Driving in a Back Projection, or Forestalled by Film Noir
This chapter argues that rear-screen projection in Edgar Ulmer's Detour (1945) is just as critical to the film's audiovisual economy as voiceover and flashback. Not unlike the radiophonic “theater of the mind” projected by the 1940s noir sound track, rear-screen projection acts as a secondary screen for the protagonist's psyche. In Detour, this oneiric screen, in addition to mobilizing two of the dominant affective modalities of classic noir—claustrophobia and phantasmagoria—operates as a temporal signpost. The result is that even as Al Roberts (Tom Neal), driven by the romance of the open road, strikes out for California, the back-screen projection is a constant reminder that the past can rear up at any moment and dash his dreams.
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