18 September, 2006







Watching Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 minimalist noir DETOUR always reminds me of just how much can be done with so little. A man, a woman and a telephone cord were Ulmer's tools, imparting a sense of Greek Tragedy to his B-scenario of a piano player on the long road to Hell.  The scene involves the kind of plan-sequence, a crazy pan shot going and in out of focus as it represents the delirium the protagonist, which anticipates the rack-focus aesthetic (or anti-aesthetic) of numerous post 1970 Jess Franco projects. Try watching it on a double bill with GEMIDOS DE PLACER (1981). Franco often talks of his debt to Robert Siodmak (who was the codirector with Ulmer of the 1930 City-Symphony, PEOPLE ON SUNDAY) but Ulmer, the workhorse of PRC who shot DETOUR in just a few days with pitiful resources, was a Poverty Row Expressionist has always seemed to me to the Hollywood director (along with Sam Newfield and Alan Dwan) whom one can most profitably compare Franco with.  I hope they never do a big-budget remake of DETOUR but Franco himself would have been the perfect director and lead (Jess is always the piano man) for my fantasy remake.

I had the chance to discuss film noir with Jess some time ago and found he was a fellow JIM THOMPSON enthusiast. Thompson (1906-1977) was an obscure crime novelist who connects with Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah and Orson Welles.  Jess told me that Welles talked with him about turning Thompson's disturbing novel  THE KILLER INSIDE ME (1952) into a film.  We'll be discussing Thomspon, Kubrick, Welles, Franco and the NOIR connection in the future. In the meatime read Robert Polito's excellent, Edgar Award winning Thompson bio SAVAGE ART (Vintage Books, 1996).


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