With his upcoming movie Nightmare Alley, Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro is channeling the noir subgenre of film. Though the title and del Toro's larger filmography might have one assume that this is an outright horror movie, it's very much his take on that style of filmmaking and storytelling; the source material for the film in fact was previously adapted into a movie, one very much of the noir stable in the 1940s. Unlike recent hits such as Belfast, The Lighthouse, and Mank, Nightmare Alley is being released in color and not black and white. According to the filmmaker though, an alternate version of the movie without color exists and might get released.
"There is a version of the movie [in black and white] which I hope can be seen," del Toro told Indiewire in an interview. "It's not a movie where you turn the color off. The movie is almost like a serigraph in black and white that then has another layer of color. If you saw the movie in black and white, it's not like you just turned the color off. It looks exactly like a movie from the 1940s in a way that is astounding."
Del Toro further elaborated to the outlet that his own history of working on black and white films early in his career lead to decisions made on Nightmare Alley, specifically how colors were chosen for the movie's production design that would translate into black and white while also being visually appealing in color. His source on all these things was celebrated Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, who learned the tricks from none other than Gregg Toland (DP of Citizen Kane).
Nightmare Alley is scheduled to arrive on December 17 of this year, just in time for Oscar season. As of this writing the film has an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. ComicBook.com's own Patrick Cavanaugh rated the film a 4 out of 5, writing in part:
"Every actor in the film is at the top of their game, with the audience being enraptured by every exchange of dialogue, no matter how mundane, yet by the time we reach the third act, we begin to realize how thin the overall plot actually is. This isn't a slight to the plot, as there's not one scene that should necessarily have been scrapped, but the nature of many noir films is that their stories are pulpy crime-thrillers, almost to the point of being disposable or somewhat predictable, yet these tropes are often blended in ways that still result in an unexpected conclusion. Nightmare Alley both visually and narratively checks all the boxes of being a neo-noir, yet it doesn't have quite enough substance to justify its bloated run time."
Nightmare Alley features an incredible ensemble cast including Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, David Strathairn, and frequent del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman.