The Naked City, and a few more movies

#196  [archive]

The Naked City (1948)

This is a dark police procedural that still holds up, which spawned a lesser TV series with its famous tag line, "There are eight million stories in the naked city."

The naked city is New York, but all the people are wearing clothes. One of them's dead, though — a young woman's been killed, and the NYPD's Homicide Department is methodically collecting clues.

The murder mystery is better than average, with a resolution that isn't obvious but seems plausible. Of course, the film is flattering to the police department, showing every cop as a straight-arrow concerned only with the pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way.

Gotta add, the movie is 75 years old, but I am skeptical there was ever a time when a gunshot in New York City brought cops and ordinary people running fast as they could toward the sound of the shot.

Sprinkled between the cop interviews and detective work, there's a bevy of brief scenes unconnected to the mystery, showing ordinary New Yorkers going about their days. Some of these vignettes are comical, some sad, and a few are far more hauntingly blunt and bleak than you'd expect. The effect is to make the city sort of a character in the story, not merely its setting.

Perhaps a little too proud of that idea, the film is introduced by its producer, Mark Hellinger (Brute Force, The Killers, Moontide), who explains the concept, reads the opening credits, then narrates the film. (Google tells me that before he went into moviemaking, Hellinger was an old-school theater columnist in New York City, bumping shoulders with Damon Runyon, Walter Winchell, and J J Hunsecker.)

Filmed entirely on location in New York City, it's a surprise to see horse-drawn trucks in the late '40s, traversing the streets and avenues alongside modern-ish motor vehicles.

What makes the film shine are those slice-of-life vignettes — teenage girls talking about boys, men at their jobs thinking out loud, even a random murder that's never mentioned again. And jeez, the movie's last moments are remarkable.

Verdict: YES, and I spent a few minutes arguing with myself that it ought to be a BIG YES. Possibly I take these reviews of old movies too seriously.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Fog Over Frisco (1934) 

This was filmed in San Francisco before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, and it stars Bette Davis as an upper-class good time girl. Those are the movie's pluses, and indeed it sparkles whenever Davis is on screen. 

Trouble is, despite having top billing, she's in a supporting role, and not on screen all that often. The rest of the movie's too talky and kinda boring, with lots of things going on, but not much that merits paying attention.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Ticker (2001)

This is (intended to be) a suspense film about bombs and the bomb squad. Tom Sizemore plays Jaded Cop Who Doesn't Play By The Rules, and his wife and kid have been killed by a bomb, so now it's personal.

Dennis Hopper made the bomb, and plays exactly the same Mad Bomber he played in Speed. Same look, same demeanor, same bombs. This could be a sequel to Speed, but it would be a very, very bad sequel.

Steven Seagal plays the zen-talking leader of the bomb squad, but you're not supposed to say 'bomb'. It's unlucky or something. "So you're the Device Squad," says Sizemore, "and you defuse… devices." It's by far the cleverest line in this film.

Seagal is an odd character in real life. He was briefly a part-time cop for some reality show, he's collected several sexual abuse accusations, and he's buddy buddy with America's meanest and most corrupt cop, ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As an actor, Seagal has a Botoxian inability to make more than one facial expression — his patented tough sneer —but he somehow lucked into Under Siege, a passable action movie. Since then he's piled up more poop than my grandma's outhouse, and his performance here Is almost literally absent.

In several scenes, the camera cuts away when Seagal has lines, so we hear him speak but don't see it. It's bizarre — sometimes the camera angle is from behind his head while he speaks, sometimes his lips are blocked from view, sometimes the screen simply shows another actor's reaction while Seagal speaks. When he does speak on camera, his voice sometimes seems oddly slurred.

Did Seagal come to work some days too coked up to deliver his dialogue, and it had to be added later? Wondering about that is miles more interesting than anything in the movie, which is artless garbage.

Verdict: BIG NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

God Bless America (2011) 

Hobo (1992)

Invader (1991)

John Wick (2014)

The Last Case of August T Harrison (2015) 

The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1941)

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

The Night Strangler (1973)

Nightmare Alley (1947)

9 to 5 (1980)

Risky Business (1983)

The Rockford Files (debut episode; 1974)

Smothered (2002)

Special Bulletin (1983) 

Squirm (1976) 

Stephen Fry in America (2008)

Taoism Drunkard (1981) 

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

... plus occasional schlock and surprises 

    • • • And then • • •

A Better Tomorrow (1996)

A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990)

A Night in Casablanca (1946) 

Alexander Nevsky (1938)

The Bat People (1974) 

The Beatles: Get Back (2021) 

Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)

Brainwaves (1983) 

The Card Counter (2021) 

Cellular (2004)  

The Celluloid Closet (1996)

The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)

Dark Star (1974)

The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009) 

The Decline of Western Civilization (1980) 

Downsizing (2017)

Frankenhooker (1990) 

The General (1926) 

Get Shorty (1995)

The Gorilla (1939)

The Green Girl (2014)

Hiroshima (1953)

Hugo (2011) 

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

The Internet's Own Boy (2014)

Kids in the Hall (debut episode; 1988)  

Kids in the Hall (reunion debut episode; 2022) 

The Killing of America (1981) 

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)  

Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)

Love Happy (1950)

The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)

The Man Who Thought Life (1969)

