Looking Back at (and in) DETOUR

A recent weeknight found me flipping through my DVD collection looking for a film I could watch in one sitting.  No BEN HUR on a Wednesday.  No HIS GIRL FRIDAY, for that matter.  I’ve discovered I have about 80 minutes on weeknights before my brain turns to pudding, which has led to a steady regimen of B movies from Poverty Row during the week and masterworks from the Majors on weekends.  On the day in question, the B film was DETOUR (1945), a 68-minute gem from Producers Releasing Corporation (their productions spanned from I TAKE THIS OATH in 1940 to the equally ill-remembered IN THIS CORNER of 1948).

Detour4There’s a lot to love about DETOUR, starting with the obvious talents of director Edgar G. Ulmer and lead actors Tom Neal and Ann Savage. Savage turns in a particularly strong performance, living up to her name as one of the most vicious femmes fatales in the history of film noir.  If Jane Greer’s Kathie Moffat is a quicksilver promise in the moonlight and Ava Gardner’s Kitty Collins is some mythological siren, Savage’s Vera is a rabid pitbull.  For a moment, Neal’s Al Roberts makes the mistake of thinking she’d be a cute pet, then she sinks her teeth and he can’t shake her.  There is no other performance I can think of that matches it for pure savagery.

But as I watched this film again, what struck me most is how carefully Ulmer crafts flashbacks, and how these transitions seem to invite us to pay closer attention to all moments of retrospection in the film.  If we do, we understand two things.  In terms of the story, we see Al is doomed because of his inability to look beyond the past. In terms of production, we see DETOUR is a work of art, for it seamlessly joins message and medium.

This might seem like a big claim for such a small picture, but there is evidence for making the case both within the movie and in the arc of Ulmer’s career, for he had a hand in groundbreaking works and lavish productions alike before delving into B pictures.  His first film, MENSCHEN AM SONTAGG (PEOPLE ON SUNDAYS, 1930), was extremely influential and quite successful—a precursor to neorealism in its use of non-professional actors featured in real and staged scenes of daily life.  Also remarkable was the crew of that film, which included Robert Siodmak, Curt Siodmak, Billy Wilder and Fred Zinneman (providing further proof, if any were needed, that film noir is distinctly American in the same way as Jazz; it too was born at the crossroads of foreign and American cultural influences—in this case German visual sensibilities and American hard-boiled storytelling). A scant four years later, Ulmer would be at the helm of BLACK CAT for Universal Pictures, creating a vision no less unique, though with a more impressive budget.

DETOUR is a different beast from either of these, with a less linear story line.  It’s the tale of a man who makes a fateful decision and can’t escape the consequences (is there any other noir tale?), told through a series of flashbacks.  Not surprisingly, flashback is a common noir narrative device; film noir rose to prominence during WWII and thrived for the next decade, throughout the disintegration of community brought about by a period of increased prosperity and mobility, and it’s thus fundamentally a genre about looking back to a more innocent and idyllic time (which may or may not ever have existed).  But Ulmer handles flashback with a dynamic and reckless perfection that has been misunderstood as the sloppiness of low production values.

Detour1The first overt, staged flashback occurs less than four minutes into the film, establishing the backstory to the situation in which doomed protagonist Al now finds himself.  It’s a scene that has attracted critical attention, and no one sets it up better than James Naremore in his book More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts.  An all too familiar tune plays on the jukebox, and sparks Al’s memory of happier days. In Naremore’s words, “The lights suddenly dim, signaling a transition into subjective mood.  A spotlight hovers around Neal’s eyes, giving him a demonic look, and for a moment we can sense a technician behind the camera, trying to aim the light correctly.  Neal broods, and the camera tilts down to view his coffee cup; what it sees, however, is a model, several times larger than the original, looming up before him in vaguely surreal fashion.  Few people will notice that a substitution of coffee cups has occurred; indeed they are not supposed to notice, because Ulmer wants to create a dreamlike close-up of an apparently ordinary object and thus set the stage for the nightmarish flashback.” (147)

Naremore’s reading gives us a sense of how carefully Ulmer constructs this moment, but I would suggest that the scene is executed with an even greater degree of technical mastery than Naremore grants. I don’t believe the wiggle of the light in Neal’s eyes is a mistake, but a calculated attempt to call attention to ways the camera and lighting help create the noir universe of longing and irreparable loss.  This hardly seems too much to claim, for the giant coffee cup is likewise intentionally obtrusive, and is, moreover, divided perfectly in half with light and shadow—like the noir world itself.

