The Naked City (1948)
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"There are eight million stories in the Naked City," intones producer/narrator Mark Hellinger at the climax of this Manhattan-filmed detective drama. The story we're concerned with here begins with the "bathtub murder" of a beautiful blonde. Methodically tracking down clues, New York police detectives Barry Fitzgerald and Don Taylor unearth a maze of subplots, and in a scene that has become one of the hallmarks of "location" filmmaking in the 1940s -- the real culprit is pursued in a last-reel escape attempt on the Brooklyn Bridge. Director Jules Dassin employs a documentary technique to tell his story, and while the film might be classified as a film noir, it uses few noir techniques. However, the desperation and pessimism of the film show its core noir sensibilities. Oscars went to the stark black-and-white cinematography of William Daniels and the editing of Paul Weatherwax). Familiar faces in the supporting cast include such New York-based actors as Paul Ford, James Gregory and Arthur O'Connell, and if you look carefully you'll see several of the production personnel in bit parts, including co-writer Marvin Wald. The Naked City was later adapted into a popular TV series, which like the motion picture was lensed in its entirety in New York City. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Naked City
A definite parochial fascination is liberally assured all the way and the seams in a none-too-good whodunnit are rather cleverly concealed.
If this is noir, it's the most brightly lit, least antisocial noir ever.
The on-location photography and final minutes on the streets and bridge are impressive, but this noir is more memorable for what it inspired to follow it than in its slow talky self.
One of Jules Dassin's best features is a quintessential film noir, distinguished by its on-location shooting and Daniels' sharp imagery, which deservedly won the Oscar
Affords the viewer a look at a type of city life that has long since disappeared, giving the film a kind of documentary time-capsule flavor.
What The Naked City does is paint an indelible vision of both the New York City that never sleeps and of the human life and industry that teems within it
This superlative film set the pattern for myriad documentary-type dramas to come.
It plays as just another crime episode in a typical homicide detective's day.
Standard plot but the visuals are amazing
Audience Reviews for The Naked City
Crazy cool Weegee-esque 1947 New York exteriors. This movie begins where most film noirs end. Slightly humdrum police procedural but at the time it was a real breakthrough, since imitated by Dragnet and a hundred Jerry Bruckheimer TV shows. There are eight million stories in the naked city and this one ends with a stunning chase sequence on the Williamsburg Bridge.More
Just a ripping good police drama with New York as the ever present backdrop. Barry Fitzgerald is the lead (!!!) (and atypically reserved ... though he does manage to throw in some few reminders of his proud heritage) detective as the death of a model turns out to reveal a ring of jewel thieves. And what lifts this above the usual sort is the interspersed additions about life in New York circa 1950, the people and rhythm of the streets. An announcer detracts from the proceedings but not enough to deflate the tale, including a great foot chase at the end.More
Another in a long line of detective films, I can't justifiably call this a noir by any means. Sure, it's certainly gritty and calls upon the same course set of circumstances to show the story, but has none of the dire aspects of noir. Instead of a larger than life language, the detectives all exhibit their own ways, and realism is embedded in every part of this film. This was shot in New York City, and never on sets or lots. It was shot in apartments, on streets and subway tracks, a fact that the narrator of the film proclaims at the start of the film. Besides the fact that this film follows the investigation of a murdered girl, it also takes a quick look into the lives of residents of the city. It's not exactly a love letter to New York, or a condemnation of the many lurid lives that go on during the rush of traffic and the investigations of the police, but it is a wide scope. Throughout a strange kind of narration dubs voices, and fills in the blanks where need be. The story is that of a model who is chloroformed and drowned in her bathtub. Surprisingly the crime itself was showed, and it was amazingly graphic. The look of the film is sleek, shady, and seductively black and white. The actual detectives on the case are varied and at times awkward, but in a good way. The lead detective (Barry Fitzgerald) shows both his professional side as well as his ability to give lessons to beat cop Det. Halloran (Don Taylor). Of all the roles of this film, nothing is dopey except for Halloran, who has playful fights with his wife, lives in Jackson Heights, and is always smiling that same big eared smile throughout the entire film. The plot isn't overly dramatic or contrived in any way, but it's the way it's told, the characters behind the murder that really hold this high in people's mind. My favorite character is the crook Niles (Howard Duff) who lies to everyone, even his fiancee and the cops. He is charismatic, deceitful, and not too bright, but you only feel horror at the depths at which he sinks. It's truly a classic, mostly looking like a documentary about New York at the time, and it would be a shame if you missed it.More
A distant procedural that confirms our worst fears: that committing a murder is as commonplace as going to work in the Big Apple. Right from it's unconventional opening, one gets the sense that this isn't your average noir.
From there director Jules Dassin treats the viewer to shots of workers trudging along in their daily grind. Some going to their factories, some at their desk, some participating in a brutal slaying. It's just clockwork. Like a job, murder is just part of some people's routine. The near banality of the crime is aided by a candid and temperate narrator who is our guide in this lurid tale. He seems to take pleasure in informing the audience that this isn't a basic studio picture. That it is shot on location, as close to reality as it gets. This even-keel approach gives the feeling like this is something he has seen 1,000 times. That in a city of 8,000, sometimes pill-popping power-hungry women get offed. That is just the way it is.
Dassin also taps into the thoughts of the residents of the city. No matter how innocent, hedonistic, or sadistic, they are treated equally. Connected by this city, for better or for worse.
Pre-dating Scorsese and Allen, who are famous for using the city as a character in the story, Dassin also gives the city a prominent role here. From the opening with the Empire States Building, to the parents angrily-sobbing over how their choices may have lead to an untimely death with the Brooklyn Bridge looming in the background, to the breathtaking ending on said bridge, the city seems to have a distinct impact on everyone's actions. In a way, it seems to be the main character.
As one can see this isn't your average noir. Dassin, who would later have a rather tumultuous relationship with Hollywood, takes a lot of chances here and crafts one of the more unique noirs that I have seen.
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