Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.
Although many histories claim 1940 as the start date for film noir, the truth is that movies in the idiom were being made years earlier in France, the UK and other European countries as well as in the US. It’s interesting, therefore, to compare some of the movies that used similar tropes and were being made at the same time yet which are quite manifestly not noirish. This old-fashioned mellerdrammer has a villain whose social position makes him, he thinks, untouchable, an innocent man whom he almost succeeds in framing for his crimes, and our hero’s plucky girlfriend, who believes in his innocence and helps him prove it. Just to complete the noirish repertoire there’s a slow-witted cop. Yet the affect could hardly be farther from noir’s, and similarly the subtext . . . if indeed this movie has any.
Paris, 1880, a city that’s been terrorized by the appalling crimes committed by a possibly supernatural monster called Le Loup/The Wolf. Whenever the stabbed victims are found in time, they whisper “The face at the window” before dying; in the air hang the echoes of a ghastly lupine howl . . .
In the latest atrocity, the bank owned by M. de Brisson (Mallalieu) is robbed late at night and one of its clerks is killed; the other late-working clerk, Lucien Cortier (Warwick), hears the howl and finds the body. Lucien loves and is loved by M. de Brisson’s daughter Cecile (Taylor); unfortunately, Cecile has also caught the lecherous eye of the middle-aged Chevalier Lucio del Gardo (Slaughter), who presents himself to de Brisson as the bank’s financial savior . . . on condition de Brisson permits the Chevalier to woo Cecile.
Keep reading this post at NOIRISH!
Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.
With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.