Detour2

If we accept such a claim, we begin to see other moments of apparent sloppiness as instances of similar artistry.  For example, we can’t help but think back to the opening credits, imposed over what appears to be a badly managed traveling long shot of a landscape, camera facing backwards and jiggling as a car heads down the highway. We now realize this shot may have been perfectly executed, for by mounting the camera on the trunk rather than the hood Ulmer shows us, from the very beginning, that Al is a man forever looking back to the happy life he lived before his fiancée left him, no matter how much he fools himself into thinking he’s moving forward.  Through his eyes, every road is bumpy and the whole world is barren.

Detour3

Likewise, shortly after Al begins hitchhiking to LA to rejoin Sue and recapture what they once had, he is picked up by a questionable character named Haskell (Edmund MacDonald). There are several shots from the back seat of the car (or trunk, perhaps), of the backs of these two men as they drive. If we watch closely, we realize that no matter where Al sits, as passenger or driver, his eyes are reflected in the rear view mirror.  Obviously that’s impossible, and is calculated to demonstrate, once again, that Al is trapped in a cycle of looking back, and that his apparent forward motion is anything but progress. If only he would dare to see this, or could stand to, he might be saved.

Rear1Rear2

Of course, he doesn’t see, which is precisely why Vera (i.e. “Truth”) enters his life.  She is not so much a woman—of flesh and blood, offering a possibility of escape through meaningful human connection—as an allegorical figure, the very embodiment of the savage truth he will never escape.  What could be more noir?  Or more artful?

(NOTE: Portions of this argument appeared previously in The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism, Dartmouth College Press, 2011, which I co-authored with Richard L. Edwards)

44 Responses Looking Back at (and in) DETOUR
Posted By Gene : June 9, 2013 1:57 pm

One of a myriad of movies on my list to see. Your article has bumped that up way to the top of my list! I never realized that this was made by the same man who did Black Cat, one of my favorites. I see that there are a number of prints out there and some are not as good as others. Can someone recommend the best DVD release?

Posted By Gene : June 9, 2013 1:57 pm

One of a myriad of movies on my list to see. Your article has bumped that up way to the top of my list! I never realized that this was made by the same man who did Black Cat, one of my favorites. I see that there are a number of prints out there and some are not as good as others. Can someone recommend the best DVD release?

Posted By Ken Zimmerman Jr. : June 9, 2013 2:24 pm

I have watched a number of the PRC films including this one although Monogram is my favorite “B” studio. In real life, Tom Neal was as doomed as the character he played in the movie.
A former boxer with a law degree, he arrived in Hollywood with promise but ended in disgrace. The studios blackballed him after he seriously assaulted Franchot Tone over their mutual love interest, Barbara Payton, an equally doomed character.

He would later be convicted of manslaughter in the death of his third wife. He died several months after being paroled in 1971. His son, Tom Neal, Jr. plays the same roles as his father in the 1992 remake of Detour.

Posted By Ken Zimmerman Jr. : June 9, 2013 2:24 pm

I have watched a number of the PRC films including this one although Monogram is my favorite “B” studio. In real life, Tom Neal was as doomed as the character he played in the movie.
A former boxer with a law degree, he arrived in Hollywood with promise but ended in disgrace. The studios blackballed him after he seriously assaulted Franchot Tone over their mutual love interest, Barbara Payton, an equally doomed character.

He would later be convicted of manslaughter in the death of his third wife. He died several months after being paroled in 1971. His son, Tom Neal, Jr. plays the same roles as his father in the 1992 remake of Detour.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 9, 2013 2:28 pm

Glad to hear you enjoyed the article, and more importantly that it bumped DETOUR up your “to see” list. It’s a tremendous little film–one that stays with you long after the 68 minutes are up, and one you’re likely to appreciate more each time you revisit it. There are many versions available, but truth told I have yet to find a good one. I get the impression they may all be working off the same print, which is not in great shape. If someone knows of a restoration, I’d love to hear about it too. If not, you might as well just watch the whole thing on YouTube for free (the joys of public domain!), or wait to catch it on TCM (which airs as good a print as I’ve seen).

