On a minuscule budget and running a mere 68 minutes, director Edgar G. Ulmer creates a cynical worldview out of this bleak film noir than many big-budget Hollywood films can muster in two hours. The studio was Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), the legendary Poverty Row studio that rarely invested more than $100,000 in a picture. In fact, the budget for Detour was so low, Ulmer had to use his own car for the driving scenes. Yet this was also a rare shot at a prestige picture for the studio. It marked the fourth film co-starring Ann Savage and Tom Neal—a couple they were pushing as a romantic team (even though the two hated each other)—and premiered in a major theater. Martin Goldsmith adapted his own novel about a down-on-his-luck musician (Neal) blackmailed by a vicious female vagrant (Savage). Goldsmith turned in a 144-page script, but Ulmer initially pared it down before filming and then even further during editing. Using limited sets and stock footage, he created a terse, bitter picture that carries film noir into the realm of Existentialism. After the picture fell into the public domain, poor quality prints flooded the market. This world premiere restoration presents Ulmer’s vision in its purest form, preserving one of the screen’s most amazing accomplishments. (d. Edgar G. Ulmer, 68m, Digital)
Restored by the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation in collaboration with Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Cinémathèque Française. Restoration funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.