Wheeler Winston Dixon

in Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780748623990
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653614 | DOI:

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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. Film noir is the cinema of paranoia, of doubt and fear and uncertainty, which blossomed in the wake of World War II, as the Allies' victory was purchased at the cost of the specter of instant annihilation by forces seemingly beyond our comprehension. Pre-Code films existed in a world of grab and greed, violence and brutality, where all that mattered was power, money and influence. Extortion, rape, mistaken identity, murder, theft, sexual harassment, depravity of all kinds are dished out in rapid-fire plots, in films that often last as little as sixty-five minutes. Pre-Code audiences wanted their cruelties delivered without pulling any punches.

Keywords: Pre-Code films; film noir; paranoia; fear; uncertainty; murder; violence; mistaken identity

Chapter.  3713 words. 

Subjects: Film

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