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drinkanddestroy
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« on: January 27, 2013, 06:16:41 PM »

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040636/

The Naked City (1948)

Cast, courtesy of imdb

Barry Fitzgerald    ...    Det. Lt. Dan Muldoon
Howard Duff    ...    Frank Niles
Dorothy Hart    ...    Ruth Morrison
Don Taylor    ...    Jimmy Halloran
Frank Conroy   ...    Captain Donahue
Ted de Corsia    ...    Garzah (as Ted De Corsia)
House Jameson    ...    Dr. Stoneman
Anne Sargent    ...    Mrs. Halloran
Adelaide Klein    ...    Mrs. Batory
Grover Burgess    ...    Mr. Batory
Tom Pedi    ...    Detective Perelli
Enid Markey       ...    Mrs. Hylton
Mark Hellinger    ...    Narrated By (voice)



This is a police procedural: Barry Fitzgerald and Don Taylor are police detectives heading a murder investigation.

The movie uses all real locations in NYC, which is rare for 1948.

IMO: the problem with this movie is in its extensive narration: the narration tells you everything, in fact, much more than everything: it tells you that the movie will be unlike you've ever seen because it uses real locations, then (in addition to the usual narration of police procedurals which describe the procedures the cops are using to crack the case), it tells you the thoughts of each person, it emphasizes over and over that this is a big city, that this is just one story out of 8 million people.

This is the worst use of narration I have ever seen. It's as if the viewers are idiots, and won't understand all this stuff without being told: Just show us the locations, show us the crowds, and we understand it all. But no, the movie feels a need to tell us exactly what we are seeing and how special it is, and it makes for a very painful viewing experience (or , more accurately, "listening experience"  Wink)

It is great to see the NYC locations in 1948. Perhaps this movie should be watched on mute

3/10

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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2013, 03:52:26 AM »

Horse Shit , this is a great film, its not very noir but is an excellent crime film in period NYC, my biggest complaint is Barry Fitzgerald's accent  Cool.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nfH3aY-Qy6I

Naked City, The (1948) From Back Alley Forum

 (PhantomLadyVintage; 03-15-2010)

Voice over in film has always been a particular point of interest for me; so much that I have even considered authoring a book on the topic as it pertains to movies made prior to 1970.

The narrator, as he is employed in The Naked City, embodies amongst one of the most compelling manifestations of the voice-over. Narrating Naked City is producer Mark Hellinger, speaking as himself, which is the unusual aspect of his role.

Typically a narrator is simply an omniscient unidentified voice. Is it supposed to represent "god"? A collective human psyche? That it is up for us to debate.

Voice-over narration has also taken on the form of a specific character from the plot, who is reflecting on the experience of a recent or distant past.

As my personal tendency is such, I will take a quick moment to present a historical footnote: it should be mentioned that Mr Hellinger tragically died of a sudden heart attack after a preview of The Naked City. Knowing this fact makes hearing his words spoken aloud in the film that much more eerie....

Hellinger's disembodied voice proclaims Naked City as a documentary, amidst stark aerial shots of New York City with particularly stunning painterly light exhibited in the camera work, and lead us into subsequent haunting black shots of the city at night. If you watch the film for only one reason, it should be for this first five minutes, while Hellinger expresses poignant and philosophical thoughts about the concept of a city, juxtaposed with evocative images of New York in the late 1940s: "The question: Do the machines in a factory ever need rest? Does a ship ever feel tired? Or is it only people who are weary at night? There is a pulse to a city and it never stops beating."

He pronounces the actors just as that: actors. His words do away with the necessity of opening credits shown as text. Despite this lack of credits, hearing them spoken aloud in narrative form distinctively highlights the film's literary source, almost giving us the sense that we, the viewers, are being read to from a book. From this first sequence, we are highly conscious that this is a "staged" documentary film played out in the background of real life.

