Long considered an unpolished gem of film noir, the private treasure of film buffs, cinephiles and critics, Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour (1945) has recently earned a new wave of recognition. In the words of film critic David Thomson, it is simply 'beyond remarkable.' The only B-picture to make it into the National
Film Registry of the Library of Congress, Detour has outrun its fate as the bastard child of one of Hollywood's lowliest studios. Ulmer's film follows, in flashback, the jourbaney of Al Roberts (Tom Neal), a pianist hitching from New
York to California to join his girlfriend Sue (Claudia Drake), a singer gone to seek her fortune in Hollywood. In classic noir style, Detour features mysterious deaths, changes of identity, an unforgettable femme fatale called Vera (Ann
Savage), and, in Roberts, a wretched, masochistic antihero.
Noah Isenberg's study of Detour draws on a vast array of archival sources,
unpublished letters and interviews, to provide an animated and thorough account of the film's production history, its critical reception, its afterlife
(including various remakes) and the different ways in which the film has been understood since its release. He devotes significant attention to each of the key players in the film – the crew as well as the principal actors – while charting the uneasy transformation of Martin Goldsmith's pulp novel into Ulmer's signature film, the disagreements between the director and writer, and the severe financial and formal limitations with which Ulmer grappled. The story that Isenberg tells, rich in historical and critical insight, replicates the briskness of a B-movie.
About the Author
NOAH ISENBERG is Associate Professor of University Humanities at the New School in New York City, USA. He is the author of Between Redemption and Doom: The Strains of German-Jewish Modernism (1999) and editor of Weimar Cinema: An Essential Guide to Classic Films of the Era (2008).
Table of ContentsAn Unlikely Story.- Pulp Fictions.- Movies on the Cheap.- In Search of Meaning.- And the Sky was Grey.- Detour Redux.- Postscript: Alone in the Dark.
What People are Saying About This
Noah Isenberg does a remarkable job of sifting through decades-old interviews and archive material to bring you the low-down.' Empire
'The BFI Film Classics companion to everyone's favourite B noir is compact but stocked with years of research. Professor Isenberg acts as our Virgil as we squirm through the stations of Edgar Ulmer's vision of Hell. Given the professor's knowledge of German, German-Jewish, and American film traditions, he's an appropriate guide.' - Noir City Sentinel