Detour (1945)

German Koch Media DVD

Ann Savage and Tom Neal

Meet The Most Miserable Man Alive - Al Roberts, played by ....

The Great Tom Neal

Text below written 2016-05-07


Poster and Postcard

Yes, at last a decent quality edition on DVD of this minimalistic Cult Classic Film Noir, and then from Germany
in the fine and ambitious Film Noir Collection from Koch Media. Before this i had only seen Detour in abominable
US public domain cheapskate companies editions and on Swedish TV in another massacre copy showing (read
more about this rare showing at the bottom of this text).
This Koch Media edition DVD is supposed to be restored but did have some moments of a jumping picture and
scratches during the 2nd part when the "loving couple" has reached Los Angeles. But, even though this edition had
a much better picture quality than the other DVD's of the film i've seen.

The Happy Times

Detour - A Film Noir Masterpiece

The Film starts with a shabby hitch-hiker arriving to Reno, Nevada and entering a road-side joint to eat. The man is
grumpy and with a volatile temper, close to hysterics, and he's annoying the customers when he reacts violently to a
tune played on the jukebox. The tune makes him remember his girlfriend and we're plunged into the ... Flashback,
Surprise - NOT, as it's a staple of the 1940's Crime and Film Noir genre.

The Man, our Hero doomed by the malignant forces of this unjust world, the pessimistical NY piano lounge player
Al Roberts, played by a BRILLIANT Tom Neal, slaves as piano player in a 2nd grade night-club in a duo with his
singer girlfriend Sue Harvey (Claudia Drake). We get to see close-ups of Al's tense, sweaty and unhappy face, and
he show us how annoyed he's over his situation. That his talent is much too big to waste on the uninterested and
unsophisticated clientele of the night-club, throwing his pearls before swine.
Nobody, NO ONE has looked more miserable and bitter than Tom Neal in Detour, noone. He and the whole
movie just vibrates with discomfort and looser spirit and it's delightful, magnific and the stuff Film Noir are made of.
Rise up all Brethren of Misfortune! Tom Neal's pitiful Al Roberts show us there's at least one guy that's more miserable
than anyone of us, and united we are stro ...... eeeh, weak.

My advice to all male readers out there: A tip to get beautiful women attracted to you - choose your male role models
carefully. My 3 male role-models are 1. Tom Neal's Al Roberts 2. Seinfeld's George Constanza and 3. Basil Fawlty
from Fawlty Towers. All very secure, strong and virile men that women flock around. Me a bachelor .... Noooo ...

Textsheet
with text written in German by Thomas Willman attached to the DVD cover and with a faulty spelling of Edgar

Edgar Georg Ulmer 1904-1972 - The Master of B studio Noir Melodrama

Born in Austria Edgar came to the US in the 20's and worked with Master Murnau on his film masterpiece Sunrise
in 1927. He directed The Black Cat in 1934 and then lots of B Studio films for i.a. PRC (Producers Releasing
Corporation) with Detour in 1945, and he also made the über great melodrama The Strange Woman in 1946 with
Hedy Lamarr at her very best

..................................................................

The Story:

If Al feel miserable this was still the Happy times, because when his singing girlfriend Sue decides to achieve her
dream and move to LA to be an actress, Al soon is following and then he's in for some bad times, and bad as in
BAD. Without money he's into hitch-hiking over the continent and he's picked up by the travelling salesman Charles
Haskell Jr. Everything looks cool for a while, a short while, because the malignant forces strike and the salesman
dies in a freak accident. What to do ? Al ponders his options and make the wrong choice, he takes the car and
continue on his way to California. Maybe, just maybe everything would've worked out for him, but IF, if he hadn't
picked up that red-haired female hitch-hiker. Vera - The Hitch-Hiker From Hell, played in a sensational and un-
forgettable unique performance by Ann Savage.

