Edgar G. Ulmer
A Filmmaker at the margins
Edgar G. Ulmer is perhaps best known today for Detour, considered by many to be the epitome of a certain noir style that transcends its B-list origins. But in his lifetime he never achieved the celebrity of his fellow Austrian and German émigré directors—Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Fred Zinnemann, and Robert Siodmak. Despite early work with Max Reinhardt and F. W. Murnau, his auspicious debut with Siodmak on their celebrated Weimar classic People on Sunday, and the success of films like Detour and Ruthless, Ulmer spent most of his career as an itinerant filmmaker earning modest paychecks for films that have either been overlooked or forgotten.
In this fascinating and well-researched account of a career spent on the margins of Hollywood, Noah Isenberg provides the little-known details of Ulmer’s personal life and a thorough analysis of his wide-ranging, eclectic films—features aimed at minority audiences, horror and sci-fi flicks, genre pictures made in the U.S. and abroad. Isenberg shows that Ulmer’s unconventional path was in many ways more typical than that of his more famous colleagues. As he follows the twists and turns of Ulmer’s fortunes, Isenberg also conveys a new understanding of low-budget filmmaking in the studio era and beyond.