Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen, a 2004 documentary featuring interviews with filmmakers Roger Corman, Joe Dante, and Wim Wenders and actor Ann Savage
  • New interview with film scholar Noah Isenberg, author of Edgar G. Ulmer: A Filmmaker at the Margins
  • New program about the restoration of Detour
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic and poet Robert Polito

Detour

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Edgar G. Ulmer
1945 | 69 Minutes | Licensor: Janus Films

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #966
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: March 19, 2019
Review Date: March 17, 2019

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

From Poverty Row came a movie that, perhaps more than any other, epitomizes the dark fatalism at the heart of film noir. As he hitchhikes his way from New York to Los Angeles, a down-on-his-luck nightclub pianist (Tom Neal) finds himself with a dead body on his hands and nowhere to run—a waking nightmare that goes from bad to worse when he picks up the most vicious femme fatale in cinema history, Ann Savage’s snarling, monstrously conniving drifter Vera. Working with no-name stars on a bargain-basement budget, B auteur Edgar G. Ulmer turned threadbare production values and seedy, low-rent atmosphere into indelible pulp poetry. Long unavailable in a format in which its hard-boiled beauty could be fully appreciated, Detour haunts anew in its first major restoration.


PICTURE

Previously stuck in public domain hell and receiving awful home video release after awful home video release, Edgar G. Ulmer’s influential noir Detour comes to Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection after receiving a substantial new 4K restoration undertaken by Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation. The complicated restoration (as explained in an included feature) came from multiple sources, including a 35mm nitrate composite print (with burned in French and Flemish subtitles but was otherwise the best-looking source and more than likely printed directly from the original negative) and a 35mm safety duplicate picture negative. A 35mm safety composite print was used to fill in a scene missing from the other prints. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition encode.

The end product is really nothing short of a miracle. Anybody who has seen the film previously on any of the public domain home video editions out there know what a hot mess the image was for this film. Soft and unfocussed, lacking detail, usually blown out, and just littered with all sorts of garbage, it was painful to watch and the wonderful photography (despite the obvious budget limitations) was just lost. All of that has been remedied here. The primary print used looks incredible, always sharp and in focus, delivering an astonishing level of detail. This is bet shown off in the introduction of Ann Savage’s Vera and her sweater. This has always looked a flat white previously but now you can make the fine textures and even the threading in it. It looks incredible! The details in the desert backdrops of a few sequences look spectacular as well, and when the rain storm breaks out during one of the film’s central sequences you can even make out the individual rain drops. This all just blew me away. Contrast is so much better, with rich deep blacks, nice whites (that aren’t blown out) and wonderful gray levels that smoothly transition, giving a nice photographic quality. All of those dark “noirish” shots and their rich shadows look gorgeous. Film grain is there but not heavy at all; I was surprised by how fine it actually was, and it’s rendered perfectly. I really can’t get over how film-like this final image looks.

The digital encode and then the digital aspects of the restoration itself are also all solid. For the restoration itself techniques had to be employed to remove burned in subtitles from the primary source print, which was apparently the best quality source the restoration team could find. This included making a composite image between their two best available prints and then “digitally painting” the subtitles out. You will never notice this was done. There are no obvious digital anomalies or any sort throughout the entire film. And as to the encode it’s perfect, no noise or artifacts to note, not even during the foggier shots (a cost cutting method to hide that there were no sets), which look clean and smooth. This looks like a film.

The restoration has also removed most signs of damage: a few moments can look a bit dupey or a bit grainier but they don’t stand out too much. Overall this is a stunning presentation and it certainly exceeded all of my expectations.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

I was also surprised by the audio for the film here, which has also never sounded that great. The lossless PCM 1.0 mono presentation is clear, dialogue being far easier to hear now. There’s some decent fidelity to the track, and the bits of music in the film manage to reach notable highs without becoming edgy or distorted. I didn’t notice any pops or drops, though there is faint background noise, which is not too surprising considering the age of the film. It does sound surprisingly good.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

I’m a bit surprised at how light this edition ends up feeling (the film is highly regarded by filmmakers and various academics), though I suspect that the film’s public domain status may have held Criterion back a bit. Still, there are a handful of good supplements, including a 75-minute documentary on the film’s director, called Edgar G. Ulmer: The Man Off-Screen and made in 2004. Featuring interviews with various biographers, historians, academics, and other filmmakers, including Peter Bogdanovich (who did an audio interview with Ulmer from which some samples are played throughout), Wim Wenders, Roger Corman, Joe Danta, and John Landis. A few actors that worked with Ulmer show up as well, including Jon Saxon, William Schallert, and Ann Savage. The documentary offers a portrait of a filmmaker who just wanted to make a big Hollywood film but was labeled a cheapy B-movie filmmaker and he could never really get out of it. In turn he would take material that was not very good and create something memorable and ambitious out of it, basically “making chicken salad out of chicken shit” as one filmmaker says in the documentary. It also goes over his fear of his work being lost and forgotten and how his daughter, Arianné Ulmer Cipes, has worked to preserve the films as best she can. The documentary feels to wander a bit early on and doesn’t find its footing at first, but then it becomes a loving portrait of the filmmaker and his work.

Noah Isenberg next provides a 21-minute interview for this edition, talking about Ulmer’s career early on (from People on Sunday and onwards) and then looks at how Ulmer was able to work around his limited budgets and points out the large number of mistakes and continuity issues in Detour. Following this is a rather fascinating 11-minute interview with director of the Film Academy Archive, Mike Pogorzelski, and film preservations Heather Linville, about the lengthy and exhaustive restoration of the film, explaining the long process in locating viable prints and how they were able to digitally remove the subtitles, with a number of samples to demonstrate. Just unbelievable what can be done now with digital technology.

The disc then closes with the Janus’ re-release trailer and the edition also comes with a booklet with a lengthy essay by critic and poet Robert Polito. This is pretty much a love letter to the film and Ulmer’s genius at making the most with what little he had (he also argues that the film was more than likely made in-camera, Ulmer having the whole made out in his head). He also gets into details about the production and its costs. Polito’s essay fills in some of the gaps of the disc’s features with his analysis of what makes the film works while also providing more details about the production (I assume there was very little about it because at one point during the documentary Cipes is pretty sure the production studio was committing some sort of fraud so production notes were sketchy at best). It was a nice surprise to get such a lengthy booklet and I found it to be an engaging read.

It still feels a bit light but the material is still engaging, with the booklet being an especially strong inclusion.

7/10

CLOSING

Not a jam-packed special edition disappointingly, but the film finally receives the stunning A/V presentation it so desperately needed. The film looks amazing.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca