Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Wheeler Winston Dixon
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 208
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia
    Book Description:

    Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia is an overview of 20th- and 21st-century noir and fatalist film practice from 1945 onwards. The book demonstrates the ways in which American cinema has inculcated a climate of fear in our daily lives, as reinforced, starting in the 1950s, by television, and later videocassettes, the web, and the Internet, to create, by the early 21st century a hypersurveillant atmosphere in which no one can avoid the barrage of images that continually assault our senses. The book begins with the return of American soldiers from World War II, 'liberated' from war in the Pacific by the newly created atomic bomb, which will come to rule American consciousness through much of the 1950s and 1960s and then, in a newer, more small-scale way, become a fixture of terrorist hardware in the post-paranoid ear of the 21st century. Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia is constructed in six chapters, each highlighting a particular 'raising of the cinematic stakes' in the creation of a completely immersible universe of images. _x000B_Selling points:_x000B_*Expands the definition of noir to include numerous lesser known works._x000B_*Deals with Red Scare films of the 1950s in the US._x000B_*Examines the 'dark side' of the 1960s, or films that questioned the emerging counterculture._x000B_*Explores such neo-noir films as The Last Seduction (1993), Angel Heart (1987), The Grifters (1990), Red Rock West (1993), The Usual Suspects (1995), Mulholland Drive (2001), L.A. Confidential (1997), and Memento (2000)._x000B_*Details the 'noir' aspects of the cybernetic age, both in online and videogame uses._x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3031-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vi-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This is the age of film noir. Though the genre dates from the late 1930s and early 1940s, its concerns of hopelessness, failure, deceit and betrayal are in many ways more prescient in the twenty-first century than they were at their inception. Then, too, most definitions of noir films are, it seems to me, excessively narrow. The classic archetypes of the lone protagonist in a dark, rainy alley, accompanied by an omnipresent voiceover on the soundtrack, of doomed lovers on the run from the police, or hard-boiled detectives unraveling labyrinthian mysteries with cynical assurance represent only one manifestation of this...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Dream of Return
    (pp. 9-36)

    What happened when the men came home from war? They returned to a world transformed into an alien landscape, something they didn’t understand and didn’t recognize as home, a place full of new and strange social customs, in which the fabric of prewar society had been torn asunder by massive social, economic, and political change. And a new kind of film was waiting for them, as well; the film noir, or ‘black film,’ which documented better than anything else the realities of this new social order.

    Boris Ingster’s Stranger on the Third Floor (1940) is often cited as one of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Postwar Bubble
    (pp. 37-55)

    When noir came along, it changed everything. Women were among those who eagerly embraced the new world of noir, having been cut out of the film industry since the 1920s, and none did it with more style and verve than Ida Lupino. An actress since the 1930s, she had always wanted to work behind the camera to tell the stories that simply weren’t being shown on the screen; in 1949, she got her first chance to direct. Significantly, Lupino got her chance to direct Not Wanted, a story of children born out of wedlock, only when the initial director of...

  7. CHAPTER 3 1950s Death Trip
    (pp. 56-90)

    Film noir and its various iterations were certainly not confined to America. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was still a market, and a social need, for the British ‘B’ feature, whose birth had been brought about by the government-enforced Quota System. In 1956, Edward J. and Harry Lee Danziger opened their New Elstree Studios on Elstree Road, Elstree, Hertfordshire, which consisted of six sound stages dedicated to the production of low-budget films and teleseries (Warren 1995: 92). The budgets for these features were astonishingly low, running from £15,000 to £17,500 at the most (Pitt 1984: 15).


  8. CHAPTER 4 The Flip Side of the 1960s
    (pp. 91-128)

    Peter Collinson’s The Penthouse (1967), a key British noir film of the 1960s, followed in the tradition of Joseph Losey’s more restrained dramas of claustrophobic domesticity gone horribly wrong in The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967). London in the early 1960s was typically depicted as a zone of carefree abandon in such films as Richard Lester’s Help! (1965), A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and his sex comedy The Knack . . . and How to Get It (1965), a surprise winner at the Cannes Film Festival that year.

    Other pop films, such as John Boorman’s Catch Us If You Can...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Failure of Culture
    (pp. 129-152)

    Walter Hill’s The Driver (1978) typifies the noir films of the 1970s in America; aimless, rootless, devoid of hope or compassion. The driver in question, never named, is Ryan O’Neal as a top ‘wheel man’ for hire, specializing in driving getaway cars for bank robberies and other criminal enterprises. He’s a loner and a perfectionist; if he doesn’t like the way a job is being handled, he walks. Tailing him is ‘The Detective,’ Bruce Dern, obsessed with catching him in the act. The whole film, like Vanishing Point, is one long chase sequence.

    Hill’s other films, such as 48 Hours...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Living in Fear
    (pp. 153-169)

    In the early twenty-first century, we live to consume. We live in fear, and so we buy things to fill up the empty spaces in our lives. It doesn’t work, and it never worked, but we keep on consuming, as if the objects we purchase, our homes, our cars, will somehow protect us from mortality, debt, violence, disease, unhappiness. With the decline in cinema attendance in the early 2000s eerily mimicking the same pattern in the early 1950s (with the dawn of television, and the advent of the Cold War), television programming has become a new and potent source of...

  11. Appendix: A Gallery of Classic Noir ‘Heavies’
    (pp. 170-174)
  12. Works Cited and Consulted
    (pp. 175-185)
  13. Index
    (pp. 186-198)