Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style Paperback – 1 Mar 1993
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Provides plot summary and information on cast and credits for more than three hundred films, and discusses the qualities of film noir.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Some examples include:
In "Detour", the author states that "Haskell and Vera are both predatory and dying of fatal diseases", when in fact neither is dying until each of them die in separate accidents. And Haskell is not "mysteriously dead" when Roberts goes to put up the convertible top; instead, he dies when he falls out of the car and hits his head on a rock. The author states that Roberts is bitter at his fiancee for going off to California, and would like to punish her, when this is not the case at all, and in fact he is on his way to California to join her. The author also indulges in some silly pseudo-psychologial analysis of the movie that is way off-base, in my opinion.
In "Out of the Past", the author states that Kathie is driving when she and Jeff are killed, when actually Jeff is driving.
In "Double Indemnity", the author states that Neff plans to pin the murder of Phyllis on Zachette. That was his original intent. However, immediately after shooting Phyllis, he meets Zachette and tells him to go back to the good daughter Lola, who is in love with Zachette, "don't ask me why". At this point in the movie, he isn't trying to set Zachette up to take the fall, but rather trying to do the right thing for once.
In another part of the book (actually in a review of The Postman Always Rings Twice), the author states that Phyllis declared to Walter before he shot her that she loved him, but in another part he states that she "dies without love or pity". Arguably, Phyllis didn't mean it when she told Walter she loved him, but the author never makes this point, and after all, she didn't fire the second shot that could have killed him and saved herself.
There are other mistakes as well. This book could have been much better.
In summary, the book seems sloppily edited and/or fact-checked, and could have been much better.
I thumbed through the book for a sec or two and noticed MANY full technicolor movies, some of which, because of the content of the movie, I thought had absolutely no place in a film noir book, technicolor or not. The genre is not as wide open as this author believes it is. C'mon....Dirty Harry? Sorry, but that is NOT a film noir. I did not read the book, but whatever definition of film noir he is using, it CERTAINLY comes nowhere near MY definition of film noir. And according to Wikepedia.org, my definition is correct...color films have no place whatsoever according to the "purist" view. But I'm openminded, you know, it can be in color and it can be made after 1970....I don't have a huge list of criteria. I only asked that it include a few of my favorites, but when it didn't even meet my needs with the very first glance at the index, I pretty much discounted it as hogwash. Yeah, it has loads of obscure gumshoe B movies and if that's what you're interested it, go for it. But if you think all film noir movies should be in black & white and contain the Third Man, et al, pass it by.
The authors introduce the book by defining the uniquely American classic noir style and discussing some of its common characteristics. The Encyclopedia, itself, is 314 pages long and organized alphabetically by film title. The entry for each of the nearly 300 classic noir films included provides, wherever applicable: the film's title (including working and alternate titles), it's year of release, director, producer, screenwriter(s), director of photography, music director, persons responsible for special effects, sound, score, set decoration, costumes, make-up, the production designer and/or art director, assistant director, and editor. This is followed by a cast list -divided into main and "bit" cast, the date filming was completed, the date the film was released, running time, a plot summary, and a critical analysis by one of the book's 18 contributors. The plot and analysis do often contain spoilers, including endings and surprise twists, which is probably necessary to provide analysis and to define the film as "noir". The plot summaries are useful in refreshing my memory of films seen long ago, but I avoid reading the entire summary or commentary for films I have not yet seen.
"Film Noir" has 5 informative Appendices that explore topics and films not covered in the main section of the book. Appendix A is a lengthy essay explaining the rationale for excluding genre films from the film noir movement. It addresses The Gangster Film, The Western, The Period Film, and The Comedy separately, discussing films that reflect the noir style and what they share and do not share with film noir. Appendix B is a series of lists: A chronology of film noir, listed by year, 1927-1976. Directors listed alphabetically with their films. The same for Writers, Directors of Photography, Composers, Producers, Actors & Actresses, and Releasing Companies, each category with its own list. The criterion for inclusion in the lists is participation in at least 2 film noirs. Appendix C is a survey of "Other Studies in Film Noir". It comments on significant articles and books published on the subject of film noir, from 1955's seminal work by Borde & Chaumeton, "A Panorama of American Film Noir", through 1992, when the latest edition of this book was published. Appendix D discusses "Additional Films from the Classic Period" which were not included in the earlier editions of the book, because they were unavailable or overlooked. Here, 50 films are discussed according to their characteristic noir elements -femme fatale, alienation & despair, maniacs & mayhem, etc. Why these films were simply not included in the Encyclopedia section of this 3rd edition is a mystery to me. Appendix E is a lengthy discussion of Neo-Noir,1966-1992, including a filmography. In the back of the book, you will find a fairly comprehensive Index of films, names, book titles, and most references you might want to locate in "Film Noir".
Film Noir aficionados and students will find "An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style" endlessly fascinating and useful. The critical analyses are thoughtful. The authors' inclusions, exclusions, and definitions of classic noir are always well-articulated and thought-provoking. A single source that collects the production details for each film is a big time-saver.
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