|Nothing except prominent Viewmaster use, of course.|
The Naked City begins with a surprisingly self-aware voice-over that points out that you are a viewer and this is a movie. I suppose that self-awareness isn't a bad thing, since this movie isn't about Skynet, but it's kind of annoying. The narration quickly slips into a more conventional documentary style, similar to the narration in old-timey instructional videos. As the narrator guides the film from a bird's eye view of New York City down to the teeming streets, the audience becomes witnesses to the murder of Jean Dexter by two unknown men. The film then focuses on her murder investigation by the experienced Detective Lieutenant Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and the young Detective Halloran (Don Taylor). Muldoon does most of the thinking, Halloran does the footwork, and the two begin to turn up clues in this seemingly unmotivated murder.
|Above: four men discuss an important case, while one silently farts|
That's pretty much it. This isn't a steamy noir so much as it is a conventional police procedural with stunning cinematography. That doesn't make it bad, but --- like Law & Order episodes --- it does make it pretty boring to summarize. And like most police procedurals, this story relies more on the way the story is told than the characters involved.
As far as the acting goes, it's all right, but it has gotten a little corny with age. Barry Fitzgerald plays a wise Irish cop quite well, but he doesn't show anything more than mild concern for the case. Don Taylor gets a bit more character development, but showing that he is reluctant to beat his child on his wife's command doesn't exactly make him a deep character.
|It does make him a wimp, though|
|Detectives detect, coaches slouch, and athletes...scissor?|
More than any actor, the cinematography stands out today. While there were other movies made on location at the time, it was still pretty rare. The Naked City succeeds in having this fictional story play out in the most authentic-looking New York I have seen on film in this period.
|Example crowd voice-over: "He needs a gun to compensate for running like a girl"|
Despite enjoying the overall look of the film, I didn't particularly care for director Jules Dassin's film. The Naked City seems to be an exercise in style; there are a number of dramatic shots incorporating the cityscape, as well as the choice to maintain bookend narration that differed slightly from the story narration. I have to admit that the movie is visually stunning at times.
And, because the narration reminded me of it, please enjoy this instructional dating video, circa 1950.