The Naked City (1948) – A Review

The Naked City 1948 film noir
The Naked City reads the headlines

The Naked City is an interesting film. It shows the tireless work done by the police to solve a murder case that occurs on a hot summer night in New York City. While it might sound like a typical police procedural, what sets it apart is the documentary-style that it uses to tell its story.

The Naked City is filmed entirely in the streets, apartments and locations around New York City. Hollywood typically would stick closer to home filming in their studios and backlots, location shooting was rarely done.

Using the actual city as their set presented countless problems for the production, but it results in a fascinating document of the time and elevates what might have been a standard crime story into a very unique film. It must of been one of the first films the producer actually narrates the goings on.

A beautiful model is found murdered and it’s up to Detective Dan Muldoon and his team of investigators to gather evidence, follow leads, question witnesses, confirm alibis and untangle this case during this hot summer. The film presents the detectives and police as a team all working together, occasionally doing the most mundane, tedious work to solve the case. It doesn’t glorify them as most Hollywood films did, but shows them as a bunch of working class folks doing their best with the work that needs to be done.

The Naked City 1948 film noir drama
The police hard at work in The Naked City

The cast are all very good. It’s truly an ensemble movie. There isn’t a big name star that headlines the film, which is smart since that would of hurt the films style. Barry Fitzgerald is the lead detective and while he is a recognizable actor during the period, he easily makes you believe he’s this smart, cynical detective that will be a real asset to have to solve this case.

The real star is New York City itself. As the film ends with the famous line “There are eight million stories in The Naked City. This has been one of them.”. The film shows all the daily routines that are being done by its citizens while this grisly murder happens. If you know the city well the location shooting should be very fun to see how places looked back then.

One part of the film I really enjoyed is how people read about the murder at breakfast and all the gossip that follows. The news is used to break up the monotonous day for people as they trudge to work.

The film makes a point of showing how soon this murder of a young girl will literally be yesterdays news and everyone will move on talking about the next big story. However, the police will remain focused on the crime until the murderer is caught. They’re constantly thinking of any angle where they might catch a break, before going home to their own lives at the end of the day.

It’s a very good film. It really stands apart from late 40’s police films. It’s no wonder the film sparked a television series. While I’ve never seen it, The Naked City movie is really worth watching.


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