A Recipe for Quick and Dirty Noir

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Mar 26, 2019


Austrian émigré Edgar G. Ulmer may not have become a widely celebrated figure during his lifetime the way his compatriot Billy Wilder did, but his career was nonetheless a marvel of persistence and resourcefulness. By the late 1930s, the director, who enjoyed a brief stint at Universal Pictures, was operating on the sidelines of the industry, and his 1945 Detour shows off the power of his artistry under the scrappiest of conditions. A fatalistic tale of a down-and-out pianist who finds nothing but bad luck and the ever-looming specter of criminality on the road, the film suggests Ulmer’s own feelings of having been marginalized as an artist, while also serving as a testament to his ability to craft a masterpiece with a very tight shooting schedule and a tiny budget. In a new interview on our recently released edition, scholar Noah Isenberg details the director’s rocky road through (and beyond) Hollywood, and how the challenges he faced as a B-movie director prepared him for the most influential work of his career. Watch the above excerpt to see just how Ulmer was able to cut corners and make it all happen.