Saturday, February 17, 2007


"He went looking for love, but fate threw him a Detour to revelry...violence...mystery! So reads the tag line on the poster to the right for the film, Detour In Detour I found just about everything I love about the old noir genre. I find myself wishing now that I didn't send back the Netflix envelope this morning, so I could watch it again.

Tom Neal plays Al Roberts a down in the dumps musician who sets out to hitchike across the country to get to his girl, Sue, who left New York to become a celebrity in Los Angeles. Along the way he hitches a ride with Charles Haskell Jr. Shortly after though, Haskell dies and he decides to carry on with his car. He then picks up Vera (Ann Savage) and as luck would have it, she hitched a ride with Haskell earlier, so she uses Haskell's death as a way to use Al for her own ends.

The story is completely over the top unbelievable, yes. Al acts as our narrator from a stool in a diner as he recounts the story up to the point where we finally catch up. He even tells us, "If this was fiction, you'd find this completely unbelievable." But it's real life for Al. And you have the classic noir themes of fate looming large to kick our protaginists ass at any point. Al even alludes to this numerous times throughout the film. "That's life, whatever you do fate sticks out a foot to trip you up."

While shot almost entirely on the road, director Edward Ulmer brings us into a noir midset and setting. Whether it's a cut back to Al on the stool of the diner in the dark his face lit to show despair, or a pouring rain as Al attempts to figure out what to do with Haskell's body. And, then there is Vera. Ann Savage plays Vera so over the top it becomes impossible not to root for Al, even when you know he will be doomed. She's not a femme fatale in the normal noir way. She doesn't exactly oooze sensuality, but she does have the power over Al, and will do what it takes to keep him from getting to his girl.

Detour is only 67 minutes, and it feels even shorter than that. It just flies by. However, the only transfer available, at least through Netflix is terrible. Awful sound, it doesn't look to be a very clean print either. I find myself torn. I'd like to see it restored, and maybe be in a set like the excellently presented Warner Classic Noirs box sets. But, at the same time, the horrible transfer gives this B grade noir from 1945 a certain feel of authenticity.

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