Eddie Muller: The Czar of Noir Steps from the Shadows (NF 2010) John Stanley
Creatures at Large/Star66 Productions/Film Noir Foundation (0:58)
I am an unapologetic Eddie Muller fan. My first encounter with him was listening to his commentary on the Fox Film Noir DVD of Road House (1948) several years ago. Road House was a film I didn’t initially think was that good, but after listening to Muller’s commentary, I learned how wrong I was. It also became clear after about 30 seconds that this guy knows his film noir inside and out. I began to pick up other DVDs containing Muller commentaries, whether I’d seen them before or not. Watching those films and listening to those commentaries is like going to Film Noir University. (You can find a list of Eddie Muller commentaries here, although it’s not an up-to-date list.)
Since that time, I’ve not only listened to several Muller commentaries and interviews, I’ve also met the guy twice and heard him speak at two Noir City festivals. So when I noticed this DVD at Noir City 14 in San Francisco earlier this year, I couldn’t resist it. The bulk of the disc is an hour-long look at the basics of film noir with Eddie Muller and journalist John Stanley. Muller and Stanley cover quite a bit of material in under an hour: defining film noir, exploring its history and most pivotal films, the Noir City festivals, film preservation, and much more.
For anyone just beginning to explore the wonders of film noir, this documentary is a great “starter kit” as Muller and Stanley touch on such classics as The Maltese Falcon, Thieves’ Highway, Gilda, and more, including clips from these films and others. It’s clear these guys are passionate about film noir so it’s certainly understandable when their voices frequently overlap in their excitement about the subject at hand. I almost wish the film had gone on longer, but in some ways, The Czar of Noir Steps from the Shadows is an appetizer. The main course is a lifetime of watching, discussing and mainly enjoying the wonders of film noir.
Many noir fans may not be aware that the Czar of Noir is also a director. One of Muller’s short films, The Grand Inquisitor (2008) is included as well as a making-of film. Although only a 21-minute film, The Grand Inquisitor is a fully-realized story of a young woman named Lulu (Leah Dashe) who confronts an elderly woman (Marsha Hunt), believing that the woman’s deceased husband was the Zodiac killer. Marsha Hunt starred in the film noir Raw Deal (1948) and here, at age 91, she’s still got what it takes. The Grand Inquisitor is a very effective short film that almost makes you wish Muller could devote more time to filmmaking. Fans of film noir should not hesitate to pick up this DVD.
Photos: David M. Allen ©2007