"Ladies and gentleman, the motion picture you are about to see is called The Naked City. My name is Mark Hellinger, and I was in charge of its production. And I may as well tell you frankly, that it's a bit different than most of the films you've ever seen. It was written by Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald. Photographed by William Daniels and directed by Jules Dassin. As you see, we're flying over an island, a city. A particular city. And this is a story of a number of people, and also a story of the city itself. It was not photographed in a studio. Quite the contrary. Barry Fitzgerald, our star, Howard Duff, Dorothy Hart, Don Taylor, Ted de Corsia, and the other actors, played out their roles in the streets, in the apartment houses, in the skyscrapers of New York itself........and along with them, a great many thousand New Yorkers played out their roles as well. This is the city as it is. Hot summer pavements, the children at play, the buildings in their naked stone, the people, without make-up."

Jules Dassin recognized the documentary style as informing his artistic motives, which were primarily to convey "truth".

"What interests me is the truth," says Dassin, "and I think I find it in the framework of documentary. A certain poetry must complement the documentary aspect however....what you see in my films, this mixture of documentary and poetry, is my modest investigation of an expression of truth, even when one is limited to thrillers or detective stories."

Dassin may have seen these plots as a bit limiting, but he certainly contributed to the definition of film noir, by using murderous secrets and revelations of truth as plot devices.
"Conceived at roughly the same time as the atomic bomb, film noir was also born secret.....Given their capacity to generate plots and fracture identities, the secrets in film noirs act structually and thematically as atomic engines, or even bombs." (Mark Osteen)

The Naked City's quest is the truth, discovered by "asking a thousand questions to get one answer," carving out another facet in the tradition of police documentaries. Righteous investigators are presented in the pursuit of that courageous truth which has the power and will to disrupt the evils of a noir underworld.

"A hero too, albeit more complex, is the short Irish detective of The Naked City, who believes in God and consecrates his nights to the triumph of justice. An edifying film, the American police documentary is, in fact, a documentary to the glory of the police....." (Borde and Chaumeton. A Panorama of American Film Noir, page 7)

In a noir vision typical of Dassin, who also directed Night and the City (1950), The Naked City and the objects of the film take on anthropomorphic roles. In fact, as cited in A Panorama of Film Noir by Borde and Chaumeton, the pair who first defined the noir genre, Dassin seems to expand upon "the tradition in American cinema of subordinating a human story to the endurance of an engine or a scrap of material. Dassin renews the drama of objects...in terms of their everyday handling, some objects are bound up with impending danger."
The objects, the urban landscape are transported into a surreal realm, where they can take on a persona of their own. Film noir is qualified by projecting surrealism in plot and images, which is "crucial to the reception of any art described as noir." (James Naremore)

The trail of objects leading to the murderer in The Naked City, have all the mythic, scandal-ridden and freakish qualities of a "noir fairy tale." A glass bottle of sleeping pills. A gold cigarette case. A stolen engagement ring. A publicity photo of a wrestler who has a penchant for playing the harmonica.

But what really defines The Naked City as one of the greatest noir films, is the way in which the city of New York takes on its own life, an asphalt jungle that is sleepless, merciless, corrupt. Pulsating with a cold urban triumph, a black and white grid depicted from oblique angles which induce claustrophobia in the protagonists, and especially in us, the suspended viewers.

"In the country, the darkness of night is friendly and familiar, but in a city, with its blaze of lights, it is unnatural, hostile, and menacing. It is like a monstrous vulture that hovers, biding its time." (W.Somerset Maugham)

The most chilling portrayal in the film, that perhaps drives home Dassin's original artistic motives of truth, is the first shot of the murder victim. One can clearly see, this victim is a beautiful young woman. Preceding this shot, the viewer is plyed with images of city nightlife. It makes it far more ominous for us to know that these events, good and bad, are occurring simultaneously. A normal evening out for some people, strangulation and drowning for others....."and even this too, could be called routine, in a city of 8 million people."

In conclusion: "There are 8 million stories in The Naked City. This has been one of them."

Author's note: In 2007, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."

« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 04:19:25 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2013, 04:06:45 AM »

a review closer to Drink's from Back Alley Forums:

Nice review about a controversial “film noir.”

I watch The Naked City, with sound turned off.

I applaud Mark Hellinger for his producing The Killers (1946), but not for his meddling in The Naked City. He smothers The Naked City with his annoying, arrogant, and egotistical voice-over-narration.

Do we really need to listen to a smug producer tell us the hood (Ted de Corsia) makes mistakes? Hellinger’s is not the stern voice of Government Authority that is here to serve and protect, and frighten us into designed order. His is not the angst-ridden voice of Claire Trevor in Raw Deal, or the drug-induced voice of Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet. We are not sure why Hellinger narrates. To tell us there are 8 million souls in the City, or perhaps to puff up his producer ego?

And the producer blots out Dassin’s directorial signature. The Jules Dassin of Thieves Highway, Brute Force, The Night and the City, and Rififfi disappears. Other than the noirish Williamsburg Bridge sequence, Dassin hides from view, as though locked up in an apartment closet in the City …banished by his producer, as HUAC would later banish him.

A pedestrian police procedural, the plot yawns. It’s a dull crime mystery, duller than most. The B acting is stale.

The main characters are straight and narrow, not undecided and compromised. Characters do not transform. They are statically what they are.

The main character, Lt. Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald), could star in a Max Fleischer cartoon, but would appear inert against the likes of Popeye, Olive Oyl, and Bluto who breathe. At best, he could serve as sidekick to Sergeant Friday (Jack Webb) in TV Dragnet.

The underling cop, Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) is a cutout from the thinnest, flimsiest piece of papier-mâché. The only thing interesting about him is his wife (Anne Sargent).

The ingénue, Ruth Morrison (Dorothy Hart), barely passes the B grade for innocence. She is suspect for being so easily bamboozled, but Ms. Hart looks great. Frank Niles (Howard Duff) dupes her, but fails to hoodwink the singing gumshoe, Lt. Muldoon, and the audience. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you sure can’t fool Ma… and Lt. Muldoon.

Only Ted de Corsia performs; he delivers the goods as a menacing hooligan, as usual.

As film-noir, The Naked City is thin. It’s about as noir as Key Largo.

The City is noir for a few, but not for all 8 million souls. A bit-prop geezer, Doc Stoneman falls for blondes - so what. Is that noir? The blonde dame, hangs-out with the wrong crowd and pays for it. Ma and Pa shed tears into the East River because of it. Noir? Why not.

As neo-realism, The Naked City is authentic. Cinematographer William Daniels’ candid shots of the City are Oscar quality, and deservedly so. It’s why I watch.

The documentary visuals and Williamsburg Bridge sequence delight. The voice-over-narration, characters, acting, and plot disappoint.

Give me Anthony Mann’s Side Street (1950) instead. It’s a noir story in the noir City with Farley Granger, Cathy O’Donnell, Jean Hagen, Paul Kelly, Whit Bissell, and Charles McGraw – a reliable noir crew that regularly works the noir night shift.

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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2013, 04:15:11 AM »

More From Back Alley Forums:

MartinTeller 

(review from April 26, 2008)

A decent police procedural from decent filmmaker Jules Dassin. I've always been somewhat underwhelmed by Dassin's work, and never more so than here. To be fair, he's got a good eye... the photography sports some good ideas, and I like the use of real locations. But the movie is hampered by weak acting, uninteresting characters, and especially the annoying narration. Rating: 6


(review from November 25, 2010)

I've developed more of a fondness for police procedurals, so I'm rating it just a notch higher than last time, but it's really not much more than a simple police procedural. The most unique thing about it is the unusual use of voiceover to delve into the private thoughts of random individuals, almost like Wings of Desire in that respect. But it doesn't really add that much to a rather mundane procedural with mundane characters and mundane performances. Only Barry Fitzgerald and Ted de Corsia make an impression. It's entertaining fare, but needs a lot more sizzle and for me it holds its position as the weakest Dassin I've seen. Rating: 7

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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2013, 07:43:08 AM »

Horse Shit , this is a great film, its not very noir but is an excellent crime film in period NYC, my biggest complaint is Barry Fitzgerald's accent  Cool.



