Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945, USA)

Detour is easily one of the most iconic film noirs. It also falls relatively earlier in the history of the genre, as it was released in 1945. While there were earlier examples of the genre, Detour is emblematic of many of its tropes - the innocent man caught up in a scenario beyond his control, the femme fatale, the fatalistic voiceover, and the use of a present framing device to tell a story that already happened. The film was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Of Austrian origin, Ulmer got his start like many in the film noir genre by working with Fritz Lang on films like M. He was one of the American studio directors adopted by the French in the 1950s as an example of an "auteur" operating within the studio system. Detour was made for a poverty row studio, not one of the majors, and thus full into the public domain over time.

The best thing about Detour is Ann Savage's performance as the film's femme fatale - Vera. Savage's performance is truly iconic - her cigarette-smoking villain has gone down in history and influenced many generations of film fans as the film became more accessible. It is rare to see such sultry energy on screen in films of the time. The film's low budget also adds to its sense of atmosphere. While there are technical errors, given that the film was shot on a shoestring, there is an energy in the film that is missing from more polished studio features of the time period. Overall, Detour is deserving of its iconic status within the film noir canon. Playing opposite Savage, Tom Neal displays the downtrodden and world-weariness necessary to convey the role. The two actors complement each other very well, leading to antagonistic chemistry that has gone down in history.



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