An extremely wide-ranging group of fiction films that have crime as a central element of their plots. The fictionalized criminal act, however, is only a point of departure in defining this group of films. For example, the horror film is replete with criminal acts but is rarely considered part of the crime film genre; similarly, crime is central to the thriller genre. The specificity of the crime film lies in its antecedents; namely the true crime dime novel, Victorian serialized fiction, and the detective stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. Early crime films include Biograph and Mutoscope's five-part series, A Career in Crime (US, 1900), which shows a young man turning to crime and ends with his being sentenced to death by electric chair. The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter, US, 1903), The Life of Charles Peace (William Hagger, UK, 1905), and Salaviinanpolttajat/The Bootleggers (Louis Sparre and Teuvo Puro Finland, 1907) all based their plots on real-life crimes. In France, the Fantômas serial (Louis Feuillade, 1913–14) showed the exploits of a dashing master criminal; and numerous adaptations of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were made in Europe and the US. There was a major cycle of …gangster films (or crock melodramas as they were called) in the mid 1910s and in the late 1920s to early-mid 1930s. The 1920s and 1930s were also the golden age of detective fiction, with the hardboiled novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in the US, and the detective stories of Agatha Christie in Britain enjoying commercial and critical success, and with the work of these authors regularly adapted into screenplays from the 1940s. In the postwar period a darker version of the US crime film attracted the label film noir.
To find what we have in the Library's collection, you can do a subject search for "crime films" in the online catalog. That search will show you what film titles are classified as crime films as well as books and other items about them. As you look at the list under that heading, those which include "history and criticism" talk about the genre itself. The headings which also include a country name are specifically talking about crime films produced in that country.
Articles and other writings about movies can be found in many publications. Our collection does not include a journal or magazine which looks exclusively at crime films. Other film journals within our collection will cover this genre. You can use Film & Television Literature Index to find relevant articles or use the search box at the top of the page.
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