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 9, 2013 2:28 pm

Glad to hear you enjoyed the article, and more importantly that it bumped DETOUR up your “to see” list. It’s a tremendous little film–one that stays with you long after the 68 minutes are up, and one you’re likely to appreciate more each time you revisit it. There are many versions available, but truth told I have yet to find a good one. I get the impression they may all be working off the same print, which is not in great shape. If someone knows of a restoration, I’d love to hear about it too. If not, you might as well just watch the whole thing on YouTube for free (the joys of public domain!), or wait to catch it on TCM (which airs as good a print as I’ve seen).

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 9, 2013 2:33 pm

Neal’s story is a tragic one indeed. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Barbara Payton’s autobiography I AM NOT ASHAMED, where Neal has a prominent role, but that is as noir a tale as you’ll find. And whoever wrote it (if it’s not her, it’s a ghost writer) had literary sensibilities. It reads like Chandler. Thanks for the comments!

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 9, 2013 2:33 pm

Neal’s story is a tragic one indeed. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Barbara Payton’s autobiography I AM NOT ASHAMED, where Neal has a prominent role, but that is as noir a tale as you’ll find. And whoever wrote it (if it’s not her, it’s a ghost writer) had literary sensibilities. It reads like Chandler. Thanks for the comments!

Posted By Doug : June 9, 2013 5:17 pm

Thank you, Shannon, for this post, and for pointing towards youtube-I just finished “Detour” there and it is all that you said it was.
Another bit of surreal business-the montage where Roberts begins to hitchhike, where the film is reversed, the cars drivers side
being on the right instead of left, Roberts getting in on the passenger side on the left.
The billing of Ann Savage’s Vera as the nastiest villain in noir…is right on. Savage earned that title with a fearless performance, not afraid to be vicious.
I was going to watch it on my desktop, but switched to the Macbook; I think the smaller screen size helped the resolution.
I think that Vera’s story, how she became such a hardcase, would make a great movie. It could end with her hitchhiking, picked up by Haskell in Louisiana.Hmmmm.

Posted By Doug : June 9, 2013 5:17 pm

Thank you, Shannon, for this post, and for pointing towards youtube-I just finished “Detour” there and it is all that you said it was.
Another bit of surreal business-the montage where Roberts begins to hitchhike, where the film is reversed, the cars drivers side
being on the right instead of left, Roberts getting in on the passenger side on the left.
The billing of Ann Savage’s Vera as the nastiest villain in noir…is right on. Savage earned that title with a fearless performance, not afraid to be vicious.
I was going to watch it on my desktop, but switched to the Macbook; I think the smaller screen size helped the resolution.
I think that Vera’s story, how she became such a hardcase, would make a great movie. It could end with her hitchhiking, picked up by Haskell in Louisiana.Hmmmm.

Posted By Anonymous : June 9, 2013 8:29 pm

Does there exist ANYWHERE a decent print of this film? ANYWHERE? I had the laserdisc, but it was as awful a transfer as any of the other crapolas. What a thrill it would be to see a pristine, completely restored print…also, whatever happened to Tom Jr’s remake? (BTW: Neal destroyed virtually every bone in Tone’s face. They tried to put him back together, but the results left him looking even more grotesque than Monty Clift. In MICKEY ONE he looked like a cadaver. sad…)

Posted By Anonymous : June 9, 2013 8:29 pm

Does there exist ANYWHERE a decent print of this film? ANYWHERE? I had the laserdisc, but it was as awful a transfer as any of the other crapolas. What a thrill it would be to see a pristine, completely restored print…also, whatever happened to Tom Jr’s remake? (BTW: Neal destroyed virtually every bone in Tone’s face. They tried to put him back together, but the results left him looking even more grotesque than Monty Clift. In MICKEY ONE he looked like a cadaver. sad…)

Posted By Commander Adams : June 9, 2013 9:47 pm

While I have fond memories of staying up until 4 in the morning to watch this on A&E (back when it was actually about Arts and Entertainment), I unfortunately find the film overpraised, not as well-written or well-made as THE BLACK CAT, BLUEBEARD or THE MAN FROM PLANET X. Ann Savage is great, but the rest of the cast isn’t up to her level, and the script, particularly the narration, is embarrassingly overwritten, full of deep-purple clunker lines and hammering away at its message about fate with annoying obviousness and repetitiveness. And Ulmer’s much-lauded abilities as a director aren’t always in evidence here; the scene where Neal talks to his girlfriend on the phone is especially wretched in its execution.

Posted By Commander Adams : June 9, 2013 9:47 pm

While I have fond memories of staying up until 4 in the morning to watch this on A&E (back when it was actually about Arts and Entertainment), I unfortunately find the film overpraised, not as well-written or well-made as THE BLACK CAT, BLUEBEARD or THE MAN FROM PLANET X. Ann Savage is great, but the rest of the cast isn’t up to her level, and the script, particularly the narration, is embarrassingly overwritten, full of deep-purple clunker lines and hammering away at its message about fate with annoying obviousness and repetitiveness. And Ulmer’s much-lauded abilities as a director aren’t always in evidence here; the scene where Neal talks to his girlfriend on the phone is especially wretched in its execution.

Posted By swac44 : June 10, 2013 11:30 am

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but documentarian Errol Morris has cited Detour as his favourite film on more than one occasion, most notably in the pages of the Village Voice when asked to contribute to something on Citizen Kane’s 50th anniversary, and he instead made a case for Ulmer’s classic as the superior film (at least when vying for the title of “greatest American movie”). I can’t find that original piece online, but it frequently gets referred to in other Morris stories, including this interview where he talks about its influence on his documentary The Thin Blue Line:

http://sensesofcinema.com/2001/feature-articles/morris/

I got to see a 35mm screening of Detour hosted by Morris at the Toronto International Film Festival in the ’90s, and the print was quite good, if a bit splicey in parts, but still better than any copy I’ve ever come across on video. At the time they talked about where they sourced it from, I think it might have been MOMA, but I couldn’t say for sure at this point.

Posted By swac44 : June 10, 2013 11:30 am

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but documentarian Errol Morris has cited Detour as his favourite film on more than one occasion, most notably in the pages of the Village Voice when asked to contribute to something on Citizen Kane’s 50th anniversary, and he instead made a case for Ulmer’s classic as the superior film (at least when vying for the title of “greatest American movie”). I can’t find that original piece online, but it frequently gets referred to in other Morris stories, including this interview where he talks about its influence on his documentary The Thin Blue Line:

http://sensesofcinema.com/2001/feature-articles/morris/

I got to see a 35mm screening of Detour hosted by Morris at the Toronto International Film Festival in the ’90s, and the print was quite good, if a bit splicey in parts, but still better than any copy I’ve ever come across on video. At the time they talked about where they sourced it from, I think it might have been MOMA, but I couldn’t say for sure at this point.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 10, 2013 12:27 pm

Very glad to hear you were able to see it Doug. That was a smart move to watch it on your MacBook to improve the resolution. It is a shame that no one has restored this, and truth told there are other Ulmer B. Films that deserve a restoration (BLUEBEARD comes to mind). Unfortunately, it’s hard to get studios to commit to restoration projects unless it’s for a big name talent (and harder still if the titles are readily available in the public domain). But at least we’re able to see it, and the story is compelling no matter the size of the screen.

Now you just need to find money to make that “prequel.”

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 10, 2013 12:27 pm

Very glad to hear you were able to see it Doug. That was a smart move to watch it on your MacBook to improve the resolution. It is a shame that no one has restored this, and truth told there are other Ulmer B. Films that deserve a restoration (BLUEBEARD comes to mind). Unfortunately, it’s hard to get studios to commit to restoration projects unless it’s for a big name talent (and harder still if the titles are readily available in the public domain). But at least we’re able to see it, and the story is compelling no matter the size of the screen.

Now you just need to find money to make that “prequel.”

