Once again Criterion brings us what might possibly be the release of the year. This 1945 Film Noir gem stars Tom Neal as Al Roberts, a somewhat down on his luck pianist in a small club who wants to marry a beautiful singer named Sue Harvey (Claudia Drake). Harvey loves Al but wants to wait until Al makes it big, or she does.
Sue heads out to LA and Al misses her so much that he decides to head out west and join her. He even convinces her to marry him there. So Al starts on the long cross country journey by hitchhiking. Everything seems to be going ok until he reaches Arizona.
He manages to get a ride from Charles Haskell, Jr. (Edmund McDonald) who offers to take him all the way from Tucson to Los Angeles. While driving that night Al seems convinced that he might just make it, until he discovers that the sleeping Haskell is actually dead. When Al pulls the car over and opens the passenger door Haskell's body falls out and hits a rock.
Al panics because he knows the police will accuse him of murder. He assumes Haskell's identity and everything else as well. The next morning after getting some sleep Al heads out on the road but stops for gas. Now things are really getting bad for our hero.
He himself picks up a hitchhiker named Vera (Ann Savage) who knows Al isn't really Haskell as she already had a run in with him. Vera leads Al down further dark paths...and this is where I stop because you really have to see the movie to appreciate it.
Edgar Ulmer handled the directing chores, and as with every Ulmer film, it's wonderfully done. However the acting kudos go to Ann Savage as Vera. Savage brings a new and never topped dimension and meaning to the words femme fatale. NEVER has there been a bigger "bitch" on the big screen. The character of Vera is about 40 years ahead of her time.
Her character is a shrieking harpie of a woman who destroy everything she touches, including herself. Vera really does not look like any other film noir female. As Al's character says in a voice over on the film "she looks like she came off of the worst freight train in the world".
Criterion presents this is a beautiful 4K scan that took over 10 years to put together, as is explained on one of the extras. There is also a 75 minute look at Ulmer's career and an overview of Ulmer from Noah Isenberg and a well done 30 page booklet about the movie.
All in all an excellent release and one that should be welcomed by any Noir fan. Thank You Criterion for finally giving Detour the treatment and recognition it so richly deserves.
Yes, this movie is in the public domain and has been available on hundreds of different sets over the years, but this time you can finally see something besides a muddy and splicey print.
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