Well I figured you would feel that way, since you give movies "10/10 on locations alone," and this movie definitely has a wonderful use of location (as the narrator never ceases to remind us).

What's your problem with Fitzgerald's accent? That's his real accent. I've always liked him; it's a shame he was wasted here in such a shitty movie

------

These two youtube clips show the first 9 minutes or so of the film, just to give y'all an idea of the narration

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3WHT4HpsCo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nfH3aY-Qy6I



« Last Edit: January 28, 2013, 07:46:16 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2013, 03:57:22 PM »


What's your problem with Fitzgerald's accent? That's his real accent. I've always liked him; it's a shame he was wasted here in such a shitty movie


I've never heard any body other than the Lucky Charms leprechaun speak that way  Grin

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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2014, 03:31:17 AM »

Okay, I just watched the movie again, on TCM.

And I was wrong, wrong, wrong. This is an 8.5/10 movie. And I don't have a problem with the narration - except in one brief moment: when the young cop is chasing de Corsia at the end, he runs into the alley, and then the narration picks up - I thought that whole chase should have played out straight, with no narration. Otherwise, I don't have a problem with the narration. Also, the movie says it uses all real locations - however, it does use process shots for a scene on the elevated train, and for a scene at the end where Fitzgerald is in the car on the bridge chasing de Corsia.

But overall, this is a really good movie. How could my opinion change so drastically from one viewing to the next? I think it basically comes down to whether or not you buy into the narration. If you don't buy into it, you'll hate the movie; if you do buy into it, it can be a terrific movie - which IMO it is  Afro

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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2014, 10:14:09 AM »

How could my opinion change so drastically from one viewing to the next?
Uh, I dunno, maybe your voice finally cracked? You got some hair on your balls? You no longer have the mind of a child?

It could be any number of things.

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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2014, 09:51:57 PM »

here are some pics of the Williamsburg Bridge


on the upper level (where the photographer is standing), the right side is the lane for walking (far left, which you can barely see, is lane for bikes); on level below, the center is train tracks, just to the right is a road for cars (no cars on the road in this picture)

the above photo was taken with flash; I didn't like how it came out, so I decided to take (most of) the rest of the pics without flash. Same spot, without flash: (in this photo, there are cars on the road on the lower level right side)


nobody tell DJ, I just realized, the pic on top - the bad one - is blue and pink; the one on bottom - the good one - is yellow. Uh oh!


-----

same spot, again without flash


here is the exact same picture, but I decided to "enhance" it on my iPhoto, so it's a bit brighter than the original, above

Here's a huge staircase that goes way up (perhaps the one Ted de Corsia ran up at the end of The Naked City?.... Photo is enhanced for lighting so that you can see the stairs)


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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2014, 04:43:51 AM »

Nice images, so what did they do add a trestle over the walkway and then cover it all with chicken wire, in the film its all wide open if I remember right?

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« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2014, 05:42:46 AM »

Here's how the bridge looked in the winter of '70-'71, c/o The French Connection.








The photos are from a piece on the scouting location site, Scouting-NY, that showed the film's scenes then and now.

http://www.scoutingny.com/french-connection-filming-locations/

Just below where the cars are in the second picture was a turnaround mechanism for trolleys or early subway lines.  The space, long unused, may be reconfigured as a kind of park space, an underground version of Chelsea's High Line.

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« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2017, 12:21:13 PM »

“And this is a story of a number of people, and also a story of the city itself. It was not photographed in a studio. Quite the contrary. Barry Fitzgerald, our star, Howard Duff, Dorothy Hart, Don Taylor, Ted de Corsia, and the other actors, played out their roles in the streets, in the apartment houses, in the skyscrapers of New York itself... and along with them, a great many thousand New Yorkers played out their roles as well. This is the city as it is. Hot summer pavements, the children at play, the buildings in their naked stone, the people, without make-up."

