"There are eight million stories in the Naked City," as the narrator immortally states at the close of this breathtakingly vivid filmand this is one of them. Master noir craftsman Jules Dassin and newspaperman-cum-producer Mark Hellingers dazzling police procedural was shot entirely on location in New York City, as influenced by Italian neorealism as American crime fiction. A double Academy Awardwinner, The Naked City remains a benchmark for naturalism in noir, living and breathing in the promises and perils of the Big Apple, from its lowest depths to its highest skyscrapers.
Criterion's edition of this 1948 police procedural provides a beautiful digital transfer of a stunning-looking film, plus a handful of supporting materials. The biggest historical value comes from a 40-minute 2004 on-stage interview with director Jules Dassin, who speaks to an audience after an L.A. screening of Rififi
. Poor technical quality only marginally detracts from the valuable anecdotes about his career, including stories about The Naked City
and Dassin's blacklisting during the anti-Communist era. Also heard from here is screenwriter Malvin Wald, who provides commentary during the film, in which he emphasizes the film's unusual ensemble structure and the pioneering nature of shooting in real locations in New York City. A standout interview comes from architect James Sanders, author of Celluloid Skyline
, whose 26-minute talk proves him a more evocative film critic than many film critics. NYU professor Dana Polan gives a half-hour background on the film's style and its prefiguring of TV procedurals such as Dragnet
and Law and Order
. A booklet has a Luc Sante essay (firmly but gently asserting that the film is very good but not a masterpiece) and a memo from producer Mark Hellinger. One note: the box promises a theatrical trailer, but this is not included, unless it's hidden in the urban jungle. --Robert Horton