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Dark City: The Lost World Of Noir Book Review

“Dark City: The Lost World Of Film Noir” is a comprehensive look at the film genre.

No, this isn’t a book about the 1998 movie “Dark City.” Instead, it’s a comprehensive look at the film noir genre that was prevalent in the 40’s and 50’s. Originally published in 1998, this new revised and expanded edition provides even more written content from author Eddie Muller. In addition to containing film posters and stills to film noir classics like “Double Indemnity,” “Pickup On South Street,” The Killers,” “Touch Of Evil,” “Ace In The Hole,” “Sweet Smell Of Success,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Killing,” “White Heat,” and “Sunset Boulevard,” the book covers the history of the cinematic genre as well as the types of motion pictures within the genre. The book (which is divided into chapters) dives into the various film noir categories of criminal, police (or criminals on the run from the law), relationships gone sour, news outlets, private detectives, femme fatales, fate, morality, war veterans, mental health, heists, doomed loser criminals, prisoners, road movies, and Hollywood stories. Neo-noir (like “Chinatown”) is also touched upon here as well. Within these chapters are spotlights on genre mainstays that include John Garfield, Gloria Grahame, Joan Crawford, Ben Hecht, Robert Mitchum, Belita, Elizabeth Scott, Joan Harrison (a producer), Robert Ryan, Sterling Hayden,, Barbara Payton, Ida Lupino, Tom Neal, and Steve Cochran. The film “Desert Fury” also gets its own page. The book also contains a new author’s note, an intro, an afterword, bibliography and acknowledgements. 

Unlike other TCM books, this is not a movie list book. It’s also written in a rather unusual fashion in that it’s not your standard resource or academic book. Instead, Muller’s narrative comes across as a loving homage to the film noir genre itself. To me, this was a refreshing change of pace to the fact spouting cinema history books that tend to hit the shelves. It also showed just how knowledgeable and passionate about film noir Eddie Muller really is.

Of course, this book does take a deep dive into the film noir world via all of its conventions, films, and the cast and filmmaker staples of the genre such as Stanley Kubrick, Lauren Bacall, Alfred Hitchcock, Raymond Chandler, Burt Lancaster, Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Widmark, Humphrey Bogart. Everything you wanted to know about film noir but were afraid to ask is likely within these pages. I’d go as far as to say this is the ultimate book about that seedy underbelly genre that is beloved by film fans across the globe. Even longtime film fans are bound to learn tons of facts whether it be Lawrence Tierney’s criminal past, Stanley Kubrick and “The Killing” cinematographer being at odds making the movie, writer James M. Cain’s career, and tidbits about the relatively unsung author Dashiell Hammett. Readers are also bound to learn about lesser known titles like “Quicksand,” “High Wall,” “Side Street,” and “The Chase” that they will want to check out. Simply put, it’s a treasure trove of film noir goodness.

August 13, 2021 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , , , , ,

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