I have the 1998 paperback edition which I devoured years ago. I have consulted it dozens of times since then. It’s my go-to reference for all things film noir.
Dark City is the hidden history of modern America. Everything in it is true, even if we don’t want to hear it. Sometimes you watch movies from the bygone Hollywood eras and they seem hopelessly dated. Post-WWII American television is particularly un-watchable for that very reason. But so many of the “crime pictures” from the 1940s and 1950s still resonate. Lumped by French critics into a bin called film noir these stories tackled anger, alienation, desperation, passion, jealousy, greed, corruption and almost every other venal and mortal sin you can conjure up.
What makes them so appealing? Their refreshing honesty about human nature, certainly. Mostly melodramas, they are enlivened by a brisk pace, terse writing, and a distinct visual style. Fedoras and spats never looked so good! The women aren’t just victims or femmes fatale. They get much better roles than in the more tepid mainstream fare at the time. They get to run, hide, shoot, give orders, take a punch, and run a racket, just like the men, all the while looking glamorous. In today’s media-saturated world, modern actresses can never be as glamorous as the stars from that time. If you want a picture of Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson in a ratty t-shirt and no makeup you can find it. It doesn’t take away their beauty—it just shatters the illusion.
We met Eddie Muller at NoirCon in Philadelphia in 2014. That was just after the Giants won the World Series. He’s a San Francisco native and a huge baseball fan so we had plenty to talk about besides movies!
Get a copy of Dark City and re-learn your American history, and have a rollicking fun time while doing it.