Detour (1945)

“Man, she looked like she had been thrown off the crummiest freight train in the world.” Down-and out piano player “Al Roberts” (Tom Neal) is the kind of perennial loser with a permanent “shit cloud” hanging over his head. Al works at a seedy New York City nightclub with his girlfriend/singer “Sue” (Claudia Drake), who abruptly decides to head to Hollywood to seek her fame and fortune but ends up as a “hash slinger” in a greasy diner. When Al hears about Sue’s troubles, he decides to hitchhike across the country and marry her. Al eventually gets a lift from sleazy gambler “Charles Haskell Jr.” (Edmund MacDonald), who tells him a disturbing story about this psycho bitch he picked up earlier who seriously scratched up his arm after he made a pass at her. Al volunteers to help with the driving but has to pull over during a rainstorm to put the top up on the convertible and discovers that Haskell has died of a heart attack in his sleep. Al instinctively decides to dump Haskell in the desert, take his money, assume his identity and continue driving the convertible to California. However, all hell breaks loose after the self-destructive Al picks up a female hitchhiker, “Vera” (a brilliantly demented Ann Savage), who turns out to be the same lunatic that Haskell had told him about. With a scheming Vera by his side, Al quickly enters into a nightmarish hell from which there will be no escape. Often referred to as “the greatest B-movie ever made,” this extremely low-budget film noir was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer (The Black Cat) and based on Martin Goldsmith’s 1939 novel of the same name. Best of all, the film clocks in at just 68 minutes! Useless Trivia: Errol Morris named Detour among his favorite films, remarking that “It has an unparalleled quality of despair, totally unrelieved by hope.”

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