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drinkanddestroy
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« on: February 19, 2012, 05:58:45 PM »

Detour (1945)

Previous posts:

rrpower::
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg83404#msg83404
 My thoughts: To start, I saw this a  few hours ago on a cheap Public Domain movie set that I bought for $12. Obviously, the quality wasn't too good which most likely took a lot away from the experience. As for the movie itself, I enjoyed it, but the flaws were noticeable. The narration, which is essentially a part of your average noir, is quite well done. The lead performance is great, and the plot is intriguing. Outside of the lead performance, I find just about the rest of the acting to be sub-par while the film runs far too short at 67 minutes. There are some faults in editing here and there, and while comparing it to other noirs, it doesn't have the 'style' down. Overall, it's worth a viewing - just don't set any special time aside.

Final verdict: 6/10, though it could be a 7/10 if I had watched a better quality version. It took away from the experience.

titoli:
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg145243#msg145243
I liked it better this time than the first, probably because this time I had the original audio. Still I can't see why this is considered a classic. We have had hundreds of telefilms in the '50's and 60's shot with the same meagre budget and just as good. 7\10




« Last Edit: June 07, 2012, 09:39:03 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2012, 06:07:40 PM »

previous comments on DETOUR continued:

the next post is by dave jenkins, in which he cites a bunch of critics' comments: the citations are all in bold and yellow

dave jenkins:
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg145246#msg145246

Hmmm, maybe it's time to reprise this bit of boffo scholarship ["Thank you, Mr. Jenkins." "No, Dave, thank you!"]:

Detour (Ulmer, 1945) is rightly considered one of the greatest of films noir. It contains the essential elements of noir: bizarre circumstances, a feckless hero crossing from light into darkness, a femme fatale. The film was also made quickly and for little money, lending an appropriate air of crudeness to the proceedings. This crudeness serves to camouflage, if some are to be believed, a work of considerable sophistication.

Quote
Most critics of Detour have taken Al’s story at face value: He was unlucky in love; he lost the good girl and was savaged by the bad girl; he was an innocent who looked guilty even to himself. But the critic Andrew Britton argues a more intriguing theory in Ian Cameron’s Book of Film Noir. He emphasizes that the narration is addressed directly to us. We’re not hearing what happened, but what Al Roberts wants us to believe happened. It’s a “spurious but flattering account,” he writes, pointing out that Sue the singer hardly fits Al’s description of her, that Al is less in love than in need of her paycheck, and that his cover-up of Haskell’s death is a rationalization for any easy theft. (Ebert 134-136).






Even before Britton’s clever reading, others had questioned Al’s veracity:

Quote
. . . .  Roberts believes that fate controls these circumstances, and that is why he is so afraid. No matter what he does to try to escape his predicament, fate reaches out and produces another fantastic turn of events that makes things even worse.


The existential answer to this mythic dilemma is a realization that one is not simply a pawn in the hands of mysterious, evil forces. Ulmer subtly implies that Roberts ironically controls his own fate by emphasizing the close relationship between his fear and the freakish chain of events that reinforces it. He expects the worst and the worst occurs. Roberts maintains that he only expects the worst because he knows some exterior fate has “put the finger on me,” but how does he know this? It seems just as reasonable to assume that this is just his way of tyrannizing himself. (Selby 29)

Apparently, the author of the Detour entry in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style had his doubts about Roberts also. Glenn Erickson expands on ideas found there:



Quote
Critic Blake Lucas correctly pegged Al’s detour from the straight and narrow path as the road he really wants to take. Unlike other noir antagonists who struggle in dark corners, Al’s destiny has a definite self-willed quality.

Al makes two crippling decisions, choices proving that character determines his fate, not the ‘mysterious force’ he whines about at the film’s end. He’s convinced that his vagrant status will prejudice the law against him, but Haskell’s accidental death isn’t all that mysterious. The dead man’s pills should prove that he had an existing heart condition. Al makes the accident appear to be a crime and takes Haskell’s identity, thus guaranteeing a murder charge if he’s caught. These are the acts of a masochist. So thoroughly does Roberts frame himself, the only explanation is that he secretly wants to be a criminal. (Erickson in Silver and Ursini, 27).



As we have seen, there is another explanation possible: Roberts, a social deviant, is relating an ex post facto rationalization for his criminal acts. But let’s return to Erickson.


