Alain Silver and James Ursini have produced yet another book on film noir. This time they look at the graphics used to market noir movies. The book titled ‘Film Noir Graphics: Where Danger Lives’ is lavishly illustrated with over 300 full color posters, lobby cards, and other marketing handouts. All the graphics are rendered in high resolution from pristine originals. Many items I have not seen before, and quite a few are for more obscure films that will whet the appetite of many a noir fan.
More a coffee-table short black than a serious study, the book is one you will want to dip into between movie sessions. There is a commentary of sorts organized by chapters with titles derived from major films noir, such as ‘Touch of Evil’ and ‘Night and the City’. The narrative is a set of elaborated captions that segue into each other as you move from page to page. Silver and Ursini attempt to unify their comments by covering the use of noir motifs and how these elements are rendered by the artists who produced the artwork. Differences across studios and countries are identified. What is interesting is the artistic license taken by some artists depicting scenes and themes which are not found in the actual movie. There is a degree of repetition in the text from chapter to chapter, and sometimes the commentary jumps across pages and you find that you are not quite sure which graphic is being referred to.
Whether the US$40 price-tag is value for money is debatable. The internet is a treasure trove for poster addicts, with such sites as movieposterdb.com offering free downloads of high-res images organized in a searchable database. It comes down to the value you place on the commentary, which does offer some insights. What is missing is a wider survey of the role of graphics in movie marketing, and a behind the scenes look at who the artists were and how the material was produced.
You can buy the book from Amazon. An eBook version is not currently available.