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Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Running time 69 minutes
Clocking in at an economical 69 minutes Detour is natty little B movie that is remorselessly fatalistic and features one of the harshest dames you’ll ever see on screen.
Al Roberts (Tom Neal) is a two-bit New York piano player whose singer girlfriend (Claudia Drake) leaves him for the bright lights of Tinsel Town. Hitchhikin to California to join her, Al gets picked up in Arizona by Charles Haskell (Edmund MacDonald). When Haskell suddenly dies Al, frightened of being accused of his murder, dumps the body and assumes Haskell's identity. But his real problems start when he picks up another hitch-hiker, Vera (Ann Savage), who soon blows his cover.
Told in flashback by a dispirited Al as he sits a roadside greasy spoon, the film charts a remarkably swift journey on the road to hell as bad luck and bad choices combine to seal his fate. Scripted by Martin Goldsmith from his own novel and directed by B movie specialist Edgar G. Ulmer, Detour gives us plenty of low-budget black-and-white seediness spiced up by the ironically recurring swing ballad ‘I Can't Believe That You're in Love with Me’ which is sung by Drake early in the piece, This much is par-for-course but its trump card is Ann Savage’s Vera.
More femme empoisonné than femme fatale, even by today standards, Vera is a remarkably virulent female screen presence who, thanks to Goldsmith’s stinging dialogue, mercilessly torments the hapless Al who is, fly to the spider, no match for her as her relentless scheming drags him further into her web of greed. In terms of plot, characterization and tone this is hyperbolic stuff but that is its appeal and B movie buffs rightly hold the film in high esteem.
FYI: The final scene which has Al picked up by a highway patrol car was included to satisfy Production Code requirements.