Friday, July 26, 2013
"Detour", 1945 film noir: If you act guilty, maybe you are (and don't hitchhike)
Sometimes people have a hard time not incriminating themselves, or at least they fear they will get framed. Maybe that’s because the really do have skeletons in their closet, or at least some bad karma. That seems to be the idea between the 1945 film noir classic “Detour”, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, just 67 minutes, from “Producers Releasing Corporation” (PRC, which sounds like the 1970s Beltway contractor, “Planning Research Corporation”).
Perhaps all this philosophy gives the film just too much credit; it’s just storytelling, entertainment for a date or for a couple’s night away from the kids (or maybe with the kids) in post-War America.
Al Roberts (Tom Neal) is a nightclub pianist who improvises (Liberace-style) on the Brahms waltz and on the Chopin raindrop prelude. But’s he’s wholly hetero (given the times, anyway), and hitchhiles cross country to meet his girl, Sue. Hitchhiking was acceptable practice in those days, maybe necessary. He takes turns driving, and his host Charles Haskell (Edmund MacDonald) drops dead from a heart attack in the seat.
Al fears that the police will blame him (why does he act so guilty?) so he assumes Haskell’s identity – so this becomes an old tech story of identity theft. But then, keeping the Haskell’s car, he picks up a dame himself., Vera (Ann Savage) who isn’t above blackmailing him. In the meantime, as befitting a 1940’s plot, Haskell was wanted for murder.
So this many not end happily for Al. He may not remain free. You know the saying, “Follow the rules, or don’t get caught.”
I rented a DVD through Netflix, but the film is available “free” on YouTube. I don’t know if TCM has aired The rental DVD is in black-and-white, but apparently, judging from YouTube, the film has been colorized. I greatly prefer to see BW films in BW, the way they were intended to be seen. The BW in this movie is very crisp.