Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Cinema Monolith: 8/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *** out of 4
Released on March 4, 1948
Directed by Jules Dassin
Written by Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald
Cast: Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, Dorothy Hart, Don Taylor, Frank Conroy, Ted de Corsia, House Jameson, Anne Sargent, Tom Pedi, Walter Burke, James Gregory, Arthur O’Connell, Kathleen Freeman, Chuck Hamilton
There are eight million stories in the naked city…this has been one of them. And so ends the police procedural noir classic The Naked City, with hoodlum Ted de Corsia doggedly chased across a crowded New York City suspension bridge, one of many stunning uses of on-location filming seen throughout the movie, and one which featured one of the most iconic noir shots on record: an exhausted de Corsia high up the bridge tower, injured and forlorn as he leans against a metal stairway, the downtown skyline visible in the distance, his life all but over.
Right from the beginning, the story excelled at taking the viewer through every step of a 1940s homicide investigation, and Barry Fitzgerald was more than outstanding as the police lieutenant who was serious about his work, but was constantly amused by the actions and attitudes of the criminals, suspects, and witnesses he dealt with throughout the investigation. From its opening montage, which set the story in motion with a sudden and shocking murder of a woman in her bedroom, to its exciting chase finale on the Williamsburg Bridge, The Naked City succeeds in keeping the viewer glued to the screen.
Jules Dassin, in a four year span between 1947 and 1950, directed this and three other prime examples of American film noir: Brute Force, Thieves’ Highway, and Night and the City. Each of these films detailed the seamier side of real life in the respective cities where they were set, and here Manhattan was featured in all its gritty mid-century glory: its bustling streets, its downtown skyscrapers, and its bygone architecture and landmarks. Dassin did excellent work directing in a pseudo-documentary style, and staged his scenes for maximum visual and artistic effect.
There weren’t that many typical noir shots used, and any skewed camera angles and moments of high-contrast lighting were few and far between…but those few that were shown were well worth the effort. I can’t say I was that enthralled with producer Mark Hellinger’s superfluous narration, and many of the forensic procedures may seem dated today, but everything else made The Naked City a fun watch, and an acceptable representation of the film noir style. (8/10)
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