New York City detectives Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) are assigned to investigate the mysterious murder of a young woman. Following the leads in the case, they come upon a jewel theft ring... more » that has been plaguing New York society. Muldoon and Halloran finally untangle the skein of thieves and discover the murderer to be one of the slain woman's cohorts in the jewel gang. When cornered by the detectives, there is a violent shoot-out.« less
"There are two styles of Film Noir. Fueled by writers like James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler, the first style emerged in the 1940s and was characterized by a cynical, often witty tone; anti-heroes, dangerous women, and assorted criminal elements; and complex plots that emphasized betrayal and moral ambiguity. It was also photographed in a remarkable visual style that combined glossy production values with atmospheric emphasis on light and shadow--and films like THE MALTESE FALCON, THIS GUN FOR HIRE, MILDRED PIERCE, THE BLUE DAHLIA, and DOUBLE INDEMNITY remain great classics of their kind.But after World War II public taste began to change. Things that could only be hinted at in earlier films could now be more directly stated, and as audiences clamored for a more gritty realism the glossy sophistication of 1940s Noir fell out of fashion. The result was a new style of Noir--photographed in a grainier way, more direct, more brutal, and even less sympathetic to its characters. And the 1948 THE NAKED CITY was among the first to turn the tide. The sophisticated gumshoe, slinky gun moll, and glossy production values were gone; this film felt more like something you might read in a particularly lurid "true detective" tabloid.In an era when most films were shot on Hollywood backlots, THE NAKED CITY was actually filmed in New York--and while filmmakers could film with hidden cameras sound technology of the day posed a problem. But producer Mark Hellinger turned the problem into an asset: the film would be narrated, adding to the documentary-like style of the cinematography and story. (Hellinger performed the narrative himself, and his sharp delivery is extremely effective.) The story itself reads very much like a police report, following NYPD detectives as they seek to solve a dress model's murder.For 1948 it was innovative stuff-but like many innovative films it falters a bit in comparison to later films that improved upon the idea. The direct nature of the plot feels slightly too direct, slightly too simple. The same is true of the performances, which have a slightly flat feel, and although Barry Fitzgerald gives a sterling performance he is very much a Hollywood actor whose style seems slightly out of step alongside the deadpan style of the overall cast. Even so, the pace and drive of the film have tremendous interest, and while you might find yourself criticizing certain aspects you'll still be locked into the movie right to the very end. Particularly recommended for Film Noir addicts, who will be fascinated to see the turning point in the style.GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
Dear God, why wasn't she born ugly?
Steven Hellerstedt | 05/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't remember another movie that took as many chances as THE NAKED CITY and successfully pulled it off. It doesn't look quite like any movie I've seen before and doesn't play quite like any other movie.
The story is simply enough - a young model is found murdered and the Homicide Squad is called in to solve the case.
Even before the murder, though, we're introduced to something new. We're given and aerial sweep and pan shot of the skyline of New York City. A voice over narrator emphatically tells us that this movie was NOT photographed in a studio; the stars perform "in the streets, in the apartment houses, in the skyscrapers of New York City itself." And so it is. No matter how well the set is designed, you can usually spot it as quickly as you can CG animation, and this ALL looks like NYC to me.
The casting is out of the ordinary, as well. I mean, Barry Fitzgerald as top-star in a crime story? Come on. Get serious. Yeah, maybe if you want a pleasant little slightly inebriated Irish chap - but a homicide detective? Yeah, right.
But it works. Fitzgerald is just right as Lt. Daniel Muldoon because this movie doesn't rely on Mike Hammer-ish brutality, or a brilliant and intuitive crime solver. I think the film makers here were looking for a cast who could meld into the city rather than rise above it, and Fitzgerald is a surprising and inspired choice.
This is a movie about dusting for fingerprints and putting evidence in plastic bags. It's about wearing out shoes interviewing potential witnesses and striking out 90% of the time. The Fitzgerald character works because he fits into the world better than a major star would have. The film-makers seem to be striving for a documentary feel to things (I trying not to use the term cinema veritie here).
Scenes are bracketed by location street scenes - hordes of people entering a subway station, a horse-drawn milk cart and milkman on a quiet city street, two young women admiring a gown in an upscale store window.
There's a price to be paid for relying exclusively on location shots. There are a few scenes that sound like the voice recording were done in an echo chamber. And the film has a flat look to it (not all that bad for a noir-ish crime drama.) The reason we can tell studio shots so quickly is because they look good - the photographer has control over lighting and light sourcing.
If there are detective movies and gangster movies and any number of other sub-genres in the Crime category, I guess you'd call this a police procedural movie. There are a couple of punches thrown and a few guns fired, but for the most part attention lingers on characters and procedures. This is one of the first movies, to my knowledge, that seems to recognize that crimes are more likely solved in the lab than in the brain of an inspired crime fighter.
