VOD film review: Detour (1945)
Ivan Radford | On 14, Nov 2019
There are femme fatales and there are femme fatales. And then there’s Ann Savage in Detour. She plays Vera, a cunning, immoral, ruthless woman, who gets right to the heart of film noir’s dark heart in barely 70 minutes.
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, the film follows a pianist, Al (Tom Neal), who is hitchhiking to Hollywood to catch up with his ex, Sue (Claudia Drake), who leaves him to find fame and fortune. But on the way, he finds himself getting a lift from a bookie, Charles (Edmund MacDonald), who winds up dead. Hiding the corpse, he decides to impersonate the dead man, only to end up giving a lift to Vera, who seems to see right through his pretence.
What ensues is a lethal game of cat-and-mouse, although who it’s lethal for is something that’s surprisingly hard to predict – because in Ulmer’s story, both characters are so foul that it’s difficult to work out who deserves their comeuppance more. Neal is charismatic as the down-to-earth, desperate Al, but Savage steals the show as the vindictive Vera, enjoying her hold over Al from the moment they meet. They have fun chemistry together, driving the narrative to its fatal conclusion.
Ulmer, something of an outsider in Hollywood, shoots his film with almost no budget whatsoever, and that cheap quality only reinforces the seediness of this low-rent corner of the USA. The result isn’t the pinnacle of the genre, but is one of its defining barometers for mood, as our odd couple glide both knowingly and unwittingly to their demise. For an easy, 70-minute film noir fix, Detour is a ride worth taking. The only disappointment is that it isn’t longer to allow for a little more depth.
Detour is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.