Good to hear that , later in the year, Janus Films will be releasing a newly restored dvd and Blu-ray of 1945’s excellent little B noir, DETOUR.
”Detour” was the first B movie chosen by the American Library of Congress in 1992 for the National Film Registry, naming it worthy of special preservation status.
Now it has been restored by the Academy Film Archive and the Film Foundation, with a first screening on April 28 at the 2018 TCM Festival.
You can read that “Detour” was shot in 6 days or 14 days, for $20,000, or $30,000. I’ll go along with the Film Foundation which says the film was made for $100,000 with a shooting schedule of 28 days.
Scripted by Martin Goldsmith from his own novel, Detour has a first person narration by TOM NEAL as New York pianist Al Roberts for whom life is almost not worth living. ROBERTS is a pessimist of the highest order. His singer girlfriend has left for Los Angeles and he decides to hitch-hike across country to be with her.
Roberts’s attitude is “That’s life. Whichever way you turn, fate sticks out a foot to trip you”.
It’s almost inevitable that things won’t go well for him , especially when he meets ANN SAVAGE on the road. I can only quote Glenn Erickson of DVDtalk.com who describes the Savage character of ‘Vera’ as: ”as shrill as a raw nerve and as jarring as fingernails on a chalkboard…”
Made on a shoestring by PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation), “Detour” has only two main locations, the car Neal drives in front of a rear projection screen, and the hotel apartment later in the film. But it’s 68 minutes which never lets up until that last frame of the last reel of film is unspooled.
Savage and Neal are just so good in the lead roles.
Tom Neal, as ROBERTS, hitches a ride which starts a chain of events he can’t stop.
”What did you do with the body?”, says Savage to Neal, and the plot crashes forward as his fate is sealed – he cant escape from her.
That look says it all.
”Detour” is directed by EDGAR G. ULMER (1904-1972) who never made it to the top tier of directors but managed to make several good films within the restraints of P.R.C.
Ann Savage (1921-2008) and Tom Neal had been teamed previously in three films at Columbia. Active from 1943, Ann left films in 1955, aged only 34. Two of her films I’d like to see are THE LAST CROOKED MILE and THE DARK HORSE.
Such a pity Columbia didn’t hold onto her.
In later years, with the re-discovery of “Detour”, Ann appeared at various film festivals.
Ann’s contract with P.R.C for “Detour” paid her $700 per week, for a minimum of three weeks. ($10,000 today). She was required to provide her own wardrobe.
Tom Neal (1914-1972) was in films from 1939 to 1959.
In 1951, he had a much publicised fight with FRANCHOT TONE, over actress Barbara Payton . And then in 1965, he was convicted of the manslaughter of his third wife and served 6 years in prison, dying 6 months after his release.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences founded the Academy Film Archive in 1991 for the preservation of motion pictures.
The Film Foundation was started in 1990 by director Martin Scorsese , also for the purpose of preserving film history.
DETOUR was restored with sources from three different countries and 4K digital technology. I can’t wait to see it after all those years of public domain copies.
The Film Foundation has joined forces with Universal Pictures to restore some Universal classic titles.
The first titles for 2018 include DESTRY RIDES AGAIN, THE KILLERS, WINCHESTER 73 and MY LITTLE CHICKADEE.
I’m definitely going to watch this again tonight, I enjoyed this movie!
Once you start watching , it’ s finished before you know it!
This is good news – any restoration is – and hopefully we’ll see an improved presentation on Blu-ray somewhere down the line. Having said that, the film has never been a favorite of mine – it’s one of those where I respect the cult reputation and genre respect it draws more than a film I can actually enjoy and have a good time with.
I understand what you mean – it’s so downbeat but I like it.
For the audience, the first half is pure set up, the second half is being as trapped as “Roberts” in all things Vera (she’s impossible to anticipate, but you just know she’s going to go off the rails yet still keep total control of the situation).
There’s a gritty purity to this film, where all the characters (Sue, Roberts, Haskell, and Vera) are searching for a better situation, but each ends up in some far drearier reality then they left.
Ann Savage made this movie great, and this movie keeps Ann remembered.
Born Bernice Lyon, Ann’s Hollywood surname ‘Savage’ was pretty appropriate for her character in “Detour”!
I like your description of Vera going off the rails but keeping total control.
Anns rediscovery began in 1983 when, alerted by an article in the LATimes she attended a Detour screening, part of an Ulmer reterospective at UCLA . Intending to slip away afterwards she was recognised by some students and ended up staying to join a discussion
With Ulmers widow Shirley and producer Martin Goldsmith. Ann was especially touched to see all 7 of the lawyers from the firm she worked for, in the audience.
Great story, Jim. What a surprise the organisers must have got!
I adore this film.
Doesn’t it just grip you from start to finish!