Quick Take: Chance events trap hitch-hiker Al Roberts in a tightening net of film noir trouble.
Review: Two people trapped in a room spit out their hatred for each other. Before Sartre's No Exit, before Pinter, Detour proved that Hell is these two people: Al (Tom Neal), a piano-playing loser hitching west to meet his girlfriend, and Vera (Ann Savage), the schemer who embodies all the bad luck a man could ever have. Ulmer, a classics-loving sophisticate trained at Germany's Ufa studios, worked almost exclusively on Poverty Row, lending his craftsman's luster and energy to shooting Yiddish- and Ukrainian-language musicals in New Jersey, Negro melodramas in Harlem, cheapo costume pictures in Italy and Spain. His most sustained stint was in the 40s at the off-Hollywood PRC, where, in six days on a few drab sets for $5,000, he made this uncompromisingly bleak tale of a sadist and a schlemiel. They can communicate only their mutual loathing in a realm where words can wound and a telephone cord is an inadvertently lethal weapon. Film noir? Yeah, baby. No film is noirer.