1945's Detour is not only one of your truly vintage film noir classics of all-time, it is also ranked by many among the best low-budget films ever made, largely due to the memorable performances of Tom Neal and Ann Savage. The directorial slant which frames the story is dead on, and one has to think that a larger budget would probably have done more harm than good to this gritty, realistic, film noir tour de force. Tom Neal plays Al Roberts, one of those unfortunate men who was born both stupid and incredibly unlucky. Shortly after his girl Sue up and goes to California looking for stardom, Roberts decides to go west and join her, hitchhiking his way across the country. This one fellow picks him up in Arizona and says he will take him all the way to L.A.; then the guy has the audacity to keel over dead. Afraid he will be accused of murdering the guy, Roberts decides to hide the body, take the guy's money, and assume his identity until such time as he can ditch the car in a big city. Then he himself picks up a hitchhiker, a woman who ends up being the last person on earth he would ever have wanted to encounter. Vera (Savage) know that Roberts is not the man he claims to be, and Roberts quickly finds himself quite at the mercy of this shrew of a woman. Her greed knows no bounds, and Roberts' life becomes more and more complicated and unhappy by the hour. Ann Savage's character Vera is perhaps the most blunt, cold, evil, wholly unlikable woman I have ever heard tell of. It is quite easy to see why the man we meet in the opening scene is as hateful and short-tempered as he is. As we flash back to the whole story of Roberts' hard times, accompanied by plenty of voiceover narration, one cannot help but feel sorry for the guy. His initial decision to cover up the death of the guy who picked him up is a bad, undeniably stupid, mistake, but he certainly does not deserve the level of vitriol and pure evil that afflicts him in the form of Vera. The ending is a tiny bit flat, but the story itself is fascinating and the performances of Neal and Savage are not to be missed. Detour is vintage film noir and should not be missed by any and all fans of the genre.
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