RE: RARA-AVIS: Stark and stuff

Date: 27 Nov 2000

amazon says:

The past 20 years or so appear to have seen more books on film noir than any other movie genre. When people speak or write about film noir, they invariably invoke Laura, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Third Man, and a handful of other iconic examples of the popular genre. These are A movies, however, made with substantial budgets by the major studios and featuring the headline actors and actresses of the time. The B films, with a few notable exceptions, have largely been ignored. Arthur Lyons, who really knows his stuff, figured that the world didn't need to read again about Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain, or Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott. Instead, he devotes his intelligent pen to helping us rediscover the B films, the second features that helped keep movie theaters full in the 1940s and 1950s. Made for budgets that frequently fell short of $100,000, with cheap sets and costumes, these plot-driven movies had little in the way of special effects and nothing in the way of super-star actors and actresses. Republic was famous for its low-budget films and serials, as was Monogram, but even the major studios had B units. Hugely fascinating information impossible to find without devoting an inordinate amount of your life to research, which is clearly what Lyons must have done, fills every page of this tome. In addition to an overview and chronological history of B films noir, Death on the Cheap has a comprehensive filmography with title, date, studio, running time, alternate titles, credits, plot outline, and critique for each film. There is also a chronology of every B noir film (Lyons credits 1939's Blind Alley as the first and reckons 1959 as the end of the genre). Although an unapologetic fan of B noir films, Lyons has no problem warning potential viewers from the really bad ones, and he doesn't exactly make his opinions known in a subtle fashion. Take this example, used to describe Hit and Run, a 1957 movie involving twins, produced, directed, written by and starring Hugo Haas: "Yet another smell-o by Haas.... Haas, of course, had to play the parts of both twins, doubling the pain for the audience."

Lyons, a well-known writer of the superb series of private-eye novels about Jacob Asch, demonstrates that his writing skills remain equally high whether he's writing fiction or nonfiction. Death on the Cheap is one of those rare pleasures, like a box of expensive chocolates that you can dip into any time and discover a genuine treat. --Otto Penzler

the other martha <mailto:>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:]On

> I picked up a
> poster at the local book trade show for a book called Death on the Cheap
> by Arthur Lyons. Subtitled The Lost B Movies of Film Noir, with a
> foreword by Gerald Petrievich. I'm presuming this is the Arthur Lyons
> who wrote the Jacob Asch mysteries and who we discussed quite a bit at
> one point last year. It's out this month, but I haven't seen it
> anywhere. Anyone seen or read it and care to weigh in with an opinion?
> Martha>

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