCinema will be Tuesday night screenings at La Tuna this spring while we wait for Movies by Moonlight to start (June-August). Showtime is 8 p.m. Bring your own chairs or blankets.

March 31
Detour (1945)
Hitchhiker gets involved with femme fatale and murder. Film Noir.

Detour (1945 film)

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Theatrical poster to Detour
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Produced by Leon Fromkess
Written by Martin Goldsmith
Martin Mooney (uncredited)
Starring Tom Neal
Ann Savage
Claudia Drake
Edmund MacDonald
Tim Ryan
Music by Leo Erdody (credited as “Erdody”)
Distributed by Producers Releasing Corporation
Release date(s) November 30, 1945
Running time 68 min.
Language English
Budget $20,000 (estimated)

Detour (1945) is a film noir cult classic that stars Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, and Edmund MacDonald. The movie was adapted by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney (uncredited) from Goldsmith’s novel, and was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. The 68-minute film was released by the Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), one of the so-called “poverty row” film studios.

Although made on a small budget and containing only rudimentary sets and camera work, the film has garnered substantial praise through the years and is held in high regard. The film has fallen into the public domain and is freely available from online sources. There are also many DVD editions.



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[edit] Plot

Al (Tom Neal), a piano player, sets off hitchhiking his way to California to be with his fiancee. Along the way, a stranger in a convertible gives him a ride. While driving, Al stops to put the top up during a rainstorm. The owner of the car falls out and onto the pavement, dead (it is unclear whether he has died in his sleep or due to the fall). Al panics and dumps the body in a gully; takes the stranger’s money, clothes, and ID; and drives off in his expensive car. After spending the night in a motel, Al picks up another hitchhiker, Vera (Ann Savage) (a femme fatale), who had earlier ridden with the stranger and threatens to turn him in for murdering the stranger unless he gives her all the money. In Hollywood, they rent an apartment and, while trying to sell the car, learn from a newspaper that the stranger was about to collect a large inheritance. Vera demands that Al impersonate the stranger, but Al balks at this notion. When the two get drunk in the apartment and begin arguing, a snubbed Vera takes Al up on his earlier dare to call the police, whereupon Al accidentally strangles her with a telephone cord. Al starts hitchhiking back east, but is apprehended by the police near Reno.

The story is narrated by Al, who may be an unreliable narrator.

[edit] Production

Ann Savage in a publicity still taken for the film.

Conceived as a B-movie, Detour was shot in six days with a budget of approximately $20,000.[1]

[edit] Editing

With re-shoots out of the question for such a low budget movie, director Edgar G. Ulmer made the decision to place storytelling conventions above continuity.

Detour’s famous example of this is the reversal of the hitchhiking scenes. In order to parallel the westbound New York to Los Angeles travel of the character with right-to-left movement across the screen, many scenes had to be flipped. This caused the cars to appear to be driving on the wrong side of the road, and the hitchhiker to enter the car on the driver’s side.

[edit] Censorship

Because the 1945 Production code mandated that “murderers… must be brought to justice,” director Ulmer satisfied censors by ending the movie with Al being picked up after predicting his arrest earlier.

[edit] Cast

Ann Savage and Tom Neal.

  • Tom Neal as Al Roberts
  • Ann Savage as Vera
  • Claudia Drake as Sue Harvey
  • Edmund MacDonald as Charles Haskell Jr
  • Tim Ryan as Nevada Diner Proprietor
  • Esther Howard as Holly, Diner Waitress
  • Pat Gleason as Joe, Trucker at Diner
  • Don Brodie as the Used Car Salesman

[edit] Reaction

In 1992, Detour was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Critical response to the film today is almost universally positive. Most reviewers contrast the technical shoddiness of the film with its successful atmospherics. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote:

“This movie from Hollywood’s poverty row, shot in six days, filled with technical errors and ham-handed narrative, starring a man who can only pout and a woman who can only sneer, should have faded from sight soon after it was released in 1945. And yet it lives on, haunting and creepy, an embodiment of the guilty soul of film noir. No one who has seen it has easily forgotten it.”[2]

He also included it in his list of great films.

Sight and Sound reviewer Phillip Kemp would later write:

“Using unknown actors and filming with no more than three minimal sets, a sole exterior (a used-car lot) to represent Los Angeles, a few stock shots, and some shaky back-projection, Ulmer conjures up a black, paranoid vision, totally untainted by glamour, of shabby characters trapped in a spiral of irrational guilt.”[3]

Novelists Edward Gorman and Dow Mossman wrote:

“…Detour remains a masterpiece of its kind. There have been hundreds of better movies, but none with the feel for doom portrayed by … Ulmer. The random universe Stephen Crane warned us about—the berserk cosmic impulse that causes earthquakes and famine and AIDS—is nowhere better depicted than in the scene where Tom Neal stands by the roadside, soaking in the midnight rain, feeling for the first time the noose drawing tighter and tighter around his neck.”[4]

[edit] Quote

Man, she looked as if she’d just been thrown off the crummiest freight train in the world.
I know. Someday a car will stop to pick me up that I never thumbed. Yes, fate, or some mysterious force can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.

[edit] Cultural references

Filmmaker Richard Linklater named his production company after this film.

[edit] Remake

A remake of Detour was produced in 1992 starring Tom Neal’s son Tom Neal Jr. and Lea Lavish along with Susanna Foster’s first acting appearance in 43 years and her final appearance on film. Produced, written and directed by Wade Williams and released by his distribution company, Englewood Entertainment, it has not been released on DVD, but a VHS release has been available.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (2004-05-08). “”Magic on a shoestring”". guardian.co.uk. http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,,1276436,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-03-07.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (1998-06-07). “Great Movies: Detour”. rogerebert.com. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19980607/REVIEWS08/401010312/1023. Retrieved on 2007-12-11.
  3. ^ Kemp, Phillip (1987). Wakeman, John (ed.). ed. Word Film Directors, Volume 1: 1890–1945. New York: H. W. Wilson. pp. 1110. ISBN 0-8242-0757-2.
  4. ^ Gorman, Edward; Mossman, Dow (1988). “Introduction”. in Gifford, Barry (book author). The Devil Thumbs a Ride & Other Unforgettable Films. New York: Grove Press. pp. 2. ISBN 0-8021-3078-X.

[edit] External links