Naked City

Naked City

Barry Fitzgerald
Director: Jules Dassin Cast: Barry Fitzgerald
Barry Fitzgerald
, Howard Duff
Howard Duff
, Dorothy Hart
Dorothy Hart
Jules Dassin

Blu-ray (Black & White)

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Overview

Young model Jean Dexter is knocked unconscious and drowned in her own bathtub in her Manhattan apartment, and a lot of jewelry that she supposedly owned is missing. The Naked City is actually about six days in the life of New York City that coincide with the murder and the subsequent investigation by Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and Detective James Halloran (Don Taylor). The account of their work, and the workings of the New York City police department, is interspersed with brief vignettes about the life of the city around them, and, especially, the reaction of residents to the murder and the newspaper reports of the progress of the case. Muldoon and Halloran first must determine why she was killed, which may (or may not) have to do with how a woman with a minimal income came by the jewelry -- was it a love affair gone bad (and if so, with whom?), or something more complex and sinister? Retracing the final 18 months of the victim's life, their investigation reaches out to a mysterious "Philip Henderson" with whom she was supposedly linked romantically, and to Frank Niles (Howard Duff), who's a little too fast-and-loose with the truth when he doesn't have to be to make Muldoon comfortable; to make things more complicated, Muldoon determines that there were at least two men involved with the actual commission of the murder. The victim turns out to have led a wild life, filled with men and parties, and was tied up with several sordid figures. Their investigation carries them into the highest and lowest ends of New York's social strata to find the killer, and it turns out there are a lot of interlocking reasons why at least three men might've wanted her dead. In the process, we get glimpses of the private lives of the detectives, which was something new in movies at this time; in the midst of all of this activity, the writers set up a fascinating contrast, in adjacent scenes, between Halloran, his wife, and their young son looking toward the future, with the parents of the dead woman, looking back with bitter regret and recriminations -- no movie ever presented in more subtle fashion the contrast between the zeitgeist of the 1930s and that of the postwar era. The final chase on the Williamsburg Bridge is one of the classic pieces of suspense cinema, as the armed and desperate killer races up the walkway past children playing and adults strolling, while detectives close in on foot from behind and patrol cars come up from ahead, with crowded subways rolling past, and then into the superstructure of the bridge for a stand-off and shootout. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot future character leads Paul Ford, James Gregory, John Marley, Kathleen Freeman, and Arthur O'Connell as well as familiar faces Tom Pedi, John Randolph, Molly Picon, and Walter Burke in the supporting cast. Cinematographer William Daniels and editor Paul Weatherwax won Oscars for their work, but awards might just as easily have been presented to director Jules Dassin, writers Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald, composers Miklos Rozsa and Frank Skinner, and, most notably, to producer
arrator Mark Hellinger, who intoned the closing monologue, which opens with one of the most famous tag lines in movie history: "There are eight million stories in the Naked City."

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder

The Naked City has been hailed -- and rightfully so -- for effecting a transformation in the nature of crime dramas. Its exclusive use of actual New York City locations, coupled with Jules Dassin's fluid direction and the deliberately flat, unaffected acting style used by most of the cast, all lent a verisimilitude and immediacy to the film that was spellbinding in its time and is still bracing to watch. Alfred Werker and Anthony Mann had attempted something similar in 1947 with He Walked By Night, set in Los Angeles, but the results were more engrossing than exciting. Naked City's authentic New York ambience, the visuals playing off of the city's architecture, its streets and alleyways, bridges and rooftops, and its residents, give the movie an intense, intrinsic excitement. This, in turn, allowed Dassin to work out all kinds of quiet little plots and acting bits of business that, in a studio-bound movie, would have slowed the proceedings to a standstill and sent audiences walking to the lobby. Screenwriters Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald knew exactly what they were doing, with a script that provides a continual stream of fascinating information, adding layer upon layer of material for the viewer's benefit, which Dassin and the cast weave into a dazzling tapestry of humanity. The movie proved astonishingly honest and prescient as a mirror of many aspects of human behavior, especially its depiction of the way that the press and the public react to cases involving attractive victims, and also the public's lingering fixation on crime scenes. As a source of inspiration, The Naked City's influence extended for decades after its release, to movies like Force of Evil, The Tattooed Stranger, and Guilty Bystander that came out in its wake; into the late '50s with the film Cop Hater and the television series Naked City; and through the 1960s with films such as Madigan and series such as N.Y.P.D. Although the visual and plot elements must take center stage, anyone watching should also make note of the music and the odd circumstances of its composition. Originally, Dassin chose to use a score composed by a musician friend of his, who, like him, had been dropped by the major studios because of his political views; producer Mark Hellinger agreed, but when he heard the resulting score, he knew that it was no good and that it would have to be rewritten. Hellinger approached Miklos Rozsa, who had scored his previous two films done at Universal, but Rozsa said that the two weeks he had to work with was too short a time for him to rescore the movie by himself; they agreed that Frank Skinner, a member of Universal's music department, would also score part of the film. Hellinger was also the narrator of the movie, and he died of a heart attack soon after recording his closing monologue; Rozsa's contribution was the music accompanying the chase sequence on the Lower East Side and on the Williamsburg Bridge, and underscoring the close of the film, narrated by Hellinger. Rozsa deliberately made the scoring of the latter sequence into a musical eulogy for his friend and colleague Hellinger.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/08/2020
UPC: 0715515250917
Original Release: 1948
Source: Criterion Collection
Region Code: A
Presentation: [B&W]
Time: 1:36:00
Sales rank: 27,960

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