Of all the classic forms of Hollywood cinema, though, perhaps the most intriguing and unusual is the edgy, blistering authentic postwar picture known as film noir. These morbid tales of criminality, fatal attraction, and social failure are now the subject of scholarly writing, international film festivals, and high-ticket Hollywood remakes.
R. Barton Palmer's thoughtful and exhaustive study details this "new" darling of critics, scholars, and fans with astonishing depth. Dark cinema, appropriately, has the most complex and elusive background of any Hollywood genre; it is, in fact, not a genre at all, but rather a set of common themes found in films belonging to established genres. Palmer's examination thus begins with the Hollywood genre film and its requisite characters, plots, and settings. With this background of studio system production in place, Palmer traces the advent of the film noir in the cold light of industry aims, target audiences, censorship, and the role Hollywood played in American society. In subsequent chapters, he investigates the film noir in all its guises: the crime melodrama, the detective film, the thriller, and the woman's picture. In so doing, no favorite is missed: Alfred Hitchcock, John Huston, Edward Dmytryk, Billy Wilder, Orson Welles as well as other top directors and their films noir.