Early '60s earnestness
DesiluTrek | Sterling, Va. USA | 02/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I used to think that "Naked City" was an antecedent of shows like "NYPD Blue," but nothing could be further from the truth. What each show is is a reflection of the times in which they were made. Det. Flint is always probing the psychological motives of the suspects and people involved in a case, much to the exasperation of Lt. Parker. Det. Sipowicz usually assumed the guilt of someone they've brought in for questioning, and wasn't above roughing someone up or telling them something deceitful to get a confession, methods that would horrify Adam Flint.
Many "Naked City" episodes spend much of their time on the inner torment of the criminal, in keeping with the Kennedy-optimistic "forward" thinking of the time. Thus the guest stars are guys who were good at portraying twisted minds, like Robert Duvall and William Shatner. "NYPD Blue" is very victim-focused, with two-dimensional creeps and weirdos for bad guys, with punishment extracted seen as justice done.
"Naked City" can come off as too earnest and idealistic, especially through Flint's character, but at least the motives are noble, and it's actually refreshing now to see such integrity.
The cast is terrific with Nancy Malone very attractive in a pert early-'60s way, very independent in her Broadway career and on a par with Flint as his gal, and often feeding him smart advice. It's a very believable relationship for the brief periods we see it. (The best is going to either of their apartments: It's a veritable catalog of mid-century modern design tips.)
From a pure viewing perspective, the NYC location shooting and overall cinematography is phenomenal, and on progressive-scan TV is so amazing you feel sad that such work could not be fully appreciated in its original airing, having been seem mostly on piss-poor B&W televisions averaging 19" diagonal.
Music -- what can you say about the intersection of the Sinatra world here with themes and incidental music from Billy May and Nelson Riddle?
Stories, acting, cinematography, music -- each episode plays out like a short noir. Being in the early '60s, though, gives it that added "anything seems possible" earnestness and optimism even amid the grimness of the stories.
I've been getting every DVD as they came out (and even wrote to Image after the first release to encourage more), and I love the new bigger sets with the original commercials and station-ID interstitials.
To see the attempts of ad agencies to manipulate viewers 45 years ago is to see crude early stages of techniques that seem laughable now in their transparency. However, you can see the basis for manipulations done in more sophisticated ways today. Aside from that, they're just a riot!"
Not to be Missed!
Claude M. Gruener | Austin, TX United States | 01/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"OK, lest I sound with my raves like a paid PR man for the Naked City series, I am not.
For anyone interested in film noir, New York of the late 50's and 60's, and the early careers of some of our top actors today, this set of three DVDs is a must-have.
For those who don't know about Naked City, all the outdoor scenes were filmed on the streets of New York. It's a very different place than today with the series offering a realistic portrait of the sometimes raw, sometimes glorious city some 50 years ago. (When I watched it when it was first shown on TV, I knew I had to move to New York as soon as I could...and I did.)
This DVD offers stunning performances by a host of actors, many of whom would later become stars including Jean Stapelton, Barbara Harris, Dan Duryea, Maureen Stapleton, and Barbara Barrie. One of my favorites, Idylls of a Running Back, features ever wonderful Sandy Dennis and Aldo Ray. It's about a sensitive and pathetic young woman who goes too far with a football player she adores. He doesn't even know she exists.
Beyond the performances of these actors, you can't beat the "regulars," Paul Burke and Nancy Malone. They are totally real, touching and "New York."
While you are on the time machine and transported back to New York, you will laugh and cry. Don't miss it!"
A chronicle of New York Theatrical Style
Lawrence Rapchak | Whiting, IN United States | 04/21/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love collecting and studying TV's Golden Age, but I find this series very frustrating. I prefer a basically straightforward story---something that really pulls you in and, despite its twists and turns and oddities in style, still lets you follow it through from beginning to end. And when the end comes, I prefer a feeling of finality, of inevitability, a resolution that seems fitting and conclusive. Just old fashioned, I guess.
Naked City's story-telling is frequently too abstruse for my taste, but there's a good reason why. The series is, after all, a chronicle of the time and place in which it was made. For me, it stands as a documentation of:
1.) New York, the city itself in all of its grit and glory. It's fun to watch these shows, reproduced in crystal-clear transfers, and just feast your eyes on the REAL streets of New York, c.1960-63. Practically worth the price of these discs alone.
2.) The "Greenwich Village" style of theatre of the early 60's, with its avant garde overtones and sometimes "freaky" characters, situations, and visual storytelling (and episode titles!) Anchoring the stories are 3 standard-type cops, featuring straight-as-an-arrow acting (very convincing) by Paul Burke combined with the far more stagey, almost caricature style of Horace MacMahon and Harry Bellaver, thrust into some of the wackiest situations ever to come from the Off-Broadway experimental theatre scene. What usually results is a mish-mash of style and content, which rarely comes together convincingly in the end (the sadistic, unhinged acrobatic dwarf-landlord who attacks Martin Sheen and Peter Fonda with a bull-whip for no apparent reason in an earlier release ["The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos"]is a REAL tip-off that we're in for some rough going in the series...)
