I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for visual uniformity in a series. On my shelf if the books have matching spines it makes me a very happy man. The covers though are just as important. In the early 1990’s the company publishing company Vintage Crime/Black Lizard rereleased three classic Dashiell Hammett novels, The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest with simplistically pulpy and elegant covers.
Debbie Glasserman is credited with the book design in these editions, but she’s not responsible for the actual art as much as she is the design aesthetic. The top portion of the Thin Man cover can be credited to early 1900’s artist J.C. Leyendecker for a Fatima cigarette campaign. Which might be the single classiest cigarette ad that I’ve ever seen.
If you have any information on the the rest of these covers drop me a line and let me know.
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The Maltese Falcon is generally considered to be the first true film noir with a widespread release and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best.
It doesn’t carry all the hallmarks of the genre but it set a lot of the guidelines of what was to come. Seeing it for the first time as a teenager it helped me connect a lot of dots and to this day holds a special place in my heart. It was the first time I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, who is still my favorite golden age Hollywood actor. After seeing countless parodies growing up of the private detective visited by a deadly dame that was in distress it was great to finally see one of the movies where it originated from.
If you’ve ever looked into film noir, no doubt you’ve come across Double Indemnity. It’s often cited as one of the definitive examples of the genre. It actually transcends noir in my opinion and works effectively as a crime drama attracting a wider audience.
I won’t spend a lot of time focusing on the plot here, but if you’re not familiar it’s fairly simple. Walter Neff (played by the always likeable Fred MacMurrary) is an insurance salesman who one day by chance encounters Phyllis Dietrichson (in a noir defining role for Barabra Stanwyck). Dietrichson is married and the two go in on a plot together to murder her husband and collect the insurance money. As these movies usually go there ends up being a snag in the plan and everything begins to unravel.
Film noir has always been a world unto itself, a dark shadowy world full of cigarette smoke, booze and femme fatales. Its posters are no different. Unfortunately for us, hand drawn and painted movie posters are all but a lost art. It’s amazing the time and care that use to go into producing them. Each movie studio had their own distinct style when it came to advertising their films, which I hope comes across here. I’ve attempted to round up 10 of the best and most visually appealing along with my personal favorites. It wasn’t easy to narrow down and a lot ended up being left on the cutting room floor. Which opens up room for a sequel post….
Without further adieu:
Since we are in the midst of the Halloween season I figured I’d take a look at a more horror themed movie in today’s Pulp Corner. The movie in question is 1957’s Night Of The Demon also known as Curse Of The Demon to most U.S. audiences (which stripped away 13 minutes of footage). It’s a mix of suspense and noir which itself isn’t unique, but here it’s the overt addition of horror and the occult that really make it an interesting film.
The film stars two noir alums, Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins. Andrews we last saw in the Pulp Corner as the detective obsessed with a dead woman, in Laura. Ms. Cummins on the other hand was the devious and angry femme fatale of Gun Crazy making up one half of the Bonnie & Clyde like duo. The masterstroke though was that this movie was in the hands of one of the greatest noir directors, Jacques Tourneur. His signature picture Out Of The Past oozes noir and atmosphere. A perfect fit for Night Of The Demon.