Houses of Noir: Dark Visions from Thirteen Film Studios

housesnoir13One can appreciation the idea behind Ronald Schwartz’s HOUSES OF NOIR: DARK VISIONS FROM THIRTEEN FILM STUDIOS without doing the same for the execution.

That idea is simple: Pick the best example of film noir from each studio in play of that golden era, and discuss it. Granted, this mean the work is driven by the author’s subjectivity — no problem there. What ultimately makes the McFarland & Company paperback lacking of substance is what passes for discussion and criticism.

Schwartz, a New York film professor, has great taste. For his baker’s dozen of bullets, broads and blackmail, he’s selected some excellent movies, including Charles Vidor’s GILDA, starring Rita Hayworth at her va-va-voomiest; Edgar G. Ulmer’s cheapie DETOUR; and Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY, certifiable classic.

I hope you’ve seen them, because should you choose to read the book, you’re given lengthy, detailed, beat-by-beat plot summaries of each. What’s the point? Following each summary is a list of the film’s main actors, each of whom is presented with a list of other notable titles from his or her filmography. What’s the point? More futility lay ahead, as Schwartz closes each chapter by describing each photograph. What’s the point?

Far better books from earlier this year tackle the same subject. Spend your ever-valuable time and money on David J. Hogan’s FILM NOIR FAQ or John Grant’s A COMPREHENSIVE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM NOIR instead. —Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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Comment by Dr. Ronald Schwartz
2014-03-09 16:57:30

Your review of my book is quite lopsided. It was no simple matter to winnow through the numbers of studios who make or made noir films, present in detail all of the plot points for readers who may NOT have seen the film and present the second best films from each studio. You do give me credit for choosing some excellent movies but THE POINT IS to make them come alive for the reader and present career details AND analyze the stills to guide readers into the visual style of noir. The POINT is I express my own critique of each film and make valid discussion points.
I totally disagree with you on recommending Hogan’s very disorganized FILM NOIR FAQ and John Grant’s expensive light-weight COMPREHENSIVE ENCY. OF FILM NOIR which is a heavy weight in paper but with no worthwhile criticism.
I would choose Alain Silver’s FILM NOIR ENCYCLOPEDIA (2010) over any attempt by Grant to even think of calling HIS EXPENSIVELY PRICED HARDBOUND
work “encyclopedic.” My paperback sells for $38 on and has 34 annotated stills from PHOTOFEST in Manhattan which is worth the price of the book alone.
Dr. Ronald Schwartz, New York City , Mar. 9, 2014
a lightweight authors

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Comment by Dr. Ronald Schwartz
2014-03-12 11:25:21

Disregard the last line under my name. I have no idea how the line got there.
Dr. RS,
the author 12 Mar. 2014

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Comment by Dr. Ronald Schwartz
2014-03-19 17:21:32

Why have you NOT commented on my letter above?
Ron S.

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Comment by Rod Lott
2014-03-19 18:10:58

I generally do not comment on comments unless a question is asked of me. If there’s a particular point you wish to be addressed, I’d be happy to.

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