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The Maltese Touch of Evil

Film Noir and Potential Criticism

Shannon Scott Clute, Richard L. Edwards

Publication Year: 2011

Part thinking-man’s fan crush, part crazily inspired remix of the most beloved of film genres, this book will force scholars and film lovers alike to view film noir afresh Noir is among the most popular, acclaimed, and critically assessed film styles of all time. The unfortunate consequence is an ever-growing divergence between fans and scholars with regard to goals and methods for appreciating and studying noir. The Maltese Touch of Evil aims to bridge that gap. Based on a series of popular podcasts, this unique and deeply informed investigation of film noir sets out to examine the case of noir more closely, and in the process reconfigures the critical evidence on noir that has been presented to date. The Maltese Touch of Evil reproduces and re-sequences nearly 150 noir screen grabs from 31 great films, laying them out with the authors’ informed and entertaining insights into the significance of each shot. The result is a de facto meta–film noir, a celebration of the genre that shows how these films are themselves “constrained” texts whose carefully calculated visual forms simultaneously generate narrative and critical commentary on that narrative. You will never look at film noir the same way again.

Published by: Dartmouth College Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

If you allow us here a moment of overwrought (but apt) metaphor, we promise to be straightforward in the body of this text. The road taken by most films noir winds through dark places — fog-shrouded, lonely, and full of dead ends. The road to creating this particular book on noir has been quite the opposite — a trip travelled from the beginning with a ...

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pp. xv-xviii

Film noir has long been a topic of lively debate in academic and fan communities. More than a style or genre, “noir” designates a glorious and amorphous body of movies that continues to win converts and generate new discussions. While these discussions — whether print, spoken word, or new media — have generated many great insights into the films, which we will ...

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1 A Void in Film Noir Studies

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pp. 1-10

What is completely strange in discourse on film noir is that the more elements of definition are advanced, the more objections and counter-examples are raised, the more precision is desired, the fuzzier the results become; the closer the object is approached, the more diluted it becomes. The result is that the energy deployed passes entirely into refuting or circumventing objections and not into searching for a more ...

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2 One Hundred Thousand Billion Films Noir

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pp. 11-19

Although the films labeled “noir” appear to belong together, many of the explanations for their generic unity have been insufficient. . . . I shall not be seeking to claim that film noir represents exclusively a genre, or a generic subsystem or periodic transformation of the crime film, or a film movement, or a specific period of film history. Rather it seems more useful to acknowledge that ...

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3 Workshop of Potential Criticism

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pp. 21-32

This book proposes an Oufinopo, or a Workshop of Potential Film Noir (and, more broadly, a demonstration of Oucritpo, or Workshop of Potential Criticism).1 As the last chapter demonstrated, we seek to discover, invent, and utilize constraints to yield new noir potentialities. ...

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4 Build My Scaffolding High

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pp. 33-44

While to some it may still seem strange to compare films noir to oulipian texts, there are in fact good reasons for doing so — both in terms of their modes of production and their critical reception. Due to censorship and the conventions of genre filmmaking in classic Hollywood, films made during the studio system era had to respect certain ...

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5 Oufinopo

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pp. 45-253

In Chapter 4, we established that films noir, like oulipian texts, utilize particular forms of self-conscious constraint to simultaneously construct diegetic action and extradiegetic commentary upon that action. The task that remained was to identify filmic moments that seemed to do this openly, and to give them a context in which the full ...

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Postscript: How We Wrote Our Noiremes

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p. 256-256

The title of this afterword is reminiscent of Italo Calvino’s essay, “How I Wrote One of My Books,” in which he revealed the constraint under which he wrote If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler. It is common in oulipian work to reveal the constraint only at the end. A Void ends with a wonderful “Post-scriptum” where Georges Perec reveals, in the same lipogrammatic form as his entire novel, how and why he came to write a nove ...

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Postliminary 1: The Guilty Parties

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pp. 257-261

When we undertook our shared inquiry into film noir, our goals were both modest and grand: modest in that we wanted a simple method for capturing our nascent dialogue on the topic of film noir, grand in that we thought from the start our approach might constitute a new form of scholarship in the digital age. We wanted to turn our conversations on film noir into scholarly work that captured the spontaneity of our exchanges but could ...

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Postliminary 2: Computers and Writers

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pp. 262-263

... This book is part of a digital logics progression that blurs previous distinctions between forms of scholarship: the podcast as a serialized audiobook, this book as recombinatorial text, a (potential) potential database as means to generate serialized recombinatorics, and so forth. Each iteration of this project engages in a digital poetics that privileges converging and transmedia-inspired content (even while various scholarly forms will likely ...

Appendix 1: Selected Filmography

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pp. 266-276

Appendix 2: Podcastography

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pp. 277-278


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pp. 280-293

Further Readings

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pp. 294-295


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pp. 296-300


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pp. 301-316

E-ISBN-13: 9781611681857
E-ISBN-10: 1611681855
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611680478
Print-ISBN-10: 1611680476

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 148 illus.
Publication Year: 2011