Watched: January 08 2017

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer

Starring: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald

Year: 1945

Runtime: 1h 7min

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Al Roberts (Neal) is in a diner, irritable and not very sociable. What has happened? He tells his story to the viewer – and it is not a happy tale.

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“Happy? How can anyone be happy? There is no happiness, only darkness and sadness” – Roberts, probably

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Roberts is a pianist in a nightclub where his best gal Sue (Drake) is also employed as a singer. Walking home from work one night, through the (extreme) fog and darkness, she tells him that she’s planning on seeking her fortune in Hollywood. Roberts is not happy about it, though to be fair, he wasn’t exactly a ball of sunshine before she broke the news either.

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This may be the only time he smiles throughout the entire 67 minutes.

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After she moves, he decides to hitchhike from New York to Los Angeles to see her, and it’s all downhill from there. He considers himself lucky when he gets a ride from rich (and misogynistic) Charles Haskell, Jr (MacDonald), but he could not be more wrong. After Haskell unexpectedly dies, Roberts makes a horrible decision to bury the body and pose as the dead man to stay out of trouble. Already here, we can see where this is going, but not just how bad it’s going to get.

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It never gets really bad until you bring a Dame into it…

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Enter Vera (Savage), a bona fide Dame with all the credentials, including previously fighting off the advances of the now deceased real owner of the car. His new angry and disillusioned passenger leads Roberts to make even more terrible decisions than the ones he’s already made, and they keep spiralling towards inevitable doom.

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Who knew a young woman in a lace knit sweater could be so vicious!

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Now, Roberts is made out to be the victim in this film, and in a way he is. However, he is also the one telling the story and as such there’s a chance his narration is a bit on the unreliable side. Perhaps Haskell’s death (and any subsequent ones) weren’t as accidental as he claims, and his decision to rob the dead man may not have been as spontaneous as we are led to believe. Either way, his life is forever altered and his plans are not to be. Poor Sue.

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Seems guys (with big instruments) are already lining up to take Roberts’ place, though. We’re sure she’ll be fine. After all, it’s not like young, attractive women have ever been mistreated in Hollywood.

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What we learned: Film Noir-narration is the best narration. Also, if someone (accidentally) dies in your presence, just go to the police and fess up at once.

Next time: The Lost Weekend (1945)

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One thought on “#70 Detour

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