When Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir was first released in May of 1998, it quickly established author Eddie Muller as the premiere scholar and historian of film noir. Muller has since gone on to found the Film Noir Foundation, restore and preserve dozens of lost genre films, and host the popular Noir Alley series on TCM. Given this impressive resume, it’s no wonder that movie buffs everywhere were psyched to learn that Muller would be revising and expanding Dark City with new chapters and restored photographs. The results are simply marvelous, with each page glistening with classic artwork and expert, updated incite into the fascinating world of film noir. Plain and simple: this new edition of Dark City is a brilliant example of how to make what was already a sacred text even more special for film lovers.
For those who aren’t familiar with Eddie Muller’s writing style, Dark City is told through an engaging and charismatic narrative structure which captures both the storytelling elements of film noir and Muller’s own enthusiasm for the genre. The reader can’t help but feel sucked into the settings and fine details Muller recreates about the production of each new film, the backstage antics and controversies surrounding the picture, and the analytical ways in which it tapped into the cultural zeitgeist of the time. One can’t help but visualize the stories being told with the same moody black and white gusto as the films which are being documented.
What makes this edition an even more vivid experience for the reader are the thick glossy pages which are housing some of the most impressive stills in Hollywood history. None of the details of these perfectly composed black and white beauties are lost in printing, and it adds an almost three dimensional element to the reader’s experience. Original movie posters are also recreated here in precise colors which capture the tones of the era. It’s simply a pleasure to open up this hardcover beauty and flip through the pages within its sewn binding and get absorbed in the material.
Most film criticism examines what is on screen and makes thoughtful analysis of its artistry. Where Dark City goes the extra mile is through Muller’s exhaustive research and recreation of the lives of the artists who worked on the film and how each movie was put together. This allows Muller to make insightful connections between the dysfunction displayed in the films on screen and the real-life Hollywood tragedies which haunted the filmmakers and performers who created them. Muller’s examination of the connections between the soldier’s experience post World War II and the creation of noir protagonists and anti-heroes is especially thought-provoking.
Dark City leaves no stone unturned as it examines film noir with a sense of appreciation and love which simply isn’t present in many other texts of its kind. Sure, readers will learn all about Humphrey Bogart’s filmography and Chinatown… but Dark City especially shines when it meditates on the lost or lesser known genre films which simply can’t be read about anywhere else.
If you have never read a great book about film noir, you need a copy of the revised and expanded edition Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir on your bookshelf. If you own the 1998 edition, you need this one too. There simply isn’t a better text on the genre.