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The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir Paperback – November 25, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Martin Jackson, Cineaste
“Wonderfully readable: Hirsch is clear, knowledgeable, and concise….[The Dark Side of the Screen] is a visual as well as literary pleasure.”

Philip French, The Observer (London)
“There has been no extended work as good as Foster Hirsch’s The Dark Side of the Screen, a well-written, imaginatively illustrated book that sees the brief, true heyday as between Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) and his Sunset Boulevard (1950), but looks at the prelude and the aftermath, and sets the genre in its larger social and cultural context.”

Skyscraper, Spring 2009
“An important examination of what film noir is…The 264-page treatise is not a review source; rather, Hirsch’s academic work delves deeply with a scholarly but not dry approach.”

About the Author

Foster Hirsch, a professor of Film at Brooklyn College, is the author of sixteen books on film and theater, including Detours and Lost Highways: A Map of Neo-Noir; Love, Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life: The Films of Woody Allen; and Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King. He lives in New York.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 2nd edition (November 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306817721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306817724
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Markham on November 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hirsch's brilliant analysis of the antecedents, key period and legacy of noir remains perhaps the finest single work on the subject. Not as funny or entertaining as Eddie Muller's 'Dark City', but a major work that pre-dates many inferior later studies. Especially notable is Hirsch's use of stills, his choice of key scenes (e.g. Panic in the Streets, the Phenix City Story, Scarlet Street) skilfully differentiates between studio shot film noirs and pseudo-documentary/location filmed noirs.
Highly recommended for serious lovers of the genre (not room enough here to debate whether film noir is a genre or not!) and ranks, for me, alongside Paul Schrader's legendary 'Notes on Film Noir' essay (1972) as the single most important piece of work on the subject.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Hayes on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is the best of several I have read recently on film noir. It strikes the right balance between being thorough and accessible; not nearly as dry and academic as some others. One of the main elements of noir is its distinctive visual style, and this book has dozens of excellent photographic stills, which enable the reader to understand the style in a way that text descriptions could never duplicate. The author does an excellent job of placing noir in its historical context, without assuming the reader has prior knowledge of German Expressionism, hard-boiled fiction or any other influence. The book ends with a list of 120 or so classic noirs; this alone is worth the price of the book. I have seen approximately one-half of the movies on his list and every single one has been excellent. For anyone interested in gazing into "The Crazy Mirror," this is the place to start.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
First published in 1981, "The Dark Side of the Screen" was among the first books in English on the subject of film noir. Author Foster Hirsch revisits that time before film noir was a fashionable subject in his introduction to this 2001 edition. More than 2 decades after its publication, "The Dark Side of the Screen" is still a solid introduction to film noir history, although it lacks discussion of the neo-noir films that have been made since its publication and has not been influenced by more recent theories. If you are new to classic film noir, this book is not a bad place to start. It is very readable, discusses or mentions over 100 films, and the large format (8.5"x11") allows for over 180 black-and-white photographs. "The Dark Side of the Screen" contains basic information on the film noir movement that you are likely to find in any good introductory text, so it's not intended for those already well-versed in the subject.

In eight chapters, Hirsch follows the film noir movement through its classic period, 1941 to the late 1950s, until its self-conscious revival in the 1970s. "The Dark Side of the Screen" starts out with an overview of typical noir themes and summary of the style's evolution, then takes a step back in time to film noir's sources, obvious and alleged, in American hard-boiled crime literature, German Expressionist art, and Italian Neo-Realist cinema. Hirsch summarizes noir's narrative and visual style before discussing key directors, mainly German émigrés and Americans, and many of the important names among film noir actors, with analysis of the typical film noir acting style. The book concludes with a useful, though occasionally forced, attempt to categorize film noir's basic narrative patterns and central figures and a brief discussion of neo-noir.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be a concise and relevant exploration of the history, style and themes of film noir. It was immensely helpful as a research source for an essay I did on noir styles and themes. With clear explanations and pictorial examples it bestowed upon me a clear and precise understanding of the genre.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Borowy26 VINE VOICE on September 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an impressive book of film criticism by a scholar who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but most importantly capable of writing in accessible prose that does not require a semester long course in film studies to understand. Foster Hirsch's book has withstood the test of time and it remains relevant almost three decades after its initial publication.

There are a minimum number of minor errors in the text, (usually simple transpositions of the names of cast and crew members), but it must be remembered that Professor Hirsch completed his original manuscript before films were widely available on videotape for home viewing. Hirsch actually had to seek out hundreds of film titles to view in a screening room and write his impressions from memory afterwards. I especially appreciated Hirsch's editorial decision to include ample material on the novelists and short story writers who provided much of the literature that gave rise to the film noir cycle.

The latest edition of the book includes an afterword added by the author which revisits older topics, examines film titles omitted from the original book and delves into the rise of the "Neo-noir" genre of filmmaking.

I highly recommend this book for any film noir enthusiast. I had the good fortune to meet Foster Hirsch at a recently concluded film festival where he spoke and I had the opportunity to converse with him. Reading the high quality essays contained in this book is the next best thing.
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