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Dark City: Lost World of Film Noir [Paperback]

Eddie Muller
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jun 1998
Weaving together reproduced images and a gritty wise-cracking commentary that pulls no punches. This book recreates the seedy, single-streetlight world of Hammett and Chandler. From "Double Indemnity" to "Chinatown", Bogart to Ladd, delivering the goods - straight, no chaser.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books Ltd (19 Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852869844
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852869847
  • Product Dimensions: 25.2 x 20.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 681,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only book on film noir you will ever need. 22 Jan 2007
I was given this as a present a few years ago and have read it at least once every three months since. It is packed with information on the actors, directors, writers and the plot of some of the greatest and some of the lesser known noirs. What Eddie Muller doesn't know about noir isn't worth knowing.

The pictures are plentiful and gorgeous to look at and he writes with an easy,hip and cool manner but in no way is it pretentious. There are lots of books out there on the subject but most are dry, overly analytical and quite frankly, boring. Every time I read this I find new information on an actor or film that I hadn't noticed before and he sets out the films in their social and political contexts, briefly, as well. There is also lots of information on the noir authors without whom there wouldn't have been the films.

There is a very helpful bibliography and a colour section of some of the fabulous film posters, so much better than the head shots of today. Glorious book, in fact I'm going to buy another copy so I can remove the pictures and frame them. But be warned, it's addictive. Amazon and US Amazon have made a lot of money from me as every time I read this I go straight to them to buy the films! Eddies other books are worth checking out as well especially his enormous hardback of 'The Art of Noir', it's filled with the posters of the time and 'Dark City Dames - The Wicked Women of Film Noir'. Another good book is Arthur Lyons 'Death on the Cheap - The Lost 'B' Movies of Film Noir'. Buy this and you won't regret it, if you love noir you'll love this.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 27 Nov 2008
By Iceni
This is a highly entertaining book, with loads of film stills and images of 1940s film noir posters. The author talks about what makes the films so enjoyable- gorgeous stars, exciting plots, smart one-liners. Many books on film noir almost seem embarrassed by this side of the films - taking a very dry and academic approach, ignoring the charisma and joy of the films. Muller by contrast is infectiously enthusiastic.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate guide to film noir 12 Dec 2001
By Mrs. F. L. Marney VINE VOICE
If you love film noir and the great detective writers then you owe yourself this book. Let the author guide you down those mean streets with his intelligent and fascinating commentary, and get his insight into all those films you love. If you haven't discovered film noir yet, then get this book and treat yourself to copies of some of the best films ever made.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Fascinating Journey Through Classic Noir Film. 7 Aug 2004
By mirasreviews - Published on
"Dark City" is a journey through the world of classic film noir, from World War II to 1960, guided by pop culture critic Eddie Muller. This isn't a book of film theory, but a guided tour of this deliciously cynical genre that was the unique product of a disintegrating studio system, volatile politics, and simultaneous post-war disillusionment and hubris. "Dark City" is Muller's attempt to make these films vivid and irresistible for a new audience. In this, he succeeds. Throughout the book, he refers to "Dark City" as if it were a place to which we might travel to take in the stark scenery and odd inhabitants. By the time I finished this book, I felt as if it is. -A peculiar place born of circumstances long past, that is gloriously preserved in movies.

"Dark City" is divided into eleven chapters, each addressing a sub-genre of film noir. Truthfully, there would be a lot of overlap if you wanted to be strictly accurate in categorizing noirs. But "Dark City"'s organization is a very effective method of introducing the reader to these films by pointing out common themes. Notice that the chapter titles name figurative places located within Dark City: "Welcome to Dark City" is about crime dramas, "The Precinct" about films that feature law enforcement officers, "Hate Street" about murderous suburbanites, "Shamus Flats" about private detective films, "Vixenville" about femmes fatales, in "Blind Alley" the events of life are beyond human control, "The Psych Ward" features films that took place in V.A. hospitals, "Knockover Square" is about heist flicks, "Loser's Lane"'s characters are sociopaths, "Thieves' Highway" introduces us to noirs that make use of the nation's new interstate highway system. Each chapter describes 30-40 films, in varying degrees of detail. Some film descriptions are so thorough as to be spoilers, so be warned. Muller doesn't approach every chapter the same way. "Shamus Flats", for example, discusses the novelists on whose hard-boiled fiction much film noir was based: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane. "Hate Street" talks about some of the actresses who made names for themselves in this sub-genre: Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck. There is also a "Poster Gallery" that showcases 8 pages of classic noir poster art. And Muller's "Afterward" is perceptive and interesting. Muller places the demise of classic film noir in 1960, with the culture-shattering debut of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", instead of the traditional 1958, with "A Touch of Evil". I think this makes a lot of sense, and Muller presents a strong case for "Psycho" being classic noir's demise.