Quite possibly the most despicable female in movie history

Ann Savage as the extremely unlikeable Vera gives us a One of a kind actress performance as a shabby Femme
Fatale, dusty from the road. She's got a shrieky voice and seems to be in a constant rage and close to hysterics
and her speech resembles the rattle from a machine gun. "I don't like your attitude" she warns Al and bosses him
around and besides these manners she's also Rotten to the Core and lures Al into being her partner in crime.
I don't think i've seen anything like this in movies before, besides possibly Sandra Bernhard in King of Comedy.
Yes, i'm Soft i know (and it get worse when you get older, i promise) but i can't help feeling some tenderness for
Ann Savage's despicable Vera, so shabby, so unwanted, lonely, bitter and unattractive, without any redeeming
quality whatsoever. I feel sorry for her. (Unattractive ? Well, naturally Ann Savage wasn't unattractive but the film
team probaly smeared her in grease to look shabby?)

The Hitch-Hiker From Hell

Poor Al's decision to be a nice guy and give that shabby woman a lift results in some hellish days together in a unique
low budget minimalistic film noir almost experimental in style and for it's time. The weak and depressed Al becomes
an easy prey for the aggressive Vera, and this even though Al truly believes in his success-generating motto, strange:

"No matter what you do, no matter what where you turn, fate sticks out its foot to trip you"

Both Ann Savage and Tom Neal are Mindblowing with unforgettable performances. Neal seems to sweat despair and
tragically, maybe due to the malignant forces that rules Al Roberts world, Neal went to prison after the murder of his
wife and the fiction became reality.
The script and story was written by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney but do look like some short story or novel
written by crime master writer of noir, Cornell Woolrich. Like Francis M. Nevins, Jr. wrote, Woolrich's influence so
permeated the 1940's Film Noir that some excellent films from that period in time, like Edgar G. Ulmers lowbudgeted
masterpiece Detour from PRC (1945), seem to be a Woolrich movie even though he has nothing to do with them.

Great sleeve but an abominable edition ... terrible quality, awful

The DVD above was a US copy which i sold for a short while when i had my DVD shop some 10-15 years ago
but the transfer was awful with so much scratches you could hardly see what happened. Surprisingly also the
transfer Swedish television showed in 2010 was almost as bad with scratches a plenty.
Some parts of this text was written in 2010 after watching it on TV, and then i wondered why there haven't been
a serious restoration of Detour to a DVD or Blu-ray as the film are one of the best films ever made.
Well, now this German 2013 Koch Media edition exist and it's OK - but far from perfect. It would've been inte-
resting to know how this transfer was made and from which source, but no such info.
There should be a decent 35 mm copy of Detour in some film archive somewhere around the world, or in some
film collectors vault, and maybe a perfect source for a "real" restoration will show up in the future ?

The Swedish Cultural Dark

Swedish TV, SVT, surprised me and suddenly showed Detour, coupled with Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street, in the
summer of 2008, and again the 15th of September 2010. Normally swedish TV only shows Kate Hudson or
American Pie comedies and occasionally some boring artmovie made in France with middle-age pretentious
bores sitting around a table drinking wine and gabbing incessantly.
Detour, this claustrophobic pitch-black lowbudget noir crime-drama from PRC, a Powerty Row studio is considered
to be something of an epitome for the Film Noir genre, the ultimate in desperation on film and filmwriters and cine-
philes worldwide (but not in Sweden) hail it as one of the, if not the Best low budget films ever made.
But, in Sweden however ....

Swedish cretins strikes again ...

Above you can see what our distinguished "film writers" from our biggest daily papers Aftonbladet and SvD thought
about Detour in their grotesque short-reviews when shown in TV - 3 out of 5.

..........................................................................................

In Swedish: Filmpajasskandalen

Suck..... ja, ni ser själva vad filmtips-lallarna på Aftonbladet och SvD gav den för betyg i sina groteska kortrecensioner
i tidningarnas TV filmtips (Resident Evil Extinction fick t ex 2 i jmf och anses alltså vara nästan lika bra).
Ungefär som när någon gammal narr på Expressen en gång gav Hitchcock's Psycho en 3a och en Hasse/Tage rulle
(jag tror det var Mannen som slutade röka) en 4a.
När en film betraktas som en Absolut Klassiker av flera generationer av filmvetare, filmskribenter och filmälskare World
Wide måste självklart betygsättningen bli en annorlunda än en 3a , om det skall finnas någon rim och reson, om inte
svenskarna skall sjunka ännu djupare ner i mörkret i vårt kulturella u-land och om någon människa överhuvudtaget skall
bemöda sig om att läsa läsa dessa monumentalt inkompetenta klåpares filmtips

 

Back to Film Noir & Pulp Fiction page