Corruption. Dirty dealings. Sweaty private investigators. Femme fatales.
No, this is not Washington, D.C. These are the staples of film noir, that immediately identifiable genre as old as the Hollywood icons it helped to create. Film noir is responsible for many classic films from the 1940s and into the 1960s, with many of the noir conventions showing up in films—the successful and the less so—in the years since.
John Grant—author or more than 60 books, many cinema-related—pulls together more than 3,500 movie entries in A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. The book covers more than seven decades of gritty noir, with entries featuring the main film few and cast along with a brief plot outline.
Grant never goes so far as to comment on the quality of any of the films. That is up to the readers to use this guide and figure it out for themselves. His introduction is a nice primer on the history of film noir and adds context to what is essentially a list of movies that may or may not be available on Netflix.
“Noir was the genre that emerged from cinema’s shadowy wainscots,” writes Grant. “It’s pleasing that, even though many of its modern manifestations take the spotlight, there’s still much scurrying going on in those dark corners.” Grant works hard to uncover those dark corners, from 1941’s The Maltese Falcon to 2005’s Sin City and all the greasy underbelly in between.