Posted By CitizenKing : June 10, 2013 12:29 pm

For those wanting to own Detour, I have been told that the version from Image Entertainment is as good as it gets, though as Shannon indicates there is no such thing as a good version. I recently got excited when I saw “Detour” the list of August DVD releases from Kino, but I assume that refers to one of the other films with the same title.

While on the subject of flashbacks within Detour, on first viewing I was left with the feeling that everything we saw during the big flashback was entirely subjective. In other words, with all the narration we are seeing the rationalizations of an unreliable narrator. The incident in the desert, as well as the hotel room, have the sound of a bad liar trying to convince us of his innocence. The movie works either way, but I have trouble taking it at face value.

Posted By CitizenKing : June 10, 2013 12:29 pm

For those wanting to own Detour, I have been told that the version from Image Entertainment is as good as it gets, though as Shannon indicates there is no such thing as a good version. I recently got excited when I saw “Detour” the list of August DVD releases from Kino, but I assume that refers to one of the other films with the same title.

While on the subject of flashbacks within Detour, on first viewing I was left with the feeling that everything we saw during the big flashback was entirely subjective. In other words, with all the narration we are seeing the rationalizations of an unreliable narrator. The incident in the desert, as well as the hotel room, have the sound of a bad liar trying to convince us of his innocence. The movie works either way, but I have trouble taking it at face value.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 10, 2013 12:31 pm

That’s an interesting point about the narration. It can be a little heavy-handed, but to my mind the numerous self-conscious touches in the camerawork (of the sort I discussed in this post) give the voiceover additional depth and resonance–making its clunkiness feel like a conscious choice rather than sloppy writing. But I agree there are other great Ulmer films that deserve at least as much praise as I’ve been giving DETOUR. BLUEBEARD and THE MAN FROM PLANET X would top that list for me too.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 10, 2013 12:31 pm

That’s an interesting point about the narration. It can be a little heavy-handed, but to my mind the numerous self-conscious touches in the camerawork (of the sort I discussed in this post) give the voiceover additional depth and resonance–making its clunkiness feel like a conscious choice rather than sloppy writing. But I agree there are other great Ulmer films that deserve at least as much praise as I’ve been giving DETOUR. BLUEBEARD and THE MAN FROM PLANET X would top that list for me too.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 10, 2013 12:39 pm

I hand’t seen your post on Morris’s high opinion of DETOUR, but I love that he has made that case. The more I see this film, the more impressed I am by the work Ulmer does here. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a contender for “greatest American movie,” but if you consider what he had to work with (budget, cast, story, production time), I might go so far as to say it is one of the great achievements in American filmmaking. But, admittedly, I have a fondness for all directors who find a way to embrace, and be inspired by, the constraints of low production values–conditions I believe tend to produce more subtle art than big budgets do. Thanks for this reference, and boy do I wish I’d been in Toronto for that screening.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 10, 2013 12:39 pm

I hand’t seen your post on Morris’s high opinion of DETOUR, but I love that he has made that case. The more I see this film, the more impressed I am by the work Ulmer does here. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a contender for “greatest American movie,” but if you consider what he had to work with (budget, cast, story, production time), I might go so far as to say it is one of the great achievements in American filmmaking. But, admittedly, I have a fondness for all directors who find a way to embrace, and be inspired by, the constraints of low production values–conditions I believe tend to produce more subtle art than big budgets do. Thanks for this reference, and boy do I wish I’d been in Toronto for that screening.

Posted By Kingrat : June 10, 2013 1:42 pm

Hi, Shannon! I hate to admit it, but DETOUR was a big disappointment for me–which no one could possibly have said on its original release. There are many nice directorial touches, but the script, as Commander Adams noted, is not so good. The scenes of life before the road trip are dull, and the film doesn’t fully come to life until Ann Savage appears. She’s terrific, and Tom Neal is also convincing.

But other noirs offer more than an extended argument in a hotel room over whether a guy can use the phone, and the resolution of the Vera plot is ingenious, but not really believable. Does DETOUR show creativity on a very limited budget? Absolutely, and you’ve pointed out some additional examples. But I had been led to expect a masterpiece.

