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Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir Paperback – May 15, 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Of several recent books on film noir, this one is the least academic. Muller is clearly a fan and relishes the opportunity to hang out with a few of his favorite lost souls from what he calls Dark City. The book is organized around the city motif, with chapters devoted to various thematic neighborhoods, for example, "The Precinct" (cop flicks) and "Vixenville" (femme fatales). This metaphor seems a bit labored at times, and Muller's plot summaries tend to run on, but otherwise film noir fans will have plenty to enjoy here. The illustrations, mostly stills, are first rate, and the mix of biographical, historical, and critical material works well. Background on such vintage noir actors as Robert Ryan, Richard Widmark, and, of course, Robert Mitchum is usually fresh and pertinent, and the insider gossip about life in the studios adds some zip. Nicholas Christopher's Somewhere in the Night remains the best critical study, but this more-browsable volume provides an entertaining all-around introduction to the genre. Bill Ott


“The best book ever written on film noir.” ―Mystery Scene

“Eddie Muller seriously takes film noir not too seriously--just the right mix, and with great stills.” ―Paul Schrader

Dark City is a thoroughly enjoyable companion to the unique, sometimes twisted pleasures of film noir, from acknowledged classics like Out of the Past to lesser-known gems like Born to Kill and The Chase. In a genre where some see mostly fatalism and social critique, Eddie Muller also finds humor, eroticism, and the unfettered inventiveness of an extraordinary generation of directors and actors.” ―Geoffrey O'Brien, author of The Phantom Empire

“This ultimate companion to gritty black-and-white postwar classics reveals that the dark stars led desperate, nefarious lives both on-screen and off.” ―Details

“Even if you aren't a film buff, you'll probably find Dark City compelling. . . . Muller's plot summaries and insider accoutns of moviemaking are fitting companions to the brooding images that accompany them.” ―the Washington Post

“A pictorial anthology on the American existentialist crime movie . . . rich in background anecdotes and the argot of the genre.” ―San Francisco Examiner

“Dig it: Eddie Muller's Dark City is a righteous, rip-snorting riff on the ultimate cinematic genre--film noir. This book displays a salutary knowledge of the underpinnings of the genre; serves as a fabulous reference book; and most importantly, dishes the real life dirt on the freaks, geeks, commies, nymphos, hopheads, has-beens, red-baiters, and all-purpose fiends who made this genre great.” ―James Ellroy


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st St. Martin's ed edition (May 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312180764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312180768
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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.Read more ›
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