Quote
Later on Al laments the fact that he can’t hook up with Sue “with a thing like that hanging over my head.” In actuality, that happened as soon as he left his ID on Haskell’s body. Roberts is really that kind of complicated man who professes to have strong goals yet all the while purposely engineers his own failure. In real life these maladjusted types want attention, or for someone else to step in and relieve them of their responsibilities. It’s the urge that keeps a potential high-class musician like Al playing piano in a dive: he can curse his cruel fate while avoiding the feared struggle for success in the competitive world. This allows him to trumpet his superiority while cursing the system that he claims has victimized him. (Erickson in Silver and Ursini 28).


Most critics taking this line do so by demonstrating inconsistencies between the narration and what appears on screen. But as Selby points out, we are not merely dealing with an unreliable narrator. "Such speculations are certainly being encouraged by the film’s ending, where Roberts only imagines his final capture. Through this clever twist, Ulmer forces the viewer to make his own judgment about Roberts’ real fate, which in turn forces him to admit how great his identification has become." (Selby 29)

On this view, it is not only the narration we may question in the final moments, but the visuals as well. Selby doesn’t push this understanding far enough, however. If the final images are coming from the narrator’s imagination, why not the entire film? Why trust anything we see when the whole is being mediated through Roberts’ perspective?

In fact, the plot sounds like a yarn told in the exercise yard by an inmate who has worked it up to demonstrate the injustice of his sentence. He’s innocent, a victim of “fate” and circumstances. Maybe the film is just Roberts’ first run-through before the cops pick him up, a rehearsal to make sure he’s got his facts “straight.”

Detour is, at least for some, a film about being conned. For others, Detour will remain what it purports to be, a true testament of a man driven by circumstances to crime. But then there are always those willing to pay out to panhandlers and snake oil dealers, those who take any tale at face value, however outlandish, those who will not scruple even to accept the words of French critics with a fancy name for a group of films. Detour is for them too.

Works Cited: Ebert's The Great Movies/Selby's Dark City: The Film Noir/Silver and Ursini's Film Noir Reader 4

« Last Edit: February 23, 2012, 06:09:02 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2012, 06:14:24 PM »

titoli:
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg145249#msg145249

And I'm sure I missed a gay subtext somewhere.



moviesceleton:
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg145275#msg145275

(cites the first 2 paragraphs of the previous post by dj and says):

Thank you for that  I see your point but I didn't find the movie especially good.

Detour (1945) - 6.5/10



titoli:
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg145283#msg145283
(titoli quotes moviesceleton's previous comment and says):

Oh, don't worry. That's only because you trust your own brain and not someone else's.  






« Last Edit: February 19, 2012, 07:09:44 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2012, 06:18:20 PM »

next post was by me, drinkanddestroy:
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg154664#msg154664

This was one of the stranger films I have seen. I imagine it's the type that some people just love and others just think it's terribly strange. (As usual), I'm in the latter category.

SPOILER ALERT

This movie has a great premise for a noir but completely falls off the table at the end. Yeah, I get the idea promoted by some that this whole flashback was really Al's imagination and/or what he wants us to believe, and that that final "arrest" is probably not actually happening anywhere other than in his own mind. It gives us the idea that whether or not he is actually arrested, this dude will always be imprisoned in/by his own mind. But still, I did not find the ending satisfactory.

An unsourced sentence on Wikipedia says that the ending was to satisfy the Hays Code, which did not allow murderers to get away free http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detour_%281945_film%29#Censorship Maybe that's true, but I don't know whether I am comfortable giving a free pass to what is IMO a bad ending, just cuz of the Hays Code. I wish they had been able to still find a satisfactory ending. Maybe have him walking down a highway alone, (trying to thumb a lift?) and a cop car starts getting close to him (maybe with sirens flashing?) and then the movie ends. Who knows; maybe the cop is actually arresting him for the murders, or maybe just for hitchhiking. That would emphasize the point that he'll forever have to live paranoid of what will happen, and from his perspective,. it's always the worst.
Sure, you can argue that the ending as is is still pretty ambiguous, cuz we don't really know why he's being arrested, and whether it was only in his imagination. But I just felt the movie fell off the table and was really unsatisfactory.