Posted By Kingrat : June 10, 2013 1:42 pm

Hi, Shannon! I hate to admit it, but DETOUR was a big disappointment for me–which no one could possibly have said on its original release. There are many nice directorial touches, but the script, as Commander Adams noted, is not so good. The scenes of life before the road trip are dull, and the film doesn’t fully come to life until Ann Savage appears. She’s terrific, and Tom Neal is also convincing.

But other noirs offer more than an extended argument in a hotel room over whether a guy can use the phone, and the resolution of the Vera plot is ingenious, but not really believable. Does DETOUR show creativity on a very limited budget? Absolutely, and you’ve pointed out some additional examples. But I had been led to expect a masterpiece.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : June 10, 2013 4:27 pm

frankly,it’s one of the bleakest and most dark films ever made…unfortunately all you can find are crap prints since it’s also public domain,it’s too bad someone couldn’t clean this up with existing materials,but i seriously doubt it,and that’s too bad…this movie is in the Library of Congress but all we’ll ever see is the fuzzy distorted version?…Ulmer should have been in the pantheon of refugee directors like Lang,but got shafted because of his personal life,i still enjoy the Black Cat and the Man From Planet X over and over because he always raised the bar despite the budget,just think what a collaboration he could have had with Val Lewton

Posted By DevlinCarnate : June 10, 2013 4:27 pm

frankly,it’s one of the bleakest and most dark films ever made…unfortunately all you can find are crap prints since it’s also public domain,it’s too bad someone couldn’t clean this up with existing materials,but i seriously doubt it,and that’s too bad…this movie is in the Library of Congress but all we’ll ever see is the fuzzy distorted version?…Ulmer should have been in the pantheon of refugee directors like Lang,but got shafted because of his personal life,i still enjoy the Black Cat and the Man From Planet X over and over because he always raised the bar despite the budget,just think what a collaboration he could have had with Val Lewton

Posted By Qalice : June 10, 2013 7:04 pm

I want to second Citizen King. Spoiler Alert! I’ve seen DETOUR recently — I think because of a past Morlocks post — and I think it’s pretty obviously unbelievable. Haskell’s odd, awkward death is very hard to swallow. But does anyone believe that Al managed to strangle Vera to death by accident from another room?

Posted By Qalice : June 10, 2013 7:04 pm

I want to second Citizen King. Spoiler Alert! I’ve seen DETOUR recently — I think because of a past Morlocks post — and I think it’s pretty obviously unbelievable. Haskell’s odd, awkward death is very hard to swallow. But does anyone believe that Al managed to strangle Vera to death by accident from another room?

Posted By BPiper : June 10, 2013 8:59 pm

For years the myth persisted (and probably still persists) that DETOUR was the ultimate PRC cheapie, shot in a couple of days with just two actors and a process screen. That was actually one of the reason I sought it out. I may be one of the few people disappointed to discover it was a technically competent B movie, and quite a good one at that.

Posted By BPiper : June 10, 2013 8:59 pm

For years the myth persisted (and probably still persists) that DETOUR was the ultimate PRC cheapie, shot in a couple of days with just two actors and a process screen. That was actually one of the reason I sought it out. I may be one of the few people disappointed to discover it was a technically competent B movie, and quite a good one at that.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 11, 2013 1:39 pm

Interesting point about the recognition Ulmer should have received. I was just alerted to a book coming out from UC press in January, which apparently argues that despite Ulmer’s brilliance, the trajectory of his career was the rule, and that of Wilder’s or Siodmak’s career was the exception. I’ll be interested in reading that when it comes out, but just that summary is a sad reminder of how rarely genius is rewarded.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 11, 2013 1:39 pm

Interesting point about the recognition Ulmer should have received. I was just alerted to a book coming out from UC press in January, which apparently argues that despite Ulmer’s brilliance, the trajectory of his career was the rule, and that of Wilder’s or Siodmak’s career was the exception. I’ll be interested in reading that when it comes out, but just that summary is a sad reminder of how rarely genius is rewarded.

