****/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B
starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald
screenplay by Martin Goldsmith, based on his novel
directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
by Bryant Frazer Among legitimate Hollywood classics, Detour is about as threadbare as they come: a small film, shot on a shoestring over a handful of days (between six and 14, depending on whose accounting you believe) at a Poverty Row film studio. And yet, the finished product is uniquely compelling. As a crime thriller, it's notable for the absence of gunfights, chase scenes, double-crosses, and back-stabbings. What it's lacking in film noir's usual narrative detail or expressionistic flourishes is compensated for by its overarching preoccupation with determinism and a healthy contempt for fate. Amplifying and accompanying the slow-building sense of despair and helplessness is an internal-monologue-in-voiceover that's unrelentingly dreary and self-pitying, even for noir. Detour isn't remotely sexy or exciting, though it is amply dour and uncomfortably personal--disturbing, even, in its spare vision.