And I couldn't stand Ann Savage's performance. Sure, she is supposed to be playing a nasty bitch, but it takes talent to play someone like that, while not being grating to the viewer. Anyone can be an annoying villain, but the great performances are those that can make us feel that Al is annoyed and being abused by this woman, without actually wanting to tear our own hair out every time she opens her mouth, which is what I felt like doing. (Reminds me of the actress who played the Gene Hackman character's wife in Bonnie and Clyde: couldn't she have found a way to project to the audience that she was a hysterical bitch, without ruining every scene she was in and making us want to stuff our ears every time she opened her mouth?)

There are some people who are specifically big noir fans and love noirs for noir's sake; ie. even if it's a story that they wouldn't like as a non-noir drama, they'd love it when done in the noir style, cuz they simply love noir.
Then there are others who are simply big fans of drama; whether the drama is a noir or not is not a plus nor a minus, and they judge the film by the same standards either way; and if it's the sort of movie they'd find pretty lame if it were not a noir, they don't enjoy it one bit better if its done as a proper noir.

If you are in the first category, you may love this movie.
I am in the second category, and therefore, I found the ending very disappointing.

Therefore, if I have to rate the movie (which I hate doing  Wink) I agree with those here that are giving it in the 6.5 range

p.s. The picture quality is beyond awful. The color often switches back and forth between a very weird bluish tinged b/w, and a more "normal looking" b/w. But I guess you can't expect much better from a 1945 film that is in the public domain.

-------------------------------

and the final post was by dave jenkins:
 http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg154672#msg154672
(in which dj cites my comment that"An unsourced sentence on Wikipedia says that the ending was to satisfy the Hays Code, which did not allow murderers to get away free" and says):



I doubt very much whether the makers of Detour submitted their film to the Breen office for approval.

UPDATE: I was wrong. Detour's MPAA certificate number is 11048 (check here if you'd like to see for yourself: http://members.chello.nl/~a.degreef/Filmnummers.html ).

-----------------------------



« Last Edit: June 11, 2013, 09:28:54 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2012, 01:41:05 AM »



I doubt very much whether the makers of Detour submitted their film to the Breen office for approval.

UPDATE: I was wrong. Detour's MPAA certificate number is 11048 (check here if you'd like to see for yourself: http://members.chello.nl/~a.degreef/Filmnummers.html ).

It couldn't have been otherwise: you risked going to jail for not doing that. The only way not to submit a movie to the censorship and publicly show it was to distribute it yourself on hit and run showings. All this is well told in the fascinating book :


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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2012, 04:31:26 AM »

Thanks for the heads up  Afro

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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2012, 09:49:53 AM »

This is just as good:


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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 01:19:45 PM »

It couldn't have been otherwise: you risked going to jail for not doing that.
No, there are cases, apparently, where certification was not sought or granted. The usual example cited is Preminger's The Moon Is Blue (1953). From Wikipedia:
Quote
At the forefront of contesting the Code was director Otto Preminger, whose films violated the Code repeatedly in the 1950s. His 1953 film The Moon is Blue, about a young woman who tries to play two suitors off against each other by claiming that she plans to keep her virginity until marriage, was released without a certificate of approval.

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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2012, 12:48:50 AM »

No, there are cases, apparently, where certification was not sought or granted. The usual example cited is Preminger's The Moon Is Blue (1953).

A different era, when hollywood started to perceive the code as an hindrance toward competition with television. I'm referring to the previous 20 years.

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« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2013, 01:07:34 AM »

TCM will be showing Detour TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM EST
http://www.tcm.com/schedule/index.html?tz=est&sdate=2013-06-11

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« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2013, 09:31:49 PM »

TCM will be showing Detour TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM EST
http://www.tcm.com/schedule/index.html?tz=est&sdate=2013-06-11

started watching a few minutes on TCM, but had to shut it off; their print is simply awful.


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« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 10:29:28 AM »

Then you will never see it. There are, as far as I know, no good prints of this PD title.

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« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2013, 12:41:32 PM »

Then you will never see it. There are, as far as I know, no good prints of this PD title.

I've already seen it once; don't remember where. But I don't remember it being THAT bad

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« Reply #13 on: November 11, 2013, 12:39:43 PM »

I just saw the movie for the second time; it was on the Image Entertainment dvd. The quality was mostly decent. As far as I remember, there were a few scratches in early scenes, but mostly the beginning and middle was pretty good; the last 20 minutes or so had really bad quality, with lotsa jumps and other damage.