"Dark City" is aimed at the casual fan and noir buff, not the film student. It's very readable, lacks any real discussion of theory, and gives us just enough context to understand where the films' writers and directors were coming from, without more analysis than they might have given themselves. Muller's love for these films is infectious. Reader's are certain to discover some lost cinematic treasures in the pages of "Dark City", which they will thoroughly enjoy. Definitely recommended to fans of classic noir who are not yet connoisseurs.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sweet Smell of Noir 18 Aug 2000
By bruce horner - Published on
Lord knows film noir books are a dime a gross, but Eddie Muller's Dark City is one of the more entertaining and necessary to come out in many a year. Muller sucessfully walks a tightrope here between the overly academic, theory-mongering, insufferably highbrow type of book, and the shallow, campy, or nostalgia-drenched types at the other end of the spectrum, and he barely stumbles. Though he steadfastly refuses to take himself too seriously, his underlying devotion to the genre is evident throughout. Along with plenty of behind-the-scenes gossip he doesn't fail to provide solid descriptions and opinions of the movies in question, from such classics as The Maltese Falcon and Kiss of Death to semi-obscure gems like T-Men. As a film critic he has a "feet-on-the-ground" integrity and hits the bull's eye on most of the films he mentions (meaning I usually agree with him). He's particularly good on the caper-film subgenre. Asphalt Jungle, Crime Wave, and Kubrick's The Killing all get their rightful due, as does the career of Sterling Hayden. Indeed, one of the delights of Dark City is the engrossing profiles of various actors and actresses who made their mark on the genre, including Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Widmark, John Garfield, and the redoubtable Robert Ryan. Muller has a sharp eye for character actors as well.
The structure of the book is tongue-in-cheek; equating the entire nebulous noir genre with a metaphorical city (the 'dark city' of the title), he breaks down the various themes and subgenres into chapters with place-name titles, such as "Shamus Flats" for the detective movie, "Knockover Square" for the caper film, and so on. If this sounds groan-inducing, don't worry. He handles it well and turns it into great fun, mainly because there's substance in each chapter as well as kidding around. Muller in fact provides a valuable service in tracing the literary roots of much film noir to pre-war pulp fiction such as the 20's magazine Black Mask, and his profile of Cornell Woolrich is most welcome. Woolrich was a fount of paranoid pulp stories, and more of his tales were adapted to the big screen than anyone else's, yet he is far lesser known than Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, who are also discussed. Also, there are enough sumptuous black and white stills here to make the book a joy just to flip through. Too many film books don't have enough photos, but that's not a problem here, and the text gives full recognition of the essential role that cinematographers played in the impact of the movies. Film noir was very much a cinematographer's genre, after all, even if they didn't have much of a budget.
There's always some favorite that's left out of even the finest film book, and I looked in vain for a mention of Alexander Mackendrick's caustic The Sweet Smell of Success, perhaps the last great noir, but this is a minor quibble. Any book that deals so well with films such as Force of Evil, Out of the Past, and scores of others is allowed one or two oversights. If you're a longtime fan of film noir or a new convert, Eddie Muller's Dark City is well worth your time.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE book to own on film noir 7 April 2003
By Lara E. Fisher - Published on
This book is the next best thing to watching a film noir. Though not as comprehensive as Silver's Encylopedia of film noir, Dark City encapsulates the spirit of film noir like no other book out there. The visuals and layout meld nicely with the informative and well organized writing. If you want to truly understand the canon of film noir and not get bogged down by academic ponderings - this is the book for you.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark City Should Be On Every Coffee Table In America 4 Jun 2000
By Vincent Tesi - Published on
Eddie Muller's noir compilation, Dark City is one of the finest books ever written about American cinema. The pages are filled with descriptive images that embody the essence of the greatest chapter in Hollywood film making- noir. If jazz is America's cultural contribution to music,then American film noir stands as the pinnacle contribution to the medium of motion pictures. Muller's book, Dark City is an enlightening testament to the creative genius of directors, actors, actresses, and cinematographers associated with the creation of noir film making. Muller explores over one hundred of these dark films with interesting insights about the themes, scripts, lighting, and camera work that marked so many of them as classics. Muller cleverly divides the book's chapters into separate realms, where the danger of noir themes often thrived. The chapter "The Precinct" features expositions on Detective Story, Where The Sidewalk Ends, and On Dangerous Ground. "Shamus Flats", a section devoted to private investigators, critiques films such as: The Maltese Falcon and Out of the Past. These and other chapters are augmented with captivating black and white stills. Photographs of actors and actresses on lobby cards, movie posters, and frame shots adorn every page. What differentiates Dark City from other literary works written about cimema, is Muller's chilling and revelatory research on the private lives of the people marked by noir. In many instances the dangerous fiction of celluloid noir crossed into reality for many of its players and creators. Readers will absorb the mysterious details Muller exposes about noir stalwarts such as: Gene Tierney, Robert Micthum, Lizabeth Scott, Tom Neal, Ava Gardner, Dana Andrews, and Gloria Grahame to name just a few. Muller's writing style is witty, engaging, and stroked by a geniune infatuation for this mesmerizing cinematic art form. Any writer that describes Marie Windsor's bust as being able to "suppport a double run of pinochle" can pull up a lazy boy and a six pack for an all night noir feast with me anytime. Every noir enthusiast should own this exceptional book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OUTSTANDING! 8 Jan 2002
By gary s. hebda - Published on
If you like film noir,'re going to love "Dark City! Packed with a ton of information, Dark City will give any novice an excellnt overview of what's good, bad and indifferent when it comes to tough guy cinema! Especially rewarding was the author's bio's on the actors and actresses who dominated the genre! The black & white photos are a nice compliment to the editorial content! A nice, easy breezy read that gives you the essential "scoop" without belaboring the reader with the usual thematic density espoused by the so-called "experts"! Call me old-fashion,....but they just don't make movies like the ones described in this tome! Enjoy!
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