I unhesitatingly recommend this to everybody. For crime and noir buffs, this is a must see."
SOMEWHERE UNDER THE RAINBOW
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 04/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Between 1947 and 1950, director Jules Dassin shot three revolutionary movies that shook the film noir genre. THE NAKED CITY is one of them and remains, 52 years (!) after its theatrical release, a classic not to be forgotten. The film was shot, for its most part, in the streets of New-York City and on location in real flats or apartments. Just consider that Howard Hawks's THE BIG SLEEP was shot one year before and you will have an idea why Hollywood has been called " The Dream Factory ". The reality depicted in Hollywood movies had nothing to do anymore with real life.Some critics have compared THE NAKED CITY with the realist italian movies of this period, with Vittorio de Sica's THE BICYCLE THIEF for instance. Anyway, the final chase which will end on the Brooklyn bridge is already part of Movie History.Jules Dassin's interest for social questions can be observed in various scenes of THE NAKED CITY : Howard Duff's desperate efforts to join the high society, the enlightening story of the murdered girl, the constant opposition between the world of the workers and the world of the rich. Audio and images are of VHS quality and the master was not of the highest quality. Filmographies of Jules Dassin and Barry Fitzgerald as bonus features.A DVD for your library if you're a film noir fan."
Yeah, I am prejudiced but ..
Galadriel | Hollywood, California | 03/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... it's a GREAT film. Gritty, noir and very effective. My father, John De Cuir, was the Art Director on this film and I remember his recounting the cast and crew adventures of shooting an "on location" film at that time. Also, I recall his account of how he stayed up all night the night before the bridge shoot, hand drawing each story-board angle of that famous last chase scene (it was a "new" ending to the script), and figuring out how to position the camera to achieve those extreme angles so they would not waste a moment of their "stolen" limited time on that bridge. It had to be so exciting and freeing for them to film entirely on location. The Academy did a tribute to him at the Director's Guild a few years back and screened this film as an example of his "early" black and white work and THE KING AND I as a very different example of his contrasting work Cinemascope in musicals. Fascinating and pioneering stuff for that time. Go Pop! Brag. brag."
Taking It To The Street: The First American Crime Classic Sh
K. Harris | Las Vegas, NV | 03/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard not to be a bit cliche when speaking of Jules Dassin's classic crime drama "The Naked City"--which ends with the immortal line, "There Are Eight Million Stories In The Naked City, This Has Been One of Them." I mean, it's such an iconic line. And this film has been talked about extensively. And while the story is a perfectly acceptable police procedural, and while the performances are solid, and while the picture strives for and achieves a gritty and realistic feeling--what is most noteworthy about "The Naked City" is the way that it was filmed. The film pulls no punches, either, in an interesting narration which immediately breaks the fourth wall to tell you that this picture is "special." As our narrator informs us--this is not a film that was shot in the studio. No, it was completely filmed in the streets and buildings of New York. While this was not new in the cinema world, the Italian Neo-realist movement was well in effect, it was important to the way American films were being made. And "The Naked City" gathered Oscars for Film Editing and Cinematography for "taking it to the street."
The story of "The Naked City" might seem rather tame, even superfluous, to modern day audiences. With every other program on TV being a police procedural, the plot is really not that distinctive. Tracking the murder of a dead model, the police investigate her involvement with several men and her possible connection to a string of burglaries. Barry Fitzgerald and Don Taylor play the lead detectives on the case--and both suit their roles well. I particularly enjoyed Taylor's "everyman" appeal. Howard Duff is also super as a shady character from the model's life. Again, the details of the story are not that significant--but a rousing chase sequence at the end is well staged and effective.
What is unusual, however, about "The Naked City" is its effective use of New York City. From aerial shots in a helicopter, to navigating the streets, to visiting recognizable landmarks--this is one of the first films to employ a whole city as a "character." This film captures the essence of the city beautifully and stands as an impressive historical document of a particular timeframe. Also of note is the narration (from an Oscar nominated screenplay). Unlike most voice-over, "The Naked City" is almost self-congratulatory and invites the viewer into the film technique. In that way, it also becomes a "character" in this piece. It is not just a device to move the action forward, it is styled as a pseudo-documentary about real life crime and movie making.
I'm pleased that Criterion has taken on "The Naked City." It certainly deserves a cleaned up DVD treatment. Not necessarily groundbreaking, this is still an important step forward in American filmmaking. I am rating it at 4 stars, however, for modern day entertainment and the casual viewer. For film buffs or historians, though, this would easily be a must-see. KGHarris, 03/07"