Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” channels Hollywood’s classic noir period of the 1940s and 1950s, only there’s one glaring difference: Del Toro’s film is in color. Gone are the high-contrast black-and-white visuals and instead are vivid greens and sumptuous golds. Speaking to IndieWire’s Eric Kohn this week as part of the Awards Spotlight video series, del Toro explained that even though his “Nightmare Alley” is not in black-and-white, he still filmed the noir as if it were. Del Toro even revealed a black-and-white cut of “Nightmare Alley” exists that he “hopes can be seen.”
“I was production assistant in a movie with Gabriel Figueroa, who was the greatest Mexican cinematographer,” del Toro said. “He had a great kinship with Gregg Toland, they were good friends. He said to me when you art direct for black and white, you use the greens and the reds and the golds to give the mid-tones to do all the grey color. We decided to take that palette [on ‘Nightmare Alley’].”
“There is a version of the movie [in black and white] which I hope can be seen,” del Toro added. “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.”
“Nightmare Alley” stars Bradley Cooper as Stan Carlisle, a struggling carnival worker turned famous mentalist. Stan links up with Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) to con people out of their money, but this femme fatale psychiatrist proves far more dangerous than Stan could imagine. The supporting cast includes Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich awarded “Nightmare Alley” a B review, writing, “Bradley Cooper shines in Guillermo del Toro’s glossy carnival of souls…the directorfinally pivots away from the supernatural, but this grim noir remake is still haunted by the difference between monsters and men.”
Searchlight Pictures is releasing “Nightmare Alley” in theaters December 17. Stay tuned to IndieWire for more from our Guillermo del Toro conversation as part of the Awards Spotlight series.