The Second World War brought with it one of the richest genres in cinema – film noir. Staring towards the end of the conflict and running to the end of the next decade, Hollywood was dominated by a plethora of rich and stylish crime dramas. Detour, D.O.A., The Big Sleep, The Killers and Double Indemnity led a glittering array of black and white noir which lit up cinema screens and entranced a generation. Jules Dassin’s The Naked City is up there with the best.
In the early hours of a stifling summer morning in New York, Jean Dexter is murdered by two unknown men. When one of these men takes to drink to assuage a guilty conscience his partner murders him and dumps his body in the river. Detective Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald), his assistant Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) and their boss Captain Donahue (Frank Conroy) are struggling for leads. All they have is her friend Ruth Morrison (Dorothy Hart), Ruth’s lying fiancée Frank Niles (Howard Duff), her doctor Lawrence Stoneman (House Jameson) and the mysterious and unknown “Mr Henderson”.
The Naked City is at its heart a love letter to New York. Narrated by producer Mark Hellinger, it is beautifully constructed and shot (Paul Weatherwax and William H. Daniels won Oscars for editing and cinematography respectively). Whilst the acting is generally good (Howard Duff does ham it up terribly) it’s the cute editing and detached narration which keeps the pace fast and vibrant. The Naked City deserves to be classed up there with the best film noir and is a beautiful work of cinema.
Special Edition Contents:
New high definition digital transfer of the film
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
Original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
Audio commentary by screenwriter Malvin Wald
Jules Dassin at LACMA – a 40-minute interview with Bruce Goldstein in which the director discusses his career
The Hollywood Ten – a 1950 documentary short on the ten filmmakers blacklisted from Hollywood for their refusal to name names before the House of Un-American Activities, including The Naked City’s screenwriter, Albert Maltz
New York and The Naked City: A personalised history of NY on the big screen by critic Amy Taubin
Gallery of production stills by infamous photojournalist Weegee
Reversible sleeve featuring the original poster and newly commissioned artwork by Vladimir Zimakov
Collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Alastair Phillips, Barry Salt and Sergio Angelini, illustrated with original production stills
The Naked City is released on Dual Format DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Films and is out today.