On the surface it Detour is a really odd movie to find a place on so many best of lists. It has a runtime of just over an hour, had a very rushed production and features two fairly one-note actors. However, it just works. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does.
However, this film probably would have ended up nearly forgotten if it wasn’t for the final third. The lead actor in this, Tom Neal, is not a lead actor. Honestly, I’m not entirely convinced that he could ever have had a career outside of B-movies. So that means most of this film just feels rather rickety. And then Ann Savage shows up.
As with Tom Neal, this is an actress that didn’t have a fruitful career. She spends the entire movie with a scowl on her face and a series of pissed-off snarky one-liners coming out of her mouth. Her presence onscreen is magnetic and resulted in me laughing out loud a number of times.
So, yes, Ann Savage turns this B-movie noir from being a curiosity to something generally interesting. Also, it provides an example of a non-major studio release that was able to garner some degree of notice. I can’t think of how many examples of this there would be from the 1940s outside of weird sci-fi.
I guess what also helped was how this film depicts a man being completely destroyed by the randomness. He’s not a bad person, but he ends up broke and being implicated in two murders. The world makes him his bitch and watching it unfurl for an hour was good fun. Probably not a classic, but a good example of its genre.