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USA 1948
Directed by
Jules Dassin
96 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Naked City

The best thing about this pioneering but hokey police procedural that tries to pass itself off as a day-in-the-life-of-a-city story is the Oscar-winning exterior black-and-white photography of New York City by William H. Daniels in a film that became the inspiration for the hugely popular TV series "Naked City"  that ran between 1958 and 1963 each episode ending with the classic line spoken by the film’s narrator (and its producer) Mark Hellinger:  "There are eight million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them."

Despite Hellinger’s rather sententious claim at the beginning of the film that it “was not photographed in a studio” but “in the apartment houses, in the skyscrapers of New York itself’ and to show the city “as it is”, a significant portion of the film appears to have been shot In a studio, especially the sections of the film set in Manhattan’s 10th precinct police station.  It is here that the fictional murder mystery which provides the film’s narrative arc unfolds in what is purportedly just another episode in a typical homicide detective's job. Hopping about from precinct to apartments and offices, the film which covers a period of roughly a week between the initial report and the crime’s solution never looks any less than studio-bound where the interiors are concerned although sometimes the sound levels are noticeably off.

American-born director Jules Dassin who was black-listed  during the HUAC years and emigrated to France where he directed the 1955 crime classic, Rififi, does a serviceable job, somewhat unusually giving the story a rather jaunty tone notably in the form of veteran Irish detective, Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald), who has seen it all and developed a sense of humour about it and is tutoring newbie Detective James Halloran (Don Taylor) in the life of a homicide cop.  Whilst much of this amounts to just going through the motions, the final sequence when the killer (Ted de Corsia) is cornered on the Lower East Side and much like Frank Cody in White Heat (1949) in a desperate bid to escape scales the Brooklyn Bridge (albeit to a far less explosive demise) shows a good deal of flair.

FYI: Producer Mark Hellinger died of a heart attack before the film was released and Universal Pictures was intending to shelve it until Hellinger's family invoked a "guarantee of release" clause in his contract with them. Universal reluctantly released the film which became a surprise hit and received two Oscars, for Best Black and White Cinematography and Best Editing.




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