7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Startling film noir,
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This review is from: Detour  [DVD] (DVD)
There are several fascinating things about this film, and in a way the fun begins once you've watched it and if you are drawn to find out a little about its making and makers.
The movie comes in a very poor DVD print - grainy and gloomy. But bear with it as in a way the strange subject matter is almost improved by the lousy print.
This B-movie was shot in six days with a budget of approximately $20,000, and we are told that scenes left over from other films (and even included in them) were used here to keep down costs. The director Edgar Ulmer found footage of the eastbound Los Angeles to New York highway, and decided to use it in the scenes where Tom Neal picks up the hitchhiking Ann Savage and then drives on. As Neal was heading west to LA, the film had to be flipped over to show the reverse; 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. But still Ulmer used the footage!
Tom Neal, the co-star, was an actor of little talent and unpleasant habits - drunken, violent and abusive. On set he was more than once disciplined for groping female members of cast and crew. A dumb, nasty piece of work you think - and then you read that at 24 he was awarded a law degree from Harvard University! Well worth checking out his wikipedia entry.
Ann Savage, the other co-star (who died on Christmas Day 2008), never built on her success here as the movie quickly passed into oblivion until it was picked up decades later as a film noir B-movie classic. She dropped out of motion pictures and took office work. In 1983, she attended a screening of Detour held as a tribute to director Edgar Ulmer. Ulmer's widow was saying in a Q/A session that she had no idea what had happened to Savage, whereupon a half-remembered voice came loud and clear from the back of the cinema: "I'm right here!"
The film itself is a classic exposition of film noir - creepy atmosphere, tasks undertaken that seem doomed from the start, dislikeable characters, impure motives, harsh lighting. But really its status is all about Ann Savage. From her extraordinary introduction when Neal stops to pick her up, she burns with an energy that consumes him and the viewer as she plays with and humiliates him. It's fitting that Neal never manages to quell her since her demise is a clumsy accident.
Just a bravura acting performance that takes the breath away. Highly recommended.