Anyway, an interesting film. Definitely interesting especially considering how cheaply it was made. I still maintain what I said previously, that Ann Savage was annoying, and that a good actress can find a way to play an evil character without being grating to the viewer, and I found Savage definitely grating. I'll say the movie does as much as it can do on that cheap noir budget.

7.5/10

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« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2016, 11:56:13 AM »

Detour (1945) Let's Blow This Trap



A shoestring 67 minute production that effectively distilled 100 proof Noir. Directed masterfully by Edgar G. Ulmer and lensed by Benjamin H. Kline, and some impressive but budget art direction by Edward C. Jewell.  Detour was adapted by Martin Goldsmith from his own novel of the same name, and released by PRC. It stars Tom Neal (Crime, Inc. (1945), ) as Al Roberts,  the unforgettable Ann Savage (The Spider (1945)) as Femme Fatale From Hell, Vera, and Claudia Drake as Tom's club canary girlfriend Sue. Edmund MacDonald (Hangmen Also Die! (1943), is a bookie on his way to LA. Esther Howard (Murder My Sweet (1944), Born to Kill (1947), The Crooked Way (1949), makes a cameo as the frumpy diner waitress Glamour.


Receding landscape

While the credits roll we see the desolate landscape of the desert from a vehicle barreling down a two lane highway, What's unusual about this barren landscape is that we are driving away from it. The scenery is passing us and receding into the distance, we are leaving what we know behind and we don't know what lies ahead. We are on a Detour and speeding towards oblivion, a Detour that's a metaphor for Destiny. The Destiny of one Al the Piano Player, late of the Break o' Dawn Club, Upper West Side Manhattan.

It's night, Al is silhouetted by the headlights of the cars that pass. He is hitching rides thumbing his way back East. He get's dropped off in Reno, at a hole in the wall greasy spoon called The Nevada Diner. Al has that hangdog sad sack look of a loser. While Al is drinking a cup of java at the counter, a long haul trucker drops a nickel in a jukebox and plays "I Can't Believe That You're In Love with Me". Al has a negative reaction.
 


Al hitchin'


Reno


Al and Glamour (Esther Howard)


Playing his and Sue's song


Al reacting


The confrontation

Al is told to settle down by the diner owner or he'll throw him out.  Listening to the song triggers in Al a flashback right into Noirsville. In a stylistic sequence the lights fade and a small spot highlights just Al's eyes as he begins to narrate in voice over. Our view drops to an extreme closeup on Al's coffee cup then tracks behind him to the lighted glass front of the jukebox, then it zooms into the glass to the needle of the tone arm oscillating along a groove in the turning record.







Al had a steady gig tickling the ivories of the coffin with a bunch of hep cats in a combo, nightly at the Break O' Dawn Club, a smoke choked West Side hole in the wall lounge. What made it bearable was Sue the cute peroxide canary, a real looker, and love of his life, as Al put it, he was a healthy American male and she was a healthy American babe and they had a healthy romantic relationship. One night as the club is closing Al, smoking like a Con-Ed stack, is pounding out a classical tune solo while waiting for Sue to change. When she arrives she tells him that" he'll make it to Carnegie Hall someday," he snaps back cynically, "Sure, as a janitor. Maybe I'll make my debut in the basement, Yeah, someday if I don't get arthritis first." He closes the fallboard and with a cigarette sticking to his lower lip declares "Let's blow this trap."

As they walk uptown through the Hudson River fog (a clever low budget sequence that show just the tops of passing street signs sticking up through the dry ice fog) Sue gives Al the brush, she tells him that she wants a shot at the Big Time, Hollywood, Tinseltown.



For Al, life without Sue makes him feel blue and dejected, playing for the cafe society patrons nets him an occasional ten spot tip. After a few months he decides to blow, he calls Sue from the club's phone booth and finds out that she's a waitress slinging hash in a beanery. Al tells her that he'll be right out, but he doesn't tell that he has no bread and will have to hitch.

A nice economical sequence depicts Al thumbing various rides against a map that shows his progress across the country. The further West he gets the more disheveled he looks, his cheap cardboard suitcase is tied together with a rope and he's sporting a permanent five o'clock shadow. In Arizona he gets picked up by a pill popping bookie driving a 41' Lincoln convertible, name of Charlie Haskell, and he's traveling from New Orleans to LA. It's Al's lucky day, or is it?


Hitching among the Joshua trees.


Charlie Haskell


In Arizona

To Be Continued.....

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