Directed by Jules Dassin for independent producer Mark Hellinger’s production company The Naked City was Dassin’s next-to-last film - after Brute Force also for Hellinger -  before he left the country as a result of a HUAC investigation.

The film’s title was taken from NY tabloid reporter Weegee’s book The Naked City (1945), a collection of sensational photographs of crime scenes and bizarre street life. Weegee’s work was unflinchingly realistic in its depiction of crime and death, and his gritty and unpolished snapshots formed the foundation for Hellinger's film.

The Naked City was ahead of its time. Movies in the 40s were mostly shot in Hollywood studios and backlots, deliberately lacking the fullness and density of the real world. Reality was (re)-constructed and rigorously choreographed on a sound stage with atmospheric emphasis on light and shadow.
But after the War filmmaking increasingly took to the streets of real cities, courtesy of improved sound technology and lighter camera equipment. To have a picture shot entirely on the streets of a city was an almost revolutionary idea at the time. Although on-location filming had been used earlier in Hollywood, its use was sporadic and not indicative of a trend.
Two developments sparked an interest in this new approach to movie making. First the work of combat camera crews on battle fields and second the films of Italian Neo-Realist directors -  who favored on-location shooting and used the camera as a neutral recording device.
Location pictures gave (crime) stories a semblance of documentary authenticity and spontaneity, of on-the-spot journalistic report. They emphasized a flow of life that a studio-based film couldn't convey and in fact deliberately avoided.
Filmed entirely on location in New York, The Naked City bucked the studio-shot trend. Hellinger wanted life unscripted. His picture was filmed in real apartments, in real buildings, offices and shops, though a few times this claim has to be taken with a grain of salt. I’m fairly sure some inside shots were filmed in a studio though I have no proof of that. The "extras" were real unsuspecting bystanders walking the streets, not always knowing they were filmed. To make this work, some trickery had to be involved. Camera men had to be hidden inside a truck so as to avoid attracting crowds of curious onlookers. There was little official aid in filming on New York City streets at that time.  

At first glance Neo-realism would seem diametrically opposed to Noir, it sat at the opposite end of the stylistic spectrum. But by blending the styles of neo-realism and classic Noir, a new type of filmmaking was born. It adopted a semi-documentary technique while still respecting its roots, stressing realism not romanticism.

The Naked City ushered in a turning point for Noir. While Dassin’s Brute Force is one of the quintessential 40s Expressionist Noirs, full of desperation and claustrophobia behind impenetrable prison walls, Naked City portrays a vital city in summer. It is Day and The City. There’s no doom, despair and paranoia, at least not for its main characters. With his next film, Night and the City, Dassin would go back to intense Expressionism.

The opening scene is an aerial shot of New York, with the Empire State and the Chrysler Building, taken from a plane circling Manhattan. A short time later we see a truck spraying the day’s filth down the gutters.
This aerial shot is accompanied by a voice-over by Hellinger who’s acting as the voice of the City. No credits are seen on the screen. Hellinger expresses poignant and philosophical, though doubtlessly at times corny and overly verbose, thoughts about the inner life of the city and the fabric it is made of. “There is a pulse to a city and it never stops beating.” It is teaming with life. Not everybody like the narration, many found it too folksy and intrusive.

This is followed by a series of slice-of-life sketches on city life. The camera as Peeping Tom. We see gritty Manhattan streets, luncheonettes, Lower East Side food markets, ritzy apartments and shabby tenements; rich uptown doctors, soda jerks in the Bowery, newspaper boys, a woman getting her hair done, people on the subway to the outer boroughs. None of this bears any relation to the mystery, instead it gives us the flavor of the city.
All of a sudden these everyday scenes are interrupted by a gruesome murder. Dassin is using this technique during the entire film, alternating between real city life and docu-drama, allowing us to see the case connected to the wider fabric of city life.

