Gun Crazy: The Origins of American Outlaw Cinema (2015) Eddie Muller


Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema (2015) Eddie Muller
Black Pool Productions
Trade paperback, 192 pages
ISBN 9780692260265

The Saturday Evening Post may just possibly be the unlikeliest place to give birth to one of the all-time classics of film noir, but that’s where Eddie Muller’s Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema begins.

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Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (1990/2013) Stephen Rebello

hitchold hitchnew

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho (1990/2013 reissue) Stephen Rebello
Soft Skull Press
Trade paperback, 288 pages
ISBN 9781593765118

Originally published in 1990 (reissued to coincide with the release of the 2013 film Hitchcock), Rebello’s treatment of the making of Psycho (1960) succeeds in delivering an amazing amount of the behind-the-scenes stories of the film, but offers only a glimpse into the mind of Hitchcock himself. Of course to expect a complete account of Hitchcock in a 288-page book primarily devoted to one work would be foolhardy. Even if we had an Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of __________ book for every movie the director made, I’m still not sure we would really know the man. But perhaps the best way to know the director is to examine him through the films he made, and on that basis alone, Rebello’s work is essential reading.

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Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (1998) Eddie Muller


Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (1998) Eddie Muller
St. Martin’s Griffin
Trade Paperback, 206 pages
ISBN 0312180764

Just say the name Eddie Muller and you’ve got my undivided attention. I think my first contact with Muller’s name was from listening to one of his DVD commentaries (which you can find here). Later I learned that he has written several books (fiction and non-fiction) on noir, so I sought out Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir and was not disappointed in the least.

Dark City stands both as a great introduction to film noir and an excellent resource for those who are already noir fans. Muller’s writing style recalls the hard-boiled prose style of Cain, Hammett, Chandler and many others, which makes the book all the more enjoyable, but the main selling points are Muller’s knowledge of noir and how he conveys it.

Novelist James Ellroy didn’t call Muller “The Czar of Noir” for nothing. Muller knows this stuff inside and out, backwards, sideways, through a strainer, meat grinder, you name it. Rather than presenting us with a long, boring history of noir, Muller jumps right in, giving readers the essential aspects of noir in chapters such as “The Precinct,” “Shamus Flats,” “Vixenville,” “Blind Alley,” “The Psych Ward,” and more. Each chapter includes what makes each theme important to noir and discusses films which represent those themes.

Yet knowing about the films means little without an examination of the times and conditions under which they were made and this is where Muller outdoes himself. Dark City is a study of American culture and life in the 1940s and 50s as well as a look at it’s noir offerings. Frequent excursions about the stars, directors, writers, and cinematographers aren’t really excursions at all, but rather essential information in helping us understand what makes film noir. And the photos? Stunning. Very highly recommended.



I’m following this book with another from Muller, which I hope to start today, the recently released Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema. This book is not available on Amazon, but you can order it exclusively from Black Pool Productions.

(Photos: Eddie Muller)

Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir (2005) Sheri Chinen Biesen


Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir (2005) Sheri Chinen Biesen
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Paperback, 243 pages
Photos, notes, index
ISBN 9780801882180

I’ve only read a few books on film noir and most of those have been overviews, giving readers information on several of the most prominent characteristics, themes, directors, styles of cinematography, budgets and more. While all those books have proved helpful in understanding this group of films I love so much, none of them have really explained the hows and whys of film noir. Most of them claim that film noir grew out of post-WWII America, but Sheri Chinen Biesen proves otherwise.

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Why I Love Film Noir

(If you’re not familiar with the term film noir, this essay from is worth reading.)


The other night I was watching The Big Combo (1955), an excellent film noir directed by Joseph H. Lewis. Although it was released near the end of film noir’s heyday, it’s a hard-hitting tale about a police lieutenant (Cornel Wilde, far right) obsessed with bringing down a local crime boss called Mr. Brown (Richard Conte, seated). The lieutenant wants to do the right thing, but does he want to bring down the crime boss because he’s seeking justice, or is it something personal? We see Mr. Brown and his hired thugs wanting something out of life – money, respect, power – things that aren’t necessarily bad things in and of themselves, but taken too far, they become not only problematic, they become things that can get you killed.

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Hollywood Frame by Frame (2014) Karina Longworth


Hollywood Frame by Frame: The Unseen Silver Screen in Contact Sheets, 1951-1997 (2014) Karina Longworth
Princeton Architectural Press
Hardcover, 208 pages
Footnotes, index, photo credits, acknowledgments
ISBN 9781616892593

Hollywood Frame by Frame chronicles a time past, but not so long past that it has no significance to movie lovers in 2015. In fact, the book has lasting significance and value for anyone interested in how films were made and promoted in the 20th century. Contact sheets – photo images printed from developed film – were used by still photographers (who usually had nothing to do with the actual film production crews) to promote films, taking pictures of movie stars while on the set or on location. Yet their value was also recognized as a method of documenting the working life of the stars, often with their guard down, showing each film’s (and sometimes each star’s) facade.

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The Stories We Tell (2014) Mike Cosper


The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth (2014) Mike Cosper
Crossway Books
Trade paperback, 236 pages
Bibliography, notes, general index, scripture index
ISBN 9781433537080

Storytelling is part of our being, part of who we are not just as a culture, but as human beings. Of course film and television are just two aspects of a larger universe of storytelling, but they are two enormous aspects, venues that we continue to explore when seeking entertainment.

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Lynch on Lynch (2005) Chris Rodley, editor


Lynch on Lynch (2005 revised edition) Chris Rodley, editor
Faber and Faber
Trade paperback, 322 pages
Includes filmography, television credits and art exhibitions, bibliography, index

ISBN 9780571220182

This revised 2005 edition covers discussions of all of David Lynch’s feature films (as well as the TV show Twin Peaks) except Inland Empire (2006). These interviews conducted by Chris Rodley shed much light on Lynch and his concepts of filmmaking, but don’t expect the director to tell you what any of his work actually means. If you understand and appreciate that going in – and if you enjoy Lynch’s work – you’re going to get a lot out of this book.

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Film Noir 2014 Wrap-Up

I’ve been a film noir fan for years, but this year (especially during the last half of the year) my interest in film noir grew drastically. Much of that came from connecting with other noir fans via Twitter and noir websites and some of it stemmed from a celebration of Noirvember last month.

I also read two excellent books on film noir (and hope that Santa brings another one tomorrow!) that I’d like to mention.

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