A Journey Into Dark City with Eddie Muller
When I was a teenager my best friend gifted me a film noir themed day planner as we both were classic movie fans. At the time, I was mostly into Abbott and Costello and MGM musicals and when I flipped through the book I realized I didn’t know any of the movies pictured and, honestly, wasn’t even sure what film noir meant. But I loved the planner and every time I looked at it I became more determined to check out these mysterious movies. Years later I can comfortably call myself a film noir fan and regularly find myself watching and reading about them. Recently, I received a copy of the newly released Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller and soon was immersed in it’s noir-ish depths.
If the title sounds familiar it’s because Dark City was initially release in 1998 when film noir was a genre loved by scholars and critics but less familiar to main stream movie fans. Written by noted expert Eddie Muller it introduced many to this dark genre and soon everything was coming up noir. Film festivals started popping up all over the country, the Film Noir Foundation was founded (resulting in the rescue and restoration of lost classics) and Muller himself began hosting Noir Alley on TCM. Now that film noir has hit the big time it’s the perfect occasion for a re-release of the book that started it all.
I never had a chance to read the first edition of Dark City and was super excited to dive into the revised and expanded version of the, now classic, title. I’m a big fan of Noir Alley and regularly look forward to Eddie Muller’s in depth introduction to the featured film. The “Czar of Noir” knows his stuff and I’m continually fascinated by the insight he brings to his weekly selections. In Dark City those insights are expanded to the genre as a whole and provides a comprehensive look at filmdom’s darkest corner.
As the title suggests, film noir is essentially a dark city comprised of quarreling couples, nosy newshounds, venomous vixens and hapless anti-heroes who haunt the press rooms, prisons, psych wards and courtrooms of its environs. In the book each chapter is devoted to a dismal corner of this gloomy metropolis and the unhappy denizens who dwell within.
Dark City is essentially a travel guide to a town no one should ever want to visit but once the last page is turned everyone’s already booked a ticket. All this is due to the powerful prose of Muller. The man has a way with words. Sure he’s an expert on the genre and has provided well researched insight into the subject matter. Of course the colorful illustrations draw the eyes in. But it’s the turn of phrase that makes the dark city somehow beautiful. Take this passage:
[Raymond] Chandler’s Los Angeles was an alluring femme fatale that crushed his heart each time he came back for more. His vision of the sprawling artificial paradise, in which corruption was camouflaged by the glare of sunlight and neon and the fragrance of blooming jacaranda, was so vivid it became the world’s adopted perception of Los Angeles, long after the place had all the style leached out of it.
Just breathtaking. And true.
When it comes to film noir I’m a fan but not a fanatic and throughout Dark City I enjoyed gaining insight into movies I was already familiar with and learning even more about titles that were brand new to me. Whether it serves as an introduction to noir or a deep dive into an already beloved genre it’s perfect for both the casual and committed fan. Dark City, despite it’s noirish nature, is an absolute delight and will occupy a hallowed spot on my bookshelf for years to come.