The Man with Nine Lives (1940)

The Manhattan Project (1996) 

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)

Not Wanted (1949)

Nothing But a Man (1964) 

Phone Booth (2002)

PickAxe (1999)

Poison (1990)

Popeye (1980)

Reflections of Evil (2002)

Revelations (1993)

Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Romper Stomper (1992)

Room Service (1938) 

Same Kind of Different as Me (2017) 

Saved! (2004)

Scared to Death (1947) 

Secret Weapons (1985) 

The Shooting (1966)

The Soloist (2009) 

Sons of the Desert (1933)

Street of Crocodiles (1986)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Taken for a Ride (1996)

The Train (1964)

Truck Turner (1974)

Welcome to New Orleans (2006)

Who Farted? (2019) 

Who's That Girl? (1987) 

Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

 Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. I remember Naked City from TV but I never knew it was a movie first. Maybe I'll watch it but definitely I ll watch Ticker.

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    2. Nikki Powell, you are a goddamned slut

    3. Slut, in my opinion, is a compliment. Means a woman is friendly, and I like friendly women.

      You've been there, done that? Nikki offered me nothing but a business deal.

    4. I'm not crazy about sexist descriptors and "slut", let's face it, is only applied to women. I'm also not crazy with job titles with the word "executive" in them. That's generally only applied to assholes.

      jtb (hope I die before I get old. Shit)

    5. Claude Sticks & Stones ReignsNovember 4, 2023 at 5:04 PM

      I *am* crazy about "sexist descriptors" - and racist ones and class ones as well. Fuck everyone is my motto, no one polices my language.

    6. Claude, your usage was funny, and of course funny deflates sexist intent. No objection. Sorry if you heard one. If slut as a compliment was intended humor by Doug, I'd stay away from that as well. As long as you're not a nigger.


    7. Cunt and the n-word are the last two words to startle me when I hear 'em. No single word pisses me off any more, though. Takes a whole sentence to do that.

    8. If you aren’t black, and you think you have a reason where it’s OK to say the N word, you’re either willfully ignorant of the depths to which that word has been used to dehumanize, or you’re a bigot.

    9. I am a bigot — who among us isn't — but that particular word is a taboo I have very, very rarely broken. That said, I am wary when someone limits the options, and hey, I *can* think of other possible reasons for others to say it.

    10. When someone I know says that word it means they're not a friend of mine.

    11. I simply can't fathom being that unforgiving and unempathetic. People are fucking complex beings, even the dumbest white trash or whoever culture now thinks it's acceptable to dump on. That sort of stridency is strictly the provenance of adolescent thinking. And language and thoughts and behavior are three very different things, with as many different manifestations and repercussions. If a friend of mine says "that word" (what word, by the way? are you so afraid to say it a meaningful, searching context?) I would simply talk to them about it, see what they're thinking - that's what a friend does, Jesus Christ Almighty!

    12. on the internet what someone says is who they are.

    13. Yup, it's hard to forward intent.


    14. John and I aren't friends tho. I read his comments about music and I like him enough to say what I said and hope it gets through but you can't have a heart to heart converfsation with every hater. On the internet that would be tilting at windmills.

    15. Our host very charitably says, "I *can* think of other possible reasons for others to say it," though he doesn't hazard a guess at your reasons. John, what were your reasons? Was it a joke nobody else got or an attempt at edginess, or is it just something you say all the time so it slipped out.

    16. I also wonder at John's "forward intent," but with no pitchforks or torches handy, I shan't be joining the march on the castle.

    17. Oh, for heaven's sake, I've been commenting out here for a couple of years and have been a consistent advocate for the brotherhood and sisterhood of humans. I imagine that if I had racist or sexist tendencies they would have shown up by now. I objected to the word "slut" by using an equally objectional word that has been used to subjugate Black people.

      And attempting to infer someone's intent from a single post, comment, forward or reply is absurd. Over time, it's possible to come closer, but Jack Patera, the first Seahawks coach paraphrased Ralph Waldo Emerson when he repeatedly said "What you do shouts so loudly that I can't hear what you say."

      We should be able to disagree and still get along.


    18. Sorry man, instant death penalty for language infractions, coming soon to a theater near you. Gonna make the Romans look like pikers.

      Just wait 'til minds can be read! Instant evaporation by satellite laser for one wrong neuron firing!

    19. Yes, saying 'nigger' makes John the REAL victim.

    20. Neither he nor I is suggesting that is the case, broheim

    21. I believe Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys have a word or two to say. . .


    22. Word.


    23. To reiterte and then I'm finished, Kinky Friedman exists but isn't you , and 'slut' and 'honky' and the n-word are not "equally objectional words."

    24. https://youtu.be/un4cxAG3Jko?feature=shared


    25. VW — Glad you're finished. Seems obvious to me that being a bastard was not John's intent, and it's been a week fer cripessake.

      CR — I was disappointed when the clips ended, so now Mr Pryor's Wanted is playing.

    26. My turn to finish. Nelson Mandela listened to at least one Kinky Friedman song (Ride 'em Jewboy) before retiring each night while imprisoned on Robben Island for 27 years. Racism and sexism and religious bigotry are where you find them -- not in the words that describe them. And racism and sexism and religious bigotry are always wrong and anti-human. They are the very worst of us.



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