This low-budget noir (the production truly looks held together by spit and string) from bargain-basement maestro Ulmer involves sad sack musician Al (Neal) caught in a web of circumstance while thumbing his way cross-country to L.A. to reunite with his girlfriend. Al’s luck goes from bad to worse when, after assuming a dead man’s identity, he gets tangled up with a femme fatale (Savage) who blackmails him into doing her bidding. Well-paced and forthright, Detour doesn’t boast a particularly sharp protagonist (Neal’s pouty-faced Al, in fact, is about as a resourceful as a kid lost in a carnival) nor a robust storyline–the events precipitate from one shouting match between conniver and victim in a connect-the-dots fashion. But, with its fatalism and conflating of sex and danger, this is quintessential noir territory. For fans of the genre, it’s a dark and lovely landscape that Detour hitchhikes through.

Grade: B

Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by: Martin Goldsmith
Cast: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald


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