Detour is a tight and well-crafted piece of film noir based on Martin Goldsmith’s novel of the same name. It has slowly become a cult classic from Hollywood’s poverty row which is a great title for the B film studios from the 20’s to the 50’s. Detour didn’t get the proper evaluation that it deserved until the 70’s when director Edgar G. Ulmer passed away. There’s nothing really flashy about it, but it seems to press all the little buttons we want pressed in film noir.
After stopping at a diner in Reno, a piano-playing hitchhiker named Al Roberts hears a song and remembers his recent past. Al was playing piano at a nightclub with his singing girlfriend in New York City before she decided to move to L.A. Al followed her to LA.. by catching a ride with a man named Charles Haskell. When Haskell dies unexpectedly, all hell breaks loose and Al tells us the story himself.
Tom Neal is pretty awesome as Al Roberts, but Detour doesn’t have any mega stars in it or impressive production design but it manages to do the little things really well. I love checking out the smaller budget films of today, so I really enjoyed seeing one from the 40’s that embraced the poverty row title. There’s a reason for Criterion selecting it and releasing it on Blu-ray and DVD in March of last year. It’s still growing on fans and I’m one of those now.