Books on Movies – San Francisco Film Noir Edition

I want to take a brief break from reporting on January’s movies to talk about some books I picked up during my recent San Francisco trip. If you’re into movies (particularly film noir), I hope you’ll find something of interest here.


(books discussed are counter-clockwise from bottom right)

The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune – Stuart Galbraith IV (2002, Faber & Faber)

This is a volume I’ve been looking for at a reasonable price for years. For awhile, you could only purchase used copies of the book on Amazon or eBay, usually for $80 and up. Prices have dropped a bit, but when I saw this hardcover in excellent condition for $20, I jumped on it.

The book is something of a dual biography of Kurosawa and Mifune, a director/actor combo who made 16 films together. Galbraith examines not only their lives, but also behind-the-scenes information on their films and much more. Some reviewers complain that the book focuses more on the films rather than the men, but it seems any serious consideration of Kurosawa and his work (including work with Mifune) should start here.

Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir – Arthur Lyons (2000, Da Capo Press)

So many film noir movies were indeed made on-the-cheap, at least compared to other films from the 1940s and 50s, but this volume explores the history of how these movies were made, the Poverty Row studios that made many of them, and their eventual demise. About 100 pages of the book’s 200+ page count consist of a wonderful filmography of B noir films, many of them titles I’d never heard of. The back of the book also lists titles by year and by studio. I love all the Da Capo books I’ve gotten my hands on and this one looks like it’s another excellent entry in their catalog.

Crime Movies: An Illustrated History – Carlos Clarens (1980, Norton)

Kristina (from Speakeasy), in one of her excellent videos with Mike (from Mike’s Take on the Movies) calls this book “a socio-economic history of crime movies” with considerations on law enforcement, culture and history. Although you can find an updated version of this book from 1997, I decided to pick up this older edition since it stops with films from the mid-to-late 1970s, which is where my interest primarily lies. The photos alone are excellent, many of them iconic. I can’t wait to dive into this one.

San Francisco Noir: The City in Film Noir from 1940 to the Present – Nathaniel Rich (2005, The Little Bookroom)

When you’re at a film noir festival in San Francisco, you’re practically obligated to pick up this book. It’s a thin volume, but it explores the San Francisco locations of more than 40 film noir movies including The Maltese Falcon, Vertigo, Woman on the Run, The Conversation, Point Blank, and Dirty Harry.

Noir City Annual 8: The Best of NOIR CITY 2015 (2016) – The Film Noir Foundation

You can’t get this volume on Amazon, and even if you could, you should get it from the Film Noir Foundation anyway.  (This volume isn’t currently available on their website, but you can the 2014 edition.) These ladies and gentlemen are directly responsible for restoring and bringing to the world the lost films of film noir and deserve all the support we can give them. Buying these annuals is a great way to do that. I’m currently reading Noir City Annual 7 and can tell you that the level of writing, art direction and design (by Michael Kronenberg), research, and love of noir found in these volumes is stellar. If you love noir, you must get these annuals.

With the exception of the Noir City Annual, all of these books were purchased from Green Apple Books, a store I highly recommend. The staff is wonderful and the selection amazing.

Happy reading!


4 thoughts on “Books on Movies – San Francisco Film Noir Edition

  1. You’re welcome! I’ll probably read Death on the Cheap next. Have you read any of those Noir City annuals? Really nice stuff.


  2. Nice haul and thanks for the shoutout! Can’t wait to see what you think of these. I have Death on the Cheap too, nice guide to tons of the more obscure and more UK crime pictures. Very interested in the Kurosawa one.


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