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on May 26, 2002
A book for the film noir afficianado, more so than the noir novice. It's breezy text is far more useful for reminiscing than acquainting oneself with the world of film noir. The breadth of this book is amazing, amittedly-many films are covered from popular items to obscure masterpieces. "Covered" is a relative term ... we read snippets of "behind-the-scenes" info and some interesting historical stuff that adds context to some of the films, but none of them are definitively summarized. Just quickly swept through to keep the pace as jaunty as a Sam Spade voice-over. (This seems cute at first... wears a little thin around four chapters in. Especially the flogging of the "Dark City" structure of the book.) The author is obviously truly in love with the smokey world of film noir... but this doesn't amount to a book you can read cover-to-cover. Rather, what we have here is a nice coffee table book for noir hipsters. A great addition to any cool restaurant or coffee shop also... what with the many excellent pictures of gritty and glamorous noir scenes. Just look elsewhere if you're seeking to educate yourself.
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on June 3, 2000
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.
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on August 17, 2000
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.
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on April 24, 2000
Written in a style that recalls Kenneth Anger's "Hollywood Babylon," (not such a bad model, given the subject matter), this book is a delectable traversal of the realm of film noir. Perhaps its most valuable role is as a filmography of those gritty, postwar movies which are becoming harder and harder to locate (Blockbuster and other big chains have no use for them, and many are unavailable for purchase -- or prohibitively expensive -- on videotape.) In addition, Muller gives thumbnail bios of many of the legendary noir stars, like the great Marie Windsor (why she never made it bigger, despite a toothsome role in Kubrick's "The Killing," is one of noir's enduring mysteries), Gloria Grahame, Lawrence Tierney, Lizabeth Scott, Charles McGraw. Quibbles? They're inevitable in any book of opinion like this, but I question why the insolently insinuating woman's-prison picture, John Cromwell's 1950 "Caged," is relegated to a parenthesis, while a second feature shabby even by B-movie standards, "Stranger on the Third Floor," gets a mash note. (Nor do I think that a late homage like "Chinatown" can be legitimately considered noir.) Nonetheless, the black-and-white photos are stunners, and Muller's love of the dark celluloid city is entrancing.
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on February 26, 2001
Eddie Muller has written a superb book on film noir that is as dark and funny and tough as the films he wrties about. Dark City truly does explore the Lost World of Film Noir in a way that makes the entire genre come alive. This is the best noir book I have ever read and it should be effective and fascinating reader for almost anyone, whether they are used to exploring the Dark City or are just thinking of moving there. His analysis of particular films and stars is brilliant and will keep the reader going back and forth to the video store to keep up with the author and this funny, bleak world. I eagerly await Eddie Muller's book on women in noir and a chance to return once again to the Dark City.
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on January 9, 2000
Eddie Muller's Dark City is a must for any lover of Film Noir! Who can resist a book with such chapter headings as "Sinister Heights," "Blind Alley," and (my favorite) "Vixenville." Eddie Muller has advoided the pitfall of Nicholas Christophers's "Somewhere in the Night" in fashioning a prose, while not only witty, has great pace and never stalls into leaden analysis. Muller also provides small bios of noir icons as Robert Mitchum, and Lizabeth Scott among others.
He also put a great deal of care into the design of the book and the movie stills.This book was a real treat and I can't wait to read the author's next book.
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on January 8, 2002
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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on April 7, 2003
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.
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on January 6, 2001
More for the NOIR novice than a buff, 'DARK CITY' is a pretty informative read nonetheless. Profusely illustrated, loaded with tart slang, and interested in showcasing forgotten genre entries, this book is a perfect tool for the student just beginning to discover NOIR. As for us hardcore NOIR addicts,it's just a fun and handy scrapbook of pictures and synopses.
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on April 27, 1999
Engagingly designed with hundreds of gripping film stills and an eight-page mini-movie lobby of full-color posters, Dark City: the Lost World of Film Noir is a solid and entertaining introduction to the film genre that darkly offset the atomic-age cultural flashpoint of America in the mid-Twentieth Century.
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