Suspense as startling as a strangled scream! This is it, the defining motion picture in all of "film noir," written by Academy Award-nominee Martin Goldsmith (The Narrow Margin) and directed by legendary B-movie maker Edga... more »r G. Ulmer (Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, The Black Cat). Tom Neal (The Brute Man, The Pride of the Yankees), handsome 1940's leading man, brings to thrilling life a down-on-his-luck nightclub performer who takes one wrong turn and picks up the meanest femme fatale in all of "noir," played to perfection by the incomparable Ann Savage (The Dark Horse, The Spider) in one of the most powerful and riveting performances ever recorded on celluloid.« less
"An unshaven and weather-beaten young man sits brooding over a cup of coffee in an anonymous roadside café. A man of means by no means, as Roger Miller would put it. But Al Roberts (Tom Neal) is king of no road, and by the end of DETOUR we wonder whether he is even sovereign over his own soul.
A potential ride in the form of a friendly trucker strikes up a conversation. Where you coming from? West. Where you going to? East.
Roberts is wrong, though. He's coming from Hell and he's going to Nowhere, and the last thing he needs is a chatty trucker along for company.
DETOUR is told in a flashback from that lonely stool. Roberts and his girlfriend work as pianist/singer in a fleabag club out east. Comes a foggy night and she splits up with him to pursue fame out west. Weeks later he calls and they agree to get back together. He'll come out west and they can be married.
Being down at his heels Roberts is forced to hitchhike to California. All goes well until he reaches Arizona, where Fate deals Roberts one nasty hand after another. In short order the innocent Roberts finds and feels himself a hunted man.
DETOUR is a wonderful film. Neal is perfect as the moody young musician who finds himself trapped first by and accident and later by femme fatale Ann Savage, who know his terrible secret and has no scruples against using it against him for her own nefarious purposes. Veteran B-movie director Edgar Ulmer has enough tricks up his sleeves to surmount the Poverty Row studio conditions he was working under. If you're a fan of film noir, or enjoy hard-bitten stories, you'll enjoy DETOUR.By the way, my thirty year old first edition copy of The Film Encyclopedia had an interesting entry on DETOUR'S star Tom Neal. He received a law degree from Harvard University in 1938. Throughout the forties he appeared in a number of B-movies, usually cast as a tough guy. In 1951 he found himself in the middle of a love triangle involving Franchot Tone and Barbara Payton. Neal "smashed" Tone's nose and a scandal ensued. Neal became poison and no studio would employ him, so he became a gardener and later established a landscaping business. In 1965 he was accused of murdering his wife. Able to prove that the gun went off accidentally, Neal had the charges reduced to manslaughter and served a six-year sentence. He died in 1971."
Gloriously Cheap, Dark Little Noir Gem
Bertin Ramirez | San Ysidro, California United States | 07/26/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Detour' manages to do in 67 min. what most films dream about in two hours. Made for almost nothing in 5 days by a small-time studio, this goes to show that you don't need money or big studio support to create an enduring movie. You can sense the tight budget all around. Take into consideration for example that Ulmer shot a big portion of the film inside cars (notice how the first few cars have the driver's seat on the left side, like English automobiles), a cheap nightclub and a creaky apartment. Also in the flashback sequence when Tom Neal is sitting in the restaurant, Ulmer simply put out the lights, made a close-up on Neal's face and shed a rectangular light onto his eyes to create the flashback effect. All this techniques, while not very innovative, add to the effect of this bleak little gem. A dark little drama that is deserving of it's cult following. Tom Neal is the ultimate screen chump as an innocent man who happens to land on Ann Savage's deadly lap. Ann Savage creates one of the most ruthless characters ever to grace the silver screen, her character doesn't have a shred of human kindness or decency, she's tough, greedy, ruthless and relentless. It has all the elements of great noir; a truly memorable femme fatale, dark foggy streets, acid-stingy dialogue and a hero who gets his just desserts. A dark little gem that deserves to be discovered by noir fans. From a scale of 1-10 I give this film an 8!"
Great movie, poor transfer to DVD
Matthew A. Brown | Seattle, WA USA | 10/03/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love the way this story unfolds, in flashback, which is relatively common in film noir. This story opens with Neal looking back on events as they unfolded, similar to the way Fred MacMurray opens Double Indemnity with his narrative. The dialogue exchange between Neal and Savage is wonderful too, even hilariously unbelievable at times, like when they first meet. The only trouble I have with the DVD is that the master was apparently in sad shape. In more than a few places, it is apparent that this movie is in deperate need of a restoration. Several scenes have visual noise and thin vertical lines running across the frame. Even the audio fades and crackles at one point (where Neal and his girlfriend kiss goodbye), which is jarring when one considers this is a DVD. I do not regret buying this DVD because I love this moive--I only hope that it will be restored one day."
William Kersten | Reno, NV United States | 07/30/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I am a great admirer of "Detour" which is probably the best low-budget film noir ever made. But this DVD is a piece of junk. It is transferred from a lousy, battered 35mm print that has badly spliced gaps and screwed-up film footage in crucial scenes, obliterating some of the best dialogue. The company that put this out should be ashamed of itself, especially considering this film is now considered a low-budget masterpiece. If you have no copy of this, get the Sinister Cinema VHS. It is a much higher quality print."
Which Is It?
A. Wolverton | Crofton, MD United States | 06/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`Detour' is either the worst B movie ever made or it's a masterpiece, I can't decide which. Roger Ebert includes the film in his book `The Great Movies,' yet other critics dismiss it with a laugh. So which is it? From the opening, I immediately had my doubts: Shaky camera work on an already unsteady highway, shots of a stationary car while the background changes, lights going down in a restaurant with the main character's face lit up for a flashback...all cheap B movie stunts, which you expect.But what you don't expect are good performances. `Detour' contains at least one good one and one superb one. Tom Neal plays a piano player from New York hitchhiking to L.A. to meet his sweetheart. Neal is right on target as the passive loser. His face looks like it was formed in a vat of perpetual disappointment. Something happens on his trip to L.A. that makes his life even worse, if that's possible. Then he meets a woman named Vera.If they had a Best Actress category for B movies, Ann Savage's portrayal of Vera would be the standard by which all other actresses would be judged. She's evil, scheming, conniving, wicked, hateful, vengeful...and that's all before breakfast. Savage multiplies Neal's problems a thousand-fold and grinds the tension out all the way until the end. With a better script and better production values, Savage and Neal could have lit up the screen for the definitive film noir. But director Edgar G. Ulmer makes the best use of the limitations he has. Despite its problems, `Detour' is a better than average B movie/film noir that deserves to be seen.69 minutes, black and white"