The star here is not any actor but 1947 Manhattan; the film's drenched in a showcasing of it. Well over 100 scenes and almost all of them, interior AND exterior, are on location.
When the viewer follows the murder victim into the morgue of Bellevue Hospital it is indeed that morgue. When a tenderfoot cop confronts the murderer in his seedy Lower East Side tenement apartment it is indeed the inside of such a tenement. Vast panoramas of Manhattan from atop the Williamsburg Bridge, scurrying about ethically diverse neighborhoods and delicatessens, a subway ride out to Queens, staring from the ground straight up an Art Deco skyscraper (hinting at German Expressionism), the underbelly crime and criminals.
All intended as love-letter to everything that was once New York.
And it was no directorial accident: Hollywood sets/studios were intentionally abandoned to tap into the then-recent history of non-set shooting that was Italian neo-realism and World War II documentaries.
There's a hint of noir - femme fatale mysteriously murdered, sketchy fast-talking Joes, boosted jewelry, a droll voiceover. But really most of the story that Manhattan is backdropping here is a rather cliche look at flatfoot procedural drudgery toward solving the crime - endless knocking on doors to ask questions, endless days of walking all over town showing pictures, the killer likes to play the harmonica so hit the bricks.
It's overly nostalgic and idealistic - and as hard-to-swallow as some of CSI's plotlines.
The true value of this film is its authentic gandering at mid-Century New York, which is why Criterion stepped up to the plate. The image resto is top-notch but, oddly, Criterion delivered short on extras. Two 30-minute-shorts with semi-expert talking heads, a tepid commentary, some stills, not even any captioning.
RECOMMENDATION: For the cinematography only, recommended.