“Detour” is a thriller film of 1945 directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. It is considered one of the classics of the genre and one of the best examples of low-budget films that have achieved great success. The film is known for its intricate storyline, expressive cinematography, and tense, gloomy atmosphere.
The plot of “Detour” revolves around Al Roberts, a nightclub pianist who decides to travel from New York to Los Angeles to join his fiancée. Along the way, Al hitches a ride with Charles Haskell Jr., a mysterious and wealthy playboy. However, when Haskell suddenly dies en route, Al finds himself caught up in a series of unfortunate events that lead to him becoming a wanted man by the police.
The film explores themes of fatal error, greed and self-destructiveness. The narrative is enriched by Al’s voice-over musings as he recounts his descent into darkness and paranoia. The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks that reveal the events that led Al to his current situation.
“Detour” stands out for its innovative technical implementation, despite its limited budget. Edgar G. Ulmer, known for his bold visual style, created a claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere through the use of suggestive light and shadow. In addition, the film builds on the extraordinary performances of the cast, especially Tom Neal as Al Roberts and Ann Savage as Vera, a femme fatale who crosses Al’s path.
Despite its modest production, ‘Detour’ was critically acclaimed for its ability to build tension and suspense. The film offers a pessimistic view of human nature, where past actions and wrong choices can lead to a tragic fate. It has become an icon of noir cinema and influenced a number of subsequent filmmakers in the genre.
“Detour” is distinguished by its gripping storyline, dark atmosphere and innovative technical implementation. If you are a fan of film noir or want to explore the cinematic classics, “Detour” is a must-see work that deserves to be seen.
The story of “Detour” follows Al Roberts, a nightclub pianist who decides to travel from New York to Los Angeles to join his girlfriend, Sue. On the way, Al hitchhikes and is picked up by Charles Haskell Jr., a mysterious and wealthy playboy.
During the journey, Haskell falls ill and dies suddenly. Panicked, Al decides to pose as Haskell to inherit his identity and his money. Donning the clothes and taking his money, Al assumes the identity of Haskell.
However, things get complicated when Al hitchhikes again and meets Vera, a cynical and manipulative woman. Vera recognizes that Al isn’t really Haskell and threatens him to reveal his true identity to the police if he doesn’t give her some of the inherited money. Al finds himself trapped in a spiral of blackmail and violence as he tries to escape Vera’s clutches.
The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks revealing the events that led Al to his current situation. It turns out that Al was a talented pianist who gave up his career to follow his girlfriend Sue to Hollywood. However, adverse circumstances and a series of bad choices led him down the dangerous path he is now on.
The storyline of “Detour” is characterized by increasing tension and a series of unfortunate events that lead Al to a tragic fate. The film explores themes such as bad luck, greed and the human condition, highlighting how a series of mistakes can lead to disastrous consequences.
Overall, the plot of “Detour” is a tangled web of deceit, blackmail and despair that keeps the viewer on their toes, offering a dark picture of human nature and the consequences of wrong choices.
“Detour” mainly features two main characters:
Al Roberts (played by Tom Neal): Al is the protagonist of the film, a nightclub pianist who decides to travel from New York to Los Angeles to join his girlfriend, Sue. However, a series of unfortunate events lead him down the dangerous path he’s on. Al is a tormented character and often finds himself making questionable choices as he tries to deal with the consequences of his actions.
Vera (played by Ann Savage): Vera is a key character in the film, a cynical and manipulative woman who crosses Al’s path. Recognizing that Al is posing as Charles Haskell Jr., Vera threatens and blackmails him to get part of the legacy of Haskell. Vera is a dark and unpredictable character who brings even more turbulence into Al’s life.
In addition to these two main characters, “Detour” also includes other minor characters who influence the plot, such as Charles Haskell Jr. (played by Edmund MacDonald), the wealthy playboy whose place Al takes, and Sue (played by Claudia Drake), Al’s girlfriend who is initially waiting for him in Los Angeles.
The characters of “Detour” are characterized by complex nuances and ambiguous traits, reflecting the dark and desperate nature of film noir. Their interactions and their choices help create tension and suspense throughout the movie.
The production of “Detour” was characterized by budget constraints and tight schedules. The film was produced by Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), a B-production studio known for making low-budget films. The reduced budget imposed restrictions on the set and resources available for making the film.
The direction was entrusted to Edgar G. Ulmer, a director who had experience in making low-budget films. Ulmer was known for his ability to achieve visually striking results despite budget limitations. He used creative and innovative techniques to create a dark and tense atmosphere in the film.
The screenplay for ‘Detour’ was written by Martin Goldsmith, based on his novel of the same name. The tangled plot and internal reflections of the protagonist were effectively transferred to the screen, contributing to the claustrophobic and distressing atmosphere.