In Set 2, watch our for
"Memory of a Red Trolley Car", with its incredibly chintzey opening flashback scene, lots of "far-out" visualtouches and deliberately "outre" psychological jibber-jabber, complete with a scenery-chewing performance by Barry Morse (a fine actor who needed strong direction to curb his bad habits).
"And By the Sweat of Thy Brow" has a very promising premise and some fabulous direction and camera work--for the opening 10 minutes or so. But the allure and mystery of the central relationship is blown once we see Jonah's disfigured face---the story then settles down into a fairly routine concerned-cop-tries-to-help-troubled-teen yarn. A great opportunity lost (along with some more obscure pseudo-psychology between Barbare Barrie and Paul Burke).
"Dust Devil on a Quiet Street" features another over-the-top scenery-chomping performance, this time by Richard Basehart. Similarly, "And If Any Are Frozen"...is done in by Nehemiah Persoff's broad caricature of a nutty Rumanian.
On the other hand, John Larch is gut-wrenchingly intense in "Today the Man Who Kills the Ants.." David Wayne is remarkably restrained and deft
in the charming and touching "Multiplicity of Herbert Konish", and "The Rydecker Case" gives us a powerful and sobering look at the corrupt politics which undermine the efforts of honest agents of the law. And Dan Duryea and Barbara Harris are terrific in "Daughter I Am..", which only occasionally veers into the too-theatrical realm.
3.) Perhaps most importantly, the series often served as a showcase for iconic stage performers who left very little of their work on film.
a.) The young Barbara Harris ("Daughter I am...') was a very cultish actress on Broadway, for whom the musicals "On a Clear Day.." and "The Apple Tree" were written.
b.) George Rose ("Go Fight City Hall") was a MAJOR character actor, starring as Captain Hook opposite Sandy Duncan's Peter Pan and The Modern Major-General in the Kevin Kline/Linda Ronstadt "Pirates of Penzance", to name but a few (impressive Shakesperean credits as well).
c.) Joseph Buloff, who joins George Rose in the nutty and totally off-beat Act 4 of "Go Fight City Hall", was, among other things, the original Ali Hakim in "Oklahoma". Check out the moment when Rose and Buloff, drunk out of their minds on the New York Harbor ferry, actually
LOOK INTO THE CAMERA and WAVE TO US (!!!!), totally breaking the dramatic illusion. What a showcase for these two grand, old-style comedians!
d.) Let's not forget Harry Bellaver himself, an old Broadway character player--he created many roles, including Sitting Bull in the original "Annie Get Your Gun".
So "Naked City", whatever its artsy-ness and pretensions, still represents an amazing visual chronicle of an exciting, important period of American theatricality. It's great to have it preserved."
A Great Series
Only-A-Child | 04/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 138 episodes (all in B&W) of the police drama "Naked City" were originally broadcast on ABC from 1958-1963. The series started in a 30-minute format (39 episodes), took a year long break and return in a 60-minute format. The series was filmed in the old Biograph Studios in the Bronx, famous as the studio where D.W. Griffith got his start.
Image Entertainment's 3 DVD release "Naked City - Set 2" contains an assortment of twelve of the hour-long episodes from seasons 3 and 4. The titles, episode numbers, and original air-dates are detailed below.
Although the title makes it sound like a racy exploitation series it is actually the total opposite. Many consider this gritty crime drama the best ever of its genre and the title reflects a focus on stripping away the glamour off NYC and exposing its ugly inside; at least to the extent that they could get away with on broadcast television during those years.
"Naked City" is a follow-up to the 1948 film noir feature of the same name. Both movie and television series utilized extensive location shooting and they definitely have a different feel than the Hollywood product of that era. Also unusual was featuring jazz music by Billy May and Nelson Riddle.
The show never stopped changing its cast and was a bit like "Police Story" in this regard, as it designed to showcase its many great guest stars (it drew a lot of big names from Broadway); and this variety was the show's greatest asset.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
7 March 1962: (3-21) Today the Man Who Kills the Ants Is Coming
25 April 1962: (3-26) The Sweetly Smiling Face of Truth
9 May 1962: (3-27) And If Any Are Frozen Warm Them!
23 May 1962: (3-29) The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish
6 June 1962: (3-31) The Rydecker Case
13 June 1962: (3-32) Memory of a Red Trolley Car
26 Sept 1962: (4-2) Idylls of a Running Back
3 Oct 1962: (4-3) Daughter Am I in My Father's House
10 Oct 1962 (4-4) And By the Sweat of Thy Brow
17 Oct 1962 (4-5) Kill Me While I'm Young So I Can Die Happy
31 Oct 1962 (4-7) Go Fight City Hall
28 Nov 1962 (4-11) Dust Devil on a Quiet Street"