Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, USA 1945)

I watched DETOUR last night. It's regarded as one of the best film noir movies and yeah I must admit it was really good. Basically it's a roadmovie about this guy who's down on his luck. At the start of the film all he has got is a suitcase, 10 bucks, and a girlfriend in another town. And it never gets that good again. So, with aforementioned 10 bucks in his pocket he decides to hitch-hike to the other end of the USA to hook up with his girlfriend. He gets a ride from a friendly guy. He offs the guy accidentally. Gets paranoid. Steals the guy's car, clothes, dough, driver's licence. Ditches the dead body. Drives off. Decides to ditch the car too - but before he gets a chance to do so he comes across a skirt. Trouble obviously. From then on his luck really "goes into the fucken toilet" to quote a James Ellroy line from that old Austrian documentary film DEMON DOG OF AMERICAN CRIME FICTION (1993, not '98 as listed on the eternally shitty IMDb).

DETOUR is great and I already wanna watch it again. Its short running time of around 70 minutes leaves you with a lean piece of film steak. No fat. No chewy bits. No boring moments. And all this even tho the film was shot in only 7 days and on a very small budget. MARTIN SCORSESE talks about it in the 4½ hour BBC documentary A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES (1995).

The DVD I got is from Image Entertainment and altho it's barebone it's probably the best release there is. The cover states it taken directly from a 35mm print and it certainly looks alright. There's a bit of scratches around reel edges but nothing that'll make you scratch your eyes out of their sockets. Not unless you're one of those format fans (in contradiction to FILM fans) that populate many a film message board. According to dvdcompare.net the French DVD has a documentary film about Ulmer, EDGAR G ULMER: THE MAN OFF SCREEN, but the print (of DETOUR) is shitty. I got the Image Entertainment DVD as I wanted the better print. And besides, the doc has its own release anyway so I'll probably order that one at some point.

DETOUR was remade in 1992 by Wade Williams but I can only find ONE release on VHS in the States and that tape is more difficult to get hold of than to get laid at a dike slumber party. I'll been trawling Cyberspace for months on end and I can't find it anywhere! Not even from the usual bootleggers or at iOffer!! Anyhoo, I highly recommend the original film!

PS: There's a bit of a bizarre twist to the story but it contains a SPOILER; in the film the main character, played by TOM NEAL, accidentally kills a woman. In real life Neal did the same 20 years later. He accidentally shot his wife in the back of the head and was sentenced to 10 years in jail (he got out after 6). He was originally tried for murder.

And how's this for weirdness; in the remake from 1992 it's his real life son, TOM NEAL JR., who plays the same character as his dad did in the original.