Ann Savage, 1940s uber femme fatale, passed away on Christmas day at age 87.
Last seen playing “Mother” in Guy Maddin’s “My Winnipeg,” casting that was halfway between a cinephile in-joke and the perfect measure of Maddin’s favorite Freudian themes, Savage was probably best known for her role in Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1945 “Detour.” A cultish B-movie that was shot in six days, “Detour” is burdened with obvious budget constraints, technical mistakes and outlandish characterizations, all of which somehow magically work in its favor to make it an unforgettable 68-minute noir landmark. Tom Neal plays Al Roberts, a piano player who blames his series of ever more questionable ethical choices on sheer bad luck, inevitabilities, things out of his hands entirely — he’s doling out the voiceover, so it’s his privilege — as he tries to make his way to Sue, the sweet blond girl waiting for him in California, but ends up instead with Vera, who “looked like she’d just been thrown off the crummiest freight train in the world.” As played by Savage and seen via Neal’s unreliable narrator, Vera’s like a demon summoned by Al’s guilty conscience. The film’s up on Archive.org — you can watch it online for free here.
[Photo: “Detour,” Producers Releasing Corporation, 1945]