Noir City Annual 2015 – Eddie Muller, editor
Film Noir Foundation, 2016
Paperback, 271 pages
If you’ve ever watched one of Eddie Muller’s introductions on TCM’s Noir Alley (every Sunday at 10am EST, by the way) or FilmStruck, listened to one of his DVD commentaries, or heard him introduce a film in person, you know that Muller’s love of film noir is personal, passionate, and boundless. Now imagine a book filled with men and women just like Muller who share his passion for film noir. That’s what you get when you pick up any Noir City annual.
These annuals (the most recent 2016 edition, #9, was published earlier this year) consist of the best articles from the Noir City e-magazine, published quarterly by the Film Noir Foundation. You can get an entire year’s worth of great noir writing as well as wonderful photography and art by donating $20 or more to the Film Noir Foundation. As well as receiving the e-magazine each quarter, you’ll know that you’re helping to rescue and restore many great noir movies that are in danger of being lost forever.
Again, the annuals are a “best of” print publication of these e-magazine articles. So what are they like? I’ll talk about the contents of the 2015 annual, which I just read, although they all contain a similar format and are equally wonderful.
The annuals consist of essays (“’Til Death Do Us Part: Marriage in Film Noir,” “Motherflickers: The Menacing Matriarchs of Noir,” “In Defense of the Femme Fatale,” “Not Always Basic Black: The Noir Fashions of Edith Head,” and more), profiles (“Satan Met a Lady: In Her Work and Her Life, Thea von Harbou Plumbed the Darkness,” “Murder She Made: The Exceptional Career of Joan Harrison,” “A Light in the Dark: Ella Raines and Film Noir’s Working Girls,” etc.) appreciations (which may touch on actors, directors, writers, musicians, or may examine silent noir, neo-noir, and more), interviews, Book vs. Film, Noir at Home (latest DVD/Blu-ray releases), and reviews (movies in theaters).
And let me tell you: all of these writers are stellar. Not just good, stellar. In addition to Muller, contributors include crime writer Christa Faust (Choke Hold, Money Shot), Jake Hinkson (The Deepening Shade), Steve Kronenberg (The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy), Kim Morgan (SunsetGun.com), Imogen Sara Smith (In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City), comics writer and novelist Duane Swiercynski (Revolver), and many, many others. Plus I dare you to find a publication that can match the layout and art design of Michael Kronenberg. Simply stunning.
Each time I read one of these annuals, I come away with huge lists of films, actors, directors, and cinematographers to explore. Although the majority of the articles deal with the classic noir era, the writers don’t ignore more current noir and neo-noir films as well as pre-noir silent films that are, as Muller likes to call them, “noir-stained.” Reading a Noir City annual is like being in a room filled with people who love talking about film noir. If you love noir, it’s a room you’ll never want to leave. But even if you’re a casual fan, you’ll find plenty of writing that’s so good you may turn into a hard-case noir fan yourself.
These annuals are treasures, but be warned: they sell out fast. You can find them on Amazon and eBay, but the best way to purchase them is either from Noir City or, if you can manage it, by finding them at a Noir City festival (information on upcoming festivals here).
This review is part of my participation in the Summer Reading Challenge at Out of the Past: A Classic Film Blog.