The Naked City (1948)

Jules Dassin directs Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff and Dorothy Hart in this policier – where a rookie and a seasoned detective investigate the murder of a fashion model – filmed on the real streets of New York with genuine residents as extras.

Cutting edge and hard hitting back in its day, there’s oodles to savour here. The attempt to portray realistic detective work is admirable and this really feels like an ahistorical early step toward a NYPD Blue or Homicide episode in terms of form, grit and personality. Barry Fitzgerald, as ever, proves a fantastic screen presence and the talkier scenes really buzz whenever he is around. The New York location work is brimming with local colour – I’d be shocked if Lumet, Friedkin and Godard didn’t study this. Two chase sequences feel like monochrome dry runs for The French Connection. So… some dated Hays Code era attitudes aside… you certainly couldn’t say this was some fusty museum piece despite its long reaching influence on the sub-genre. The opening murder is brutal, the footwork believable enough, the everyday hustle and bustle of Manhattan hypnotic, the interruptions of stark emotion are complex rather than brute manipulation. I’ve read a fair bit of criticism towards the overbearing narration. Hard boiled poetry that maybe is overly intrusive but mirrors the literary journalism of a crime beat op-ed. “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Shit might be hokey… corny… but it is still iconic!


Perfect Double Bill: Detective Story (1951)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here


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