Detour (1945)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Detour</strong> (1945)

(On TV, November 2018) For some reason, I sat down to watch Detour while thinking that I was going to see a comedy. To my great delight, it ended up not only being a film noir, but a cheap nasty film noir whose low-end production values were redeemed by a solid script and at least one great performance. The story has to do with a man crossing the country to be reunited with his girlfriend, but reality intervenes and before long he’s on the run from the law for a death he didn’t cause –if you believe him. Alas, his only partner is a hitchhiker who quickly understands the situation and bends him to her will—played by Ann Savage, in a ferocious performance that shows how much freedom film noir gave to its female characters. The production values of Detour are low even by 1940s standard: the producing company specialized in cheap productions, and most of the film seems to be spent either driving a car in front of an obvious rear-projection, or bickering in a hotel room set. But the film has good dialogue and an even better fatalistic atmosphere of encroaching doom. Our character ends the movie as an outcast from society despite his best intentions: there is nothing he can do. And so is one of the lessons of film noir. Sometimes, even if you don’t take the narration at face value, there is nothing you can do.

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