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 11, 2013 2:02 pm

Wait, you expect realism from film noir? ;-) It may be unrelentingly engaged with the problems of the real world, but it always presents an extremely quirky and stylized vision of the world (and that vision pervades everything, right down to plot points). I mean, do we really believe that a poodle on the tarmac does in Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) at the end of THE KILLING? But that lack of realism doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact, I find that death in noir often has very ironic metaphorical value, and Vera’s death works in that sense, at least in my opinion. She’s always threatening to blab far and wide, so what better demise than by phone cord, from a distance?

Posted By Shannon Clute : June 11, 2013 2:02 pm

Wait, you expect realism from film noir? ;-) It may be unrelentingly engaged with the problems of the real world, but it always presents an extremely quirky and stylized vision of the world (and that vision pervades everything, right down to plot points). I mean, do we really believe that a poodle on the tarmac does in Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) at the end of THE KILLING? But that lack of realism doesn’t make it any less fun. In fact, I find that death in noir often has very ironic metaphorical value, and Vera’s death works in that sense, at least in my opinion. She’s always threatening to blab far and wide, so what better demise than by phone cord, from a distance?

Posted By Doug : June 13, 2013 9:50 am

Shannon said:
“Now you just need to find money to make that “prequel.”
I don’t often write fiction, but I have an idea for Vera that has been kicking around in my head since I watched the show. We shall see.

Posted By Doug : June 13, 2013 9:50 am

Shannon said:
“Now you just need to find money to make that “prequel.”
I don’t often write fiction, but I have an idea for Vera that has been kicking around in my head since I watched the show. We shall see.

Posted By J R : June 17, 2013 1:01 am

Im crazy about film noir. My favorite is the original D.O.A. with Edmund O’Brien. There are oh so many other really great film noirs such as ANGEL FACE and CAPE FEAR both with Robert Mitchum, KISS OF DEATH with Richard Widmark, WHITE HEAT with James Cagney, THE BIG SLEEP with Humphrey Bogart, ILLEGAL with Edward G. Robinson and of course the Hitchcock films such as STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, and many others. Some other great film noirs are IMPACT with Brian Donlevy, CALL NORTHSIDE 777 with James Stewart and SPLIT SECOND with Richard Egan and Stephen McNally. Then there are the color noir films such as MADIGAN again with Richard Widmark, VIOLENT SATURDAY and DANGEROUS MISSION both with Victor Mature.

Posted By J R : June 17, 2013 1:01 am

Im crazy about film noir. My favorite is the original D.O.A. with Edmund O’Brien. There are oh so many other really great film noirs such as ANGEL FACE and CAPE FEAR both with Robert Mitchum, KISS OF DEATH with Richard Widmark, WHITE HEAT with James Cagney, THE BIG SLEEP with Humphrey Bogart, ILLEGAL with Edward G. Robinson and of course the Hitchcock films such as STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, and many others. Some other great film noirs are IMPACT with Brian Donlevy, CALL NORTHSIDE 777 with James Stewart and SPLIT SECOND with Richard Egan and Stephen McNally. Then there are the color noir films such as MADIGAN again with Richard Widmark, VIOLENT SATURDAY and DANGEROUS MISSION both with Victor Mature.

Posted By Bruce T. : June 18, 2013 5:53 pm

If you’re still looking for short running time minor masterpieces of B movie film-making I’d like to suggest James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_Dark_House Or, as I like to call it, THE HOUSE OF BIG FACED GUYS, what with Laughton and Karloff.

Posted By Bruce T. : June 18, 2013 5:53 pm

If you’re still looking for short running time minor masterpieces of B movie film-making I’d like to suggest James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Old_Dark_House Or, as I like to call it, THE HOUSE OF BIG FACED GUYS, what with Laughton and Karloff.

Posted By robbushblog : June 21, 2013 1:39 pm

I’ve seen Detour a couple of times. I find Tom Neal’s character to be extremely unreliable, as if he’s trying to fool himself the whole time, like a basketball player who intentionally fouls someone and then, once caught, is all “Who? Me? What did I do?”

Posted By robbushblog : June 21, 2013 1:39 pm

I’ve seen Detour a couple of times. I find Tom Neal’s character to be extremely unreliable, as if he’s trying to fool himself the whole time, like a basketball player who intentionally fouls someone and then, once caught, is all “Who? Me? What did I do?”

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