Detour is a 1945 film noir thriller that stars Tom Neal and Ann Savage.
The film was adapted by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney (uncredited) from Goldsmith's novel of the same name and was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. The 68-minute film was released by the Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), one of the so-called "poverty row" film studios in mid-twentieth century Hollywood.
Although made on a small budget with bare sets and straightforward camera work, Detour has gathered much praise through the years and is held in high regard. In 1992, Detour was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Piano player Al (Tom Neal) is bitter about having to work in a New York nightclub. After his girlfriend Sue (Claudia Drake) leaves to seek fame in Hollywood, he decides to join her. With little money, he has to hitchhike his way across the country.
In Arizona, bookie Charles Haskell Jr. (Edmund MacDonald) gives him a ride in his convertible. Haskell has Al pass him pills several times along the way. That night, Al is driving while Haskell sleeps, when a rainstorm forces Al to pull over to put up the top. Unable to rouse Haskell, Al opens the passenger-side door. Haskell falls out and strikes his head on the ground. Al then realizes the bookie is dead. Fearful that the police will believe he killed Haskell, Al dumps the body off the side of the road, takes Haskell's money, clothes and identification, then drives away. After spending the night in a motel, Al picks up another hitchhiker, Vera (Ann Savage), at a gas station. By sheer bad luck, it turns out that the femme fatale had also been picked up by Haskell earlier. She scratched him deeply in the arm and got out after he tried to become too friendly. When Al identifies himself as Haskell, she blackmails him by threatening to turn him in.
In Hollywood, they rent an apartment, posing as Mr. and Mrs. Haskell to provide an address when they go to sell the car. However, Vera learns from a newspaper that Haskell's wealthy father is near death and looking for his son, who ran away as a youth after accidentally injuring his friend. Vera demands that Al impersonate Haskell, but Al balks at this notion, pointing out that he knows nothing about the dead man. Back in the apartment, Vera gets drunk, and they begin arguing. She threatens to call the police, running into the bedroom with the telephone and locking the door. She falls into a stupor on the bed, with the telephone cord tangled around her neck. Al tries to break the cord. Then, when he breaks down the door, he sees that he has accidentally strangled her. He goes hitchhiking again, but is picked up by the police.
Tom Neal as Al Roberts
Ann Savage as Vera
Claudia Drake as Sue Harvey
Edmund MacDonald as Charles Haskell Jr
Tim Ryan as Nevada Diner Proprietor
Esther Howard as Holly, Diner Waitress
Don Brodie as the Used Car Salesman
Pat Gleason as Joe
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Produced by Leon Fromkess
Screenplay by Martin Goldsmith
Based on the 1939 novel Detour: An Extraordinary Tale
by Martin Goldsmith
Starring Tom Neal
Narrated by Tom Neal
Music by Leo Erdody
Cinematography Benjamin H. Kline
Edited by George McGuire
Distributed by Producers Releasing Corporation
November 30, 1945 (United States)
Country United States