"Naked City" is without doubt the most successful of the pseudo-documentary crime films that have appeared in the last few years. As the magazine blurbs have emphasized, the picture was made in New York at the places where the events supposedly happened, and the effect of taking the murders out into genuine open air is both refreshing and convincing.
The excellence of "Naked City" lies not in the enormity or the intrinsic bloodiness of the crimes, but in the adroit juxtaposition of familiar surroundings with unusual events. Of course it is an escape picture, in which the audience is allowed an exciting peep behind a city's facade of respectability, but the treatment, so much better than in most films of this class, counterbalances the natural and inevitable weaknesses.
The plot begins with the murder of a blonde in an apartment on West 83rd Street and ends with the murderer's demise about a week later on the Williamsburg Bridge. In between is an intricate, tense story involving a number of jewel thieves and two untiring detectives. The camera roams pleasantly over most of New York as the detectives close in, and Albert Maltz, the scriptwriter, has even provided moments of comic relief in his caressing tour of the city.
Mark Hellinger's method in directing the picture is straightforward, but often ingenious in its use of the camera. Hellinger's only mistake was to extend his spoken commentary over the whole film instead of leaving it as a suitable introduction. The commentary interrupts the picture frequently, and its sentimentality is the film's only major fault. Barry Fitzgerald is completely adequate as the older detective, while the other actors, none of whose names are familiar play uniformly well.