Friday, May 11, 2012

The Naked City (1948) ****

“There are 8 million stories in the naked city.” I had always heard this line and assumed it was from one of the Sam Spade-esque movies set in Las Angeles. Turns out it comes from this police procedural set in New York. The first thing you have to get used to in “The Naked City” is the almost constant narration. I found it grating at first, but got used to it. The reason for it is that the filmmakers used hidden cameras to secretly film thousands of New Yorkers going about their daily lives. This footage lacked sound, so narration and voice-overs were used with these scenes, which lend the story its background. The actors are filmed on location in New York as well, lending the movie a very real feel that quickly distracts from the newsreel-style narration. Rather than a noir story, this is really a police procedural, not unlike one of the “CSI” shows. A young model is murdered, and police detectives Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and Halloran (Don Taylor) hit the streets of New York to catch a killer. Interestingly, the film focuses on the tedious, meticulous nature of their craft. We get to watch as they follow dead ends, deal with crazy, false confessions, and ask the same question hundreds of times until they finally get a lead. I was fascinated, because I didn’t think they made such realistic police movies back in 1948. Besides being an excellent whodunit, “The Naked City” is a fascinating snapshot of a specific place and time. All the shots of 1948 New York and its people are enthralling, especially the climactic manhunt and chase scene on the Brooklyn Bridge. For fans of old movies, this is a must-see. 4 stars out of 5

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