The cast of “Detour” included relatively unknown or B-list actors. Tom Neal was cast as Al Roberts, while Ann Savage played Vera. Both gave intense and memorable performances, contributing to the noir atmosphere of the film.
Due to financial limitations, production of “Detour” took place largely at PRC’s studios and on select location locations in Los Angeles. Despite the logistical challenges, the creativity of Ulmer and his team achieved a visually engaging result, through the use of suggestive light and shadow.
“Detour” was shot in a very short period of time, with production taking just over a week. Despite the limitations, the film managed to achieve significant critical acclaim and acquired the status of a classic film noir over the years.
In summary, the production of “Detour” was characterized by a limited budget, tight schedules and the use of lesser known actors. Despite these challenges, the film managed to exceed expectations, thanks to director Edgar G. Ulmer’s creative vision and his ability to create a suggestive atmosphere despite the limitations.
Distribution and Reception
“Detour” was released to theaters on November 30, 1945 by Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). Due to its small budget and the fact that it was a B movie, the initial distribution was not very wide. However, the film grabbed the attention of critics and audiences due to its gripping storyline and dark atmosphere.
Despite its modest production, “Detour” received positive reviews from critics. Critics praised Edgar G. Ulmer’s direction and his ability to create a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere despite budget constraints. In particular, the creative use of light and shadow and the intense performance of Tom Neal and Ann Savage in the lead roles were appreciated.
Commercially, “Detour” achieved limited success upon its release. However, over the years, the film has become a cult classic in the noir genre and has acquired a considerable reputation. It was rediscovered and re-evaluated by film noir enthusiasts and is now considered one of the best examples of the genre.
‘Detour”s ability to build suspense and tension, coupled with its gripping storytelling, made it an influential film in the noir genre. He inspired numerous subsequent filmmakers and left a lasting imprint on film noir and film culture in general.
Overall, despite its initial limited release, ‘Detour’ received good critical reception and has gained a cult following over the years due to its cinematic quality and distinctive style.
The style of “Detour” is one of its distinctive elements and contributes to the dark and oppressive atmosphere of film noir. Edgar G. Ulmer, the director, used a combination of visual and narrative techniques to create a unique cinematic experience.
Visually, Ulmer made the most of the film’s small budget. He used atmospheric lighting, playing with light and shadow to create a claustrophobic and distressing atmosphere. The scenes are often characterized by strong contrasts and the presence of elongated shadows, emphasizing the moral and psychological ambiguity of the characters.
Ulmer also took a stylized approach to shot composition. He used unusual angles and distorted perspectives to accentuate tension and emotional dissonance. This visual style helps to convey the disturbed psychology of the characters and the chaotic atmosphere in which they find themselves.
Overall, the visual style of “Detour” is characterized by creative use of light and shadow, as well as atmospheric framing, which help create an iconic film noir image.
From a narrative point of view, the film stands out for its non-linear structure. The story is told through flashbacks and voiceover reflections by Al Roberts, the protagonist. This narrative approach gives the film a sense of fatalism and an inexorable descent into misfortune and fatal error.
Furthermore, “Detour” offers a pessimistic look at human nature and the darker aspects of society. The protagonist, Al Roberts, is a complex anti-hero who moves in a world without hope, where bad luck and dishonesty reign supreme. The film explores themes such as greed, self-destruction and guilt, highlighting the consequences of wrong choices.
Overall, the style of “Detour” is notable for its innovative use of light and shadow, unusual angles and distorted perspectives, as well as its non-linear narrative structure. These elements help to create an enveloping and suggestive atmosphere that remains etched in the viewer’s memory.
The director of “Detour” is Edgar G. Ulmer. Born on September 17, 1904 in Olmütz, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Olomouc, Czech Republic), Ulmer was an important figure in the american cinema, especially in the film noir genre.
Ulmer began his film career in Europe, working as a set designer and assistant director. In 1923, he moved to the United States, where he started working in the Hollywood film industry. He gained experience as an art director and set designer, working on several successful films.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Ulmer had the opportunity to direct several B-movies and demonstrated a distinctive talent for creating atmospheric atmospheres despite limited budgets. “Detour” has become one of his best known and most representative films.
Ulmer has shown that he knows how to make the most of the resources available, using creative techniques to create a tense and enveloping atmosphere. He has worked in several film genres, but it is in film noir that he has achieved the greatest recognition.
After “Detour”, Ulmer continued to direct other films, but many of them remained little known or were made on small budgets. Despite this, Ulmer is recognized as an influential director and innovative in his visual and narrative approach.
His career spanned over fifty years, directing films well into the 1970s. Although he has not always received great exposure throughout his career, his contribution to cinema has been re-evaluated in the following years, and he is considered one of the great directors of the film noir period.
Edgar G. Ulmer passed away on September 30, 1972 in Woodland Hills, California, leaving a significant legacy in the world of cinema, especially in the film noir genre, in which he was able to create works of great impact despite production limitations.