Friday, April 15, 2011

Detour 1945

 Made on a shoe string budget and looking like it was filmed in that shoe, Detour was made in a matter of days using a few cheap sets and some rear projections. This poverty row raw noir is about a guy on a hard luck life trip who tells his story in flashbacks as he sits in a dive of a diner (the waitress is none other than the great Esther Howard) nursing his cup of coffee and moaning over his fate. The film stars real life bad guy Tom Neal and a shock to the system actress Ann Savage as Vera the nightmare that Tom picks up on the road. The background to the story goes something like this. Tom plays piano player Al Roberts who works in a cheap joint in a pulp paperback New York City. His girlfriend Sue played by Claudia Drake also works in the club and sings for her supper very nicely, but she’s tired of Manhattan and wants to op out of the place to try her luck in L.A.  So off she goes and soon Tom gets depressed missing his babe and wants to join her but is broke and decides to hitchhike and that’s when his troubles start and my pleasure with this great film begins. Tom Neal who was a real life problem, was arrested a few times, and made headlines in the early 50’s ’s for beating the crap out of Franchot Tone for playing around with his tootsie the really bad Barbara Payton who Tone later married.  Tom also shot one of his wives dead and served 6 years in the clinker for it.  Nice going Tom. His career didn’t amount to much, but Detour is a great tombstone to put on his grave. Neal was bad and dark and sexy as hell, and he’s very good in the film. As for Savage her performance is startling to say the least, with her rough hewed face and nasty countenance, she is unique, troubling and very scary. The movie is art povera, a lost and found assemblage of parts put together by Edgar G. Ulmer over at PRC pictures home to cheap and I mean cheap B programmers. It’s dark and grimey, running only 68 fast and furious minutes, and is an example of why movies sometimes can matter, why they sometimes can be works of art, why they make some of us scream for joy.  A note about the print. The transfer put out by Alpha Video is not as bad as I expected it to be considering that this company’s product is usually hit or miss but this is a film that should be restored by Criterion with lots of extras. One of the ten best films of 1945., and Ann Savage the best actress of 1945.  


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