Book Review: Film Noir 101: The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s

Film Noir 101 Fantagraphics

Thanks to a colorist probably following instructions to the letter about the use of the color red, Both Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall wear lipstick on the poster to The Big Sleep. The poster for White Heat almost looks like the one for the aforementioned film. Edward G. Robinson’s face is Hulk green in the poster for Scarlet Street. Richard Widmark doesn’t even appear on the poster to Kiss of Death, but in the one for Night and the City he looks as if he’s doing a “jazz hands, down!” pose. You miss these details when poking around online for some classic film posters, but in Fantagraphic’s beautiful Film Noir 101: The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s, all you see is some amazing poster art for arguably some of the best film noirs of the era. Film Historian Mark Fertig has compiled quite a healthy list of films and their respective one-sheets here and the big 10.75″ x 14.25″ hardcover book will thrill film fans while possibly promoting a bit of discussion about some of the choices among others.

Me, I’ve no major mcomplaints with the lineup here at all, as it’s a great set of “A” to “Z” grade films I’ve seen most of thanks to TCM (Turner Classic Movies) running most of them on a rotating basis. As most of these films had alternate posters, the process of choosing just one for each must have been a Herculean effort. Or perhaps Fertig just put in a call to Mike Hammer and let him stumble into trouble as he always does (yes, Kiss Me Deadly is here) before realizing that wasn’t the best idea. Anyway, the book is a total gem, cutting to the chase after an foreword by William Friedkin and and intro by the author. Then, it’s all showtime for 101 pages and you’re hooked in right from Sudden Fear to Double Indemnity.

Fertig pops back in after that with thirty pages of commentary on each of the films, making the case for them is a pretty convincing manner. Some of the choices may seem odd to those expecting all private eyes getting into fights with goons and getting sudden smooches from doe-eyed molls left and right. Sweet Smell of Success as a noir? Well, I guess it is now (and I’ll need to look at it with fresh eyes the next time it’s on). Then again, the “noir” in film noir does mean “dark” or “black” and that’s one film that both in spades. Er, no pun intended. The different art styles here are all amazing and nope, you can’t get the same look or “feel” with today’s computer-generated illustration. Even the lowest-budgeted flick here gets some nice art to ogle. Anyway, if you’re into classic film or are wondering what the fuss is about, this book comes absolutely recommended.

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