"there are 8 million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them."
last night tcm aired the granddaddy of police procedural shows, "the naked city," during prime time. long before computers, the internet and dna, police still solved murders - the detective work just took a little more shoe leather. "the naked city" is still as fresh today - 60 years after it was made (right here in new york city) as it when it first played in movie houses.
that seems like an strange observation since one highlight of the film is the almost time capsule like view of bygone new york it provides - horse draw carriages, ice wagons, and elevated train lines in manhattan. solving the murder of the young model found dead in her bathtub is the ostensible plot, but the documentary style portrait of the city revealed as the detectives roam the streets tracking down leads is breathtaking.
for a straightforward crime - murder, the plot draws in jewel thieves and ccomplices that are hilarious. especially the duped doctor - twice, once by the criminals at his wife's socials and then again by the police, in his own office. his overly dramatic confession and pathetic attempt to jump out the window is (probably unintended) comic relief. that contrasts with the real drama of the earlier morgue scene, where the model's parents are brought in from "out of town" to identify her body. that was a modern day morality play.
and even the victims of the jewel thieves are fascinating creatures. upon returning a stolen ring to a wealthy apartment denizen, she purred happily - until she learned the other items are still missing. "i'm so disappointed!" she blurted out, a mood change of 180 degrees. but she caught herself and instantly returned to the ever-so-polite matron. the shocker is, however, that the ring (after a brief interlude in the hands of the dead model) actually belonged to her daughter (the fiance of the suspected murderer) - go figure?!
and what of the actual murderer? in addition to his duties as a jewel thief/murderer, he is also a harmonica playing wrestler! the best part of tracking him down is, once again, watching the young detective as he makes his way thru the bustling city streets. not to leave the boroughs out, we also get a glimpse of his somewhat bucolic home life in long island city (part of queens - not long island. although both brooklyn and queens are technically on long island - but that's another long story - ha).
imagine a detective questioning young children on a playground about a big burly man that stops to play the harmonica for them! even more astonishing, the children, innocently, have an idea of where he lives! that clue leads the detective straight to the bad guy! even more amazing, the detective makes small talk, as the wrestler continues his work-out, before towels off and overpowers the officer to make his get-away. it's an almost surrealistic sequence of events!
for a new yorker, for a fan of csi: ny, any of the 3 law and order series, film noir, or police shows in general (either fiction or true crime), "the naked city" is must viewing. buy it, rent it, or borrow it - just get your hands on it and enjoy the ride.
fyi: "the naked city" was the basis for the t.v. series of the same name that ran in from the late 50s to the early 60s (which is also great viewing).