Sunday, August 28, 2011
Detour is the most famous Poverty Row movie ever made, recognized by a number of excellent individuals and organizations as an important landmark from the classic era. It's poorly made (though it puts what it has to decent enough use), acted by people no one knows about, and full of images that are too dark or too light and cinematic tricks an amateur would use in a production with friends. What I'm curious about is why the movie has survived. It seems as if people have gone to accepting it, to liking it, to worshiping it. I haven't seen many of the Poverty Row films, so maybe it's an issue of relativity. It looks terrible next to They Live By Night, but beside the B movies of its time, maybe it's a masterpiece. The story, one of a poor musician who hitchhikes his way into a pot of boiling water, is actually pretty decent. I even got shivers up my spine when we learn that the hero has accidentally picked up a dame who seems to be capable of scratching a man to death. Yet there's really not much to the plot, and the movie barely survives its meager running time. When it was over I was left with the impression that I had seen an okay B noir. If I hadn't known about its legacy, I would forget it. But because this movie caught a break with time, I'll always remember it, not because of its quality, but for its luck.