The plot itself isn’t much. A young woman, model Jean Dexter, is found murdered in an apartment in New York City. Seasoned homicide detectives Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and wet behind the ears pup Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) take up the investigation and find a whole slew of shifty and unsavory characters with more or less good reasons to kill Dexter, above all of them habitual liar and crook Frank Nils (Howard Duff).
What we see from then on is a 1940s version of CSI: New York. The cops hit the streets, following up one lead after another, talking to friends, relations and shopkeepers at the places Dexter worked and frequented, “asking a thousand questions to get one answer”. What they don’t know is that they’re being watched and followed by the murderer.

No hard-boiled gumshoes and deadly dames can be found here, the detectives are not impossibly handsome men who solve the mystery while guzzling down shots of bourbon and getting lucky with the ladies, they’re flatfoots doing an unglamorous job and solving the crime by old-fashioned leg work. They don’t have dark secrets either. Halloran's happy home life reveals itself to be a happy home life.

Barry Fitzgerald is Barry Fitzgerald, hammy as always and wearing his Oirish leprechaun charm proudly on his sleeve. He’s nevertheless good as Lt. Muldoon. He’s charming and not trying to come off as overly hard-nosed.

One of the saddest and most haunting scenes in the film is when Jean Dexter’s parents come to the city to identify the body of their daughter. Both are crushed by the blow, her father stoically and on the surface unemotionally accepting his daughter’s death, her mother literally spitting out her hurt for how the daughter treated them, changing her name and being ashamed of her lowly and “ethnic” background. She literally seethes with hate. But it all melts away once she has to look at Jean on a slab in the morgue. "Why wasn't she born ugly?” she later asks full of despair.

The finest scene of the movie is the manhunt sequence through NY, ending on the steel ladders of the Williamsburg Bridge against the skyline, where the murderer makes his last stand. One almost sympathizes with him then as one of the hunted and lonely, looking down onto a city with people who are oblivious to his plight.

Some viewers found the plot unremarkable. As a police procedural the movie is barely routine, but this is not the focal point of the film.
The movie is a cinematic love letter to New York, showcased in all its glory and ugliness. Why else would the killer’s brother be interviewed on a skyscraper construction site? Because we get a fabulous view of the city.
The star of the film is New York itself and it has rarely been captured so vividly and alive. It is a wonderful time capsule. Hellinger called it his celluloid monument to New York.
What the audience gets is a real sense of place, something not too often seen in classic movies.

In the end life goes on in the irrepressible city. Jean Dexter was just a six-day wonder. Once her murder is solved, the soggy newspapers in the gutter move on to the next big case. She was just another statistic. It’s a brief reflection on the fleeting nature of sensational news, even more so today with 24-hour disposable news cycles. City poetry at its finest.

The closing line to the picture reminds us that cities are made of people who encounter love, hate, joy, despair and tragedy. Each of them make their lives in the city, day-in and day-out. But in the end their struggles don’t count for much.

The picture is a wonderful nostalgic homage and that’s why it works so well still today. Even if you haven’t lived through those times.

« Last Edit: August 09, 2017, 12:36:17 PM by Jessica Rabbit » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2017, 04:25:01 AM »

Nice review Jess as always. Yesterday I rewatched Naked Alibi the cheapy bottom of the barrel Noirs really pale in comparison visually to those that were shot on location or those that used studio sets creatively. The cheapies that overcame their budgets had compelling scripts and top notch acting.

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« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2017, 09:02:33 AM »

I agree about Naked Alibi, unfortunately a wasted opportunity.

The Naked City makes a good double bill with Pickup on South Street, probably one of the best examples of a real-looking "fabricated city".

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« Reply #14 on: August 04, 2017, 11:33:05 AM »

I agree about Naked Alibi, unfortunately a wasted opportunity.

The Naked City makes a good double bill with Pickup on South Street, probably one of the best examples of a real-looking "fabricated city".

Agree.

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"When you feel that rope tighten on your neck you can feel the devil bite your ass"!
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