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The Dark Page II

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
December 11, 2009 1:37 AM
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BOOKS THAT INSPIRED AMERICAN FILM NOIR (1950-1965)
by Kevin Johnson; foreword by Guy Maddin
 

As in his first volume, antiquarian book dealer and film buff Kevin Johnson has gathered and chronicled pristine first editions of the novels and plays that served as the basis for memorable film noirs, focusing this time on the period 1950-65. If you’re a book lover, just having the opportunity to gaze at perfect color reproductions of these vintage volumes, with their evocative dust jackets—or in some cases, paperback covers—is worth the price of admission. If you love the films, too, there is much to be learned from this survey—names of forgotten authors and obscure novels that...

gained a degree of immortality by being taken up by Hollywood. (To cite just two examples, Gerald Butler’s Mad With Much Heart and Charles Einstein’s The Bloody Spur may not still be in print, but the films they inspired—On Dangerous Ground and While the City Sleeps, are evergreens.)

For every entry, Johnson provides a brief summary of the author’s career, a bibliophile’s detail about the first edition, and a cogent assessment of the screen adaptation and its variance from the original text, citing the most prominent writers on the subject of film noir.

As icing on the cake, the gifted, eccentric filmmaker Guy Maddin has provided an eloquent and enthusiastic foreword. I can’t resist quoting his opening paragraph: “O film noir, I beseech thee! Guide me through the rocky shoals of moral ambiguity to the clear, happy waters of utter misanthropy! Lend me your advices that I may keep them handy for the very next time a dame does me wrong. Thrill me with your punch-ups, your screaming night-queens, your snap-brim dialogue, your dirty truths and your coward-kings! Carry me away, film noir, to the land where the platypus plays; or deposit me, beaten and bruised, on the curb near Los Angles’ Union Station; or, if you’re well and truly done, if all the high notes have been played through that torture-earpiece, just send me screaming form the top of Carlotta’s mission tower and let Bernard Herrmann score my funeral! (The On Dangerous Ground “Death Hunt” theme, please!)

At $95.00 this is a pricey volume, I know, but it has much to offer, both as a reference and as a source of sheer pleasure. It would cost much more to purchase even one of the rare books illustrated here. To purchase a copy, click HERE.(Oak Knoll Press)

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