Ulmer died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, in Jekyll , and The Amazing Transparent Man , to summon only a few conspicuous Ulmer wonders, at least some of these sophisticated, personal pictures accomplished on preposterously tight budgets and schedules. Murnau—only made the circumstances around Detour sound even more absurd, or a miracle.
And I heard speculation that maybe Edgar G. There on the title page, after the date of May 24, , just one man appears as the director of Detour: Lew Landers.
That the notoriously unreliable Ulmer might not have directed Detour, his signature unreliable-narrator film noir classic, seemed so ridiculously apt and resonant you almost yearned for it to be true. The materials of the film found a distinctive shape—the slippery, beguiling, disturbing shape we now take for granted—only late in the creative process, and the inescapable inference was that Ulmer had devised the film we celebrate as Detour during the shooting and editing.
This intensive subjectivity includes episodes Roberts could not have glimpsed, except in reverie or retrospective pretext, particularly two identical scenes of Sue demurely sitting by her Hollywood telephone and a later image of Vera wrapping a phone cord around her neck. As Roberts drifts further from his ostensible goal of joining Sue in Los Angeles, the lyrics rise not as those of a playful torch song but as a literal declaration of his self-doubt, and his destructive apprehensions of certain failure, isolation, doom.
The vision of the film remained inchoate right until the last possible transactions of the filmmaking operation. The ambiguous design was finally accomplished by stripping away characters and alternate viewpoints that had survived into the final shooting script, and beyond. Goldsmith from his novel to the Production Code Administration a. In , Goldsmith had published a crime novel, Double Jeopardy, that even more than his Detour shows the sway of James M.
Instead of playing the piano, Roth is a jazz violinist at a little club on Fifty-Seventh Street, but he had trained for the classical concert hall. Goldsmith furnishes Roth with expedient motives, rather than complex, equivocal actions. I had an apartment and forty a week coming in and. Roth is hard-boiled, often caustic. We first catch up with her after she has drunkenly slept with, perhaps been raped by, Raoul Kildare, a vain actor with a sham British accent.
She works as a waitress at a drive-in stand on Melrose while waiting for elusive screen tests and resisting as long as she can the invitations of Manny Fleishmeyer, a casting-couch agent who may also be a pimp.
She initially seems to love Alex, but Goldsmith underscores her vacuous self-absorption. When Raoul attempts suicide after she cruelly belittles his lovemaking, Sue decides she wants the actor after all, only to realize he is still married to another waitress at the drive-in. Her Hollywood tale concludes with a call to Manny Fleishmeyer. The Goldsmith treatment Mooney messengered over to the Breen Office no longer exists, but all documents around the adaptation establish that, right into the editing and shooting phases of Detour, the production concentrated not on devising a double narration but on refining the Alex-Sue double plot.
There should be, of course, no suggestion of a sex affair between them. Ulmer The stilted Christmas-week synopsis situates Roth for the first time inside a Nevada diner, reacting to a jukebox song: The story opens in a cheap diner in Las Vegas where some truck drivers and the male lead, Alexander Roth, are eating. Across the street is the marriage parlor of a Justice of the Peace to which a wedding party have arrived. Roth wants to get married but Sue says she is going to have a try at Hollywood; they quarrel and she goes to Hollywood, while Roth remains behind.
A little later Roth telephones Sue and tells her he is going to hitch-hike to Hollywood. The bride of that opening wedding party, we twig at the close, is none other than Sue for some reason here tagged Sue Henry , and her groom, Tony Dillon, emerges as a bookie who once knew Charles Haskell.
Then Vera reads in the paper that wealthy exporter Charles Haskell Sr. Roth refuses. Vera, evidently tubercular, says she knows she is going to die soon, but she intends to have some of the luxuries of life before she dies.
Then newspapers report finding of body, in Arizona, apparently that of Roth, and Sue, working as a carhop in a drive-in, sees the article. Roth and Vera quarrel about her pressure on him, and she takes the phone into the bedroom to call the police. Roth is at the lunchroom since he has started hitch-hiking east after the death of Vera. The police arrest Roth and his voice wonders what will become of him when he goes on trial. Dillon and Sue emerge from the marriage parlor, now married, and Sue being unaware Roth is still alive.
Now, what about Lew Landers? Al Roberts Tom Neal is just an ordinary guy, a bit down on his luck maybe, a pianist whose beloved singer girlfriend Sue Claudia Drake has moved to California, hoping to make it in show biz. Roberts hitchhikes after her, but his journey to be reunited with his love goes awry when, through an improbable series of circumstances, he accidentally kills a man who has picked him up on the road.
Knowing that the police would never believe his outrageous story, Roberts decides to hide the body and assume the other man's identity. But even this plan is foiled when he himself picks up a female hitchhiker, the fiery Vera Ann Savage , who recognizes the car and knows that Roberts wasn't the one who was driving it not long ago.
Roberts' sad story is told through a series of flashbacks, narrated in a shattered monotone by the antihero, who relates each new twist as though he still can't believe these things happened to him. Roberts is an everyman, with no money in his pockets and no luck, and he's easily manipulated by the sinister Vera.
Savage's performance is truly eviscerating; she looks at Roberts like he's prey, with her eyes wide, gritting her teeth, her eyebrows gesticulating wildly, her voice a cold hard rasp. Ulmer's a true poet of the noir: his images have an unsettling potency and startling emotional depths. Even Vera, the wanton woman, has her moment of warmth, when she places a hand seductively on Roberts' shoulder and tells him, her words freighted with meaning, "I'm going to bed.Felt it. Rhodes divides the contributions into sections on texts and contexts surrounding the director, the film noirs, individual films, and three case studies of The Black Cat. She blackmails him, threatening to turn him in to the police unless he does as she says, and stays close to her at all times. Flinn writes that this scene indicates that jazz signifies failure for Al. Ulmer's ragged poetry can also be found in the half-awake dream Roberts has while driving, a vision of Sue singing against a backdrop of shadowy jazz musicians — a surreal interlude that juxtaposes Sue's cheery, all-American sweetness against the dark, tawdry circumstances into which the dazed Roberts stumbles. Rhodes, Lexington Books, Lanham, As trite as it all equivocal analyses. A lot of that was unintentional. It is a myth upon the end of myths, character and world in the perspective that this artistic the American Dream, detour expansion, and the open road. And, I believe, this is where Detour rises to might seem, Detour essay. This is because there is a special marriage between depicting both the absence and the utter futility of form provides.
It is perhaps the least authentic of the traditional films noir. Rhodes, Lexington Books, Lanham, While still in the cans awaiting final editing, a headline event occurred on August 6, Roth refuses.
But Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and so many other films certainly did. One reason why the film is difficult to like at first is that this last plot element does not get developed far. As trite as it all might seem, Detour works.
It seems, for these scenes, that Al accidentally and somehow hitchhiked across the pond. One thing that Expressionism shares with Surrealism is in its interest towards the non-authentic. If the claim seems implicitly to draw comparison with a biblical act of creation which took three days longer , it is only because Detour so effectively creates a world, one just as rickety, violent, and damned as the one we inhabit.