Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Some thoughts about Edgar Ulmer's "Detour"

By Doug Gibson

I watched Edgar Ulmer's 1945 Producers Releasing Corporation film Detour a couple of days. I've seen it often but it never fails to provide a punch-in-the-gut tribute to great film noir. What director Edgar Ulmer was able to capture on a shoestring budget with PRC is better than 99 percent of the major studios' efforts. Detour, by the way, would be a great double feature with Gun Crazy.

The casting of the two leads helps make the film so successful. Tom Neal, as Al Roberts, luckless pianist whose life is destroyed crossing the country to hook up with his girlfriend, is a good-lucking luckless anti-Humphrey Bogart. His fatality, fear and hesitance makes him, for most of the film, an easy foil to abuse for Vera, played by Ann Savage -- what an appropriate name!. Savage's performance is even more critical to the film than Neal's. She is pure hostility and real anger. Observing her, one can imagine Vera as being able to chew barbed wire to a cud and spit it out as masticated metal.

Yet there is a vulnerability to Vera. Observe the scene where she oh so subtly tries to seduce Neal's Al. It's a subtle moment of vulnerability from an ice woman. When Neal, in whiny fashion, appropriately rejects her overture, anger results so quickly that the initial hurt is barely observed.

The ending of Detour will always be debated. Did Al turn himself into the cop he abruptly meets? Did the cop arrest him, or is the cop just approaching what looks like a beaten down drunk? Or is the whole saga of Al's Detour a fantasy of a deeply disturbed man?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a bizarre modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...
truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through
Vanguard Cinema (, and is currently
debuting on Cable Video On Demand. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal
World Film Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring
Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and
Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the
Glam/Punk songs "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst", "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire" and a
dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.


***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
before..." Film Threat
"A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
"Consistently stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
version of David Lynch. " IFC News
"Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
"Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque