Over a six-week period at the end of World War II, French cinema audiences saw a flood of American films. All were crime movies, mostly involving murder. French critics applied the term film noir
to these, and it stuck. Examples include The Maltese Falcon
and Murder, My Sweet
. Since then, of course, the academic definition of this term has been in much dispute, including, but not limited to, when the first and last film was produced. Keaney, a film noir fan, briefly addresses these controversies, but as a true fan he would rather leave the arguments to professors and collect and enjoy the movies even if they fall outside somebody's definition.
The result is this work, a filmography of more than 700 movies released from 1940 to 1959. Each entry includes a cast and crew list; film noir type (for example, "Blackmail," "Femme Fatale") and themes ("greed, lust, guilt, fatalism"); a one- to five-star rating; and a synopsis and brief examination written in an easy, familiar style that serves to inform and entertain. Keaney is not a blind fan, as he does recognize the faults and problems with the films he includes. The features he appends to most entries add interest. One feature highlights "Memorable Noir Moment(s)." For example, for The Maltese Falcon (1941) he notes: "Psychotic gunman [Elisha] Cook, fed up with Bogey's [Humphrey Bogart] lack of respect, warns him, 'Keep on ridin' me, they're gonna be picking lead out of your liver.'" He also identifies "Familiar Faces from Television," cluing viewers into early appearances of Star Trek's Dr. McCoy or F Troop's Sgt. O'Rourke. The work is completed by lists of films by director, type, and year of release; a collector's guide; and a very useful annotated bibliography.
As a popular film reference resource, this is a worthy addition to public libraries, and even specialized or research libraries might be interested in it for the filmography alone. RBB
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