Tom Neal as Al Roberts, hitchhiking nightclub pianist
Across the United States, especially Arizona to California, Spring 1945
Release Date: November 30, 1945
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Wardrobe Designer: Mona Barry
On the last day of #Noirvember, let’s also kick off #CarWeek with a look at one of the best examples of “road noir” with Detour, the enduring B-movie that saw a limited release 76 years ago today on November 30, 1945, just over two weeks after its initial premiere in Boston.
Martin M. Goldsmith worked with an uncredited Martin Mooney to adapt his own 1939 novel of the same name into a screenplay. Known as “the King of PRC” for his reputation as an efficient director working for the Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation, the Austrian-born Edgar G. Ulmer filmed Detour in less than a month in the summer of 1945, with a shoestring budget of less than $100,000; for comparison, this was less than 10% of the final budget for that year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Lost Weekend. (Perhaps overstating his efficiency, Ulmer would later cite that he made the movie in six days for $20,000.)
Detour was my gateway to film noir, thanks to a multi-pack DVD that I was gifted in high school that included many pulp classics like D.O.A., The Hitchhiker, Quicksand, and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, many of which—like Detour—were regularly available in budget-friendly home video releases as they had fallen into the public domain. Clocking in at just over an hour, the story may be simple, but it contains all the characteristic noir themes and stock characters, including the femme fatale (and how!) and the wrongly accused man whose questionable ethics and unfortunate circumstances launch him headway into increasingly dangerous circumstances.
Robert Shaw as Donald “Red” Grant, lethal SPECTRE assassin
Istanbul, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Robert Shaw set the Bond franchise standard as the dangerous Donald “Red” Grant in From Russia With Love, one of the most memorable antagonists in the series.
Grant is arguably the archetype for subsequent villains that followed his laconic, icy blond example like Vargas in Thunderball, Necros in The Living Daylights, and Stamper in Tomorrow Never Dies, though none could ever match Robert Shaw’s truly menacing presence on screen. Continue reading
George Lazenby as James Bond, British secret agent posing as heraldry expert Sir Hilary Bray
Swiss Alps, Christmas Eve 1969
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Release Date: December 18, 1969
Director: Peter R. Hunt
Tailor: Dimi Major
Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius
For the 00-7th of December, I’m reflecting on James Bond’s first Christmas season on-screen, which he spends in the Swiss Alps under the guise of Sir Hilary Bray (a different Hilary than the Hillary that has been so frequently in the news… although one could technically call his outfit here a “pantsuit” as well.)
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service sends James Bond in search of his long-time rival, megalomaniac Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas). In his inaugural and ultimately lone outing as 007, George Lazenby’s Bond spends a major portion of the film disguised as Sir Hilary Bray, a brilliant but banal “sable basilisk” from the College of Arms in London. Continue reading
Sean Connery as Colonel John Arbuthnot, British Indian Army commanding officer
The Orient Express, December 1935
Film: Murder on the Orient Express
Release Date: November 24, 1974
Director: Sidney Lumet
Costume Designer: Tony Walton
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is my grandma’s 95th birthday, which she will be celebrating by going to her 9-to-5 job (where she never misses a day!) and then joining our family for a dinner out on the town. One of my favorite memories with Grandma includes Saturday mornings in her kitchen, watching old mystery movies together. This tradition instilled in me a love for the genre as well as an appreciation for classic movies and stars.
Murder on the Orient Express was one of our favorite movies to watch together. Although helmed by the excellent Albert Finney as a charismatic and near-cartoonish Hercule Poirot, the film is also rightly a celebration of some of the most talented women from the silver screen including Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress from her work in this movie. Continue reading