On more than 300 pages the reader of Into the Dark most of all acquires one thing: a very strong visual impression of what film noir looked like. For the high-quality prints selected by Mark Vieira hold a powerful, dark beauty and tell of the fascination with film noir.
Here is a good balance of text and pictures, and in this case, it actually makes sense to give the visual notion much more room, considering the many books on the style that predominately feature text.
The texts to go with the pictures are brief quotes like reviews, production comments, letters from regional theater owners and artist’s comments; showing the “hidden” world of the genre.
This also means that long paragraphs on the aftermath of WWII or sociological essays about the aspects of American anxiety during this period (important characteristics of the film noir style) are absent here, since clearly the emphasis of the book is on the visual style.
The long foreword is provided by one of today‘s leading writers on the genre, author and film noir researcher Eddie Muller (the “Czar of Noir“) who also organizes the Noir City Film Festival. “My fond hope for Into the Dark is that it will serve a significant function for anyone who is curious, interested, or even fanatical about ‘40s film noir. This is the first book to accurately describe the environment that spawned film noir.”
Altogether, 82 of the best films noir are presented here by way of film stills, shots from the film set, behind-the-scenes shots and rare pictures of a glamorous period that are accompanied by a seeming endless stream of brief comments by producers, directors, actors, journalists and writers.
Such as „Humphrey Bogart’s clothes in Dead Reckoning have looked so bad that the studio sent for his tailor. ‚It’s because of your lights,‘ the tailor told the cameraman. ‚No,‘ chimed in Bogey. ‚I always look this way.‘“ (Columnist Hedda Hopper)
Or director Mark Robson’s comment on The Seventh Victim that “…had a rather sinister quality, of something intangible but horribly real. It had an atmosphere. I think the actors and the director had to believe very strongly in the possibilities of disaster, that something was there. We believed it ourselves. We talked ourselves into believing it.”
Imagine a heavy, well-done picture book with comments like these on classics like Crossfire, Scarlet Street, Leave her to Heaven, Brute Force, Out of the Past, Lady in the Lake, Gilda and many other masterpieces. Author Mark A. Vieira, a photographer and writer from Los Angeles who specializes in Hollywood history, has compiled a praiseworthy visual treat.
Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2017
Mark A. Vieira . Into the Dark. The Hidden World of Film Noir, 1941-1950. Running Press (Turner Classic Movies), 2016, 336 p.