The Criterion Collection - March 2019 - New Releases
This March, The Criterion Collection will be adding five exceptional films to its collection. Included in the new entries (in no particular order) is Wanda, a landmark of American cinema, Detour, a gut wrenching Film Noir, Japón, an existential Mexican journey, I Wanna Hold Your Hand is a nostalgic tip to the Beatles, and finally, The Kid Brother, an elaborately inventive Buster Keaton silent comedy. Each exceptional film is making its Blu-ray debut in long-awaited restorations. Personally, I'm particularly excited about Edgar G. Ulmer's Detour, to which I was introduced when I was in college.
Detour is a movie that, perhaps more than any other, epitomizes the dark fatalism at the heart of Film Noir. The story is about a down-on-his luck guy played by "B" movie actor, Tom Neal (Crime, Inc., Apache Chief). He's a hitchhiker making his way from New York to Los Angeles, when he finds himself with a dead body on his hands, as one does in a Noir. Neal becomes stuck in a waking nightmare, that goes from bad to worse when he picks up the most vicious femme fatale in cinema history, Vera, played by Ann Savage (What a Woman!, Apology for Murder). She's a snarling, monstrously conniving drifter who's a monster who conniving, snarls her way into Neal's world. Her performance is consider to be one of the best in all of Film Noirs in the history of the genre.
The bargain-basement film has no-name stares in a production with a nonexistent budget. "B" auteur, Ulmer (The Black Cat, Her Sister's Secret) turns a threadbare production with a seedy, low-rent atmosphere, into an enduring example of pulp poetry. This is the kind of film that focuses on what could possibly go wrong, and then makes everything worse with every move of the main. Long unavailable in a format in which its hard-boiled beauty could be fully appreciated, Detour haunts anew in its first major restoration.
The special edition features a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. There's also a documentary on the director, Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen, the trailer of the film, plus an essay by critic and poet Robert Polito. featuring interviews with filmmakers Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Wim Wenders, and leading lady, Ann Savage. Also included, is a new interview with film scholar Noah Isenberg, author of "Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins". The extra specials continue with a new program about the restoration of Detour. These are impressive extras that add to the experience of watching one of the best, and I mean the best, Noir Films ever produced.
I remember when I saw Detour many years ago as a freshman at a Junior college. It left a strong impression on me. An impression that shaped my appreciation for the darker shades of cinema. I had never heard the term "Noir" before, but I would base my understanding from that moment forward on the story, and compositional elements featured in Detour. This included the chiaroscuro lighting, the frustrated male, and the femme fatal. It truly was a game changer to the world of "B" films. And the world of cinema in general. I can only imagine the effect it will have on the many fans of this unique film. I envy everyone who is seeing this film for the first time. They will never have a visual and emotional experience with cinema like this ever again.