Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Noir City Sentinel

I guess the only way to say it is that I've done gone and died and found myself in noir heaven.

When I say I've never seen a book as packed with fresh information about various aspects of noir history, I'm not exaggerating. Eddie Muller and his staff at the Film Noir Foundation have published Vol. 4 No.3 of the Noir City Sentinel and it is so crowded with topics, insights and photographs that I'd need four or five nightly posts to do it justice. Seriously.

I started by reading my friend Vince Keenan's two pieces. As a good lapsed Catholic, I wanted to see what Vince did with "The Catholic Noir of John Farrow." Fascinating study about the Catholic themes of sin and redemption play across Farrow's years as a director. As Vince points out this is especially notable because Farrow, though a proud Catholic, was a womanizer of the first degree. Mia's daddy strayed far and wide. There's a great bit here where Farrow and Robert Mitchum are talking about Confession. Farrow has so many sins to confess he goes to a Mexican priest who can barely understand English. The priest always goes easy on him. If only he knew what Farrow was really confessing to...Vince also has the definitive word on the film "Nightmare Alley." How it came to be made and how, as a few key studio people predicted, it failed at the box office. It is revered today. Great work on both subjects.

Writer and publisher Eddie Muller contributes three excellent pieces on subjects including Belita: The Ice Queen of Film Noir; Comic-Book Noir; and "Mr. Modern Noir." All this in addition to a fine Letter From The Publisher in which he talks about the often unheralded work screenwriter Ben Hecht did for various film noirs.

Staff writer Dan Malcolm covers Noir in the 1960s, three neglected films; Noir Couples; and Single Word Double Bills. Alan K. Rode interviews producer-director Arnold Laven whose career stretches over many decades. This is one of those discussions that take in Holllywood from the shakiest of platforms (Monogram) to the gold plated dazzle of hit TV shows. Laven gives us numerous portraits of various actors he's worked with. His melancholy portrait of Edward G. Robinson is particularly strong. Laven worked with the actor during the time Robinson was "gray-listed" by various right-wing groups and had to work once again in low-budget films.

Reviews, obituaries, TV noir, Noir...or not? (a look at "The Shack on 101" every John Bircher's favorite film) and more more more.

Exuberant as I can get, I rarely use the word exciting. But this entire issue loaded with crisp, literate writing that gives us historical insights into the genre we love most. As I said, I've never read a book on noir that was as informative and just as much downright fun as Noir City Sentinel.

I'm excerpting a letter Vince Keenan wrote me:

"You can subscribe to the Sentinel by making a donation to the Film Noir Foundation, which is doing terrific work restoring classic noir films and putting them into circulation again.

All the info on the Foundation’s work and on subscribing to the Sentinel can be found at the FNF’s website:"


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eddie Muller's film noir histories are both entertaining and frustrating. Frustrating because the average fan will probably never get to see at least half the movies he discusses. Even with the advent of dvd it's disheartening to realize how many of these movies have yet to be given an official release.