Reviews

The Moral Code: 'Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes'

In many ways, Naked City is an early precursor to Law and Order, and its brand of gritty criminal stories with guest stars of note routinely employed.


Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes

Distributor: Image
Cast: Paul Burke, Horace McMahon, Harry Bellaver, Nancy Malone
Release date: 2013-02-19
Amazon
“There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”

-- closing narration

Based on the 1948 film of the same name, Naked City is a television series focused on police detectives and criminals in New York City. The series ran for four seasons, the first of which consisted of a half-hour show with two different lead detectives. The remaining seasons were an hour long and mainly followed Detective Adam Flint (Paul Burke).

All but two of the 20 episodes in this collection are from the hour long years, and unsurprisingly, they tend to be better showcases for their stories. While Flint, along with his superior, Lieutenant Mike Parker (Horace McMahon), and fellow officer, Sergeant Frank Arcaro (Harry Bellaver) are a focus of the series, much of the spotlight goes to the criminals and their weekly stories. In fact, Naked City is particularly known for its terrific use of guest stars, as the aptly named Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes DVD attests.

The guest stars vary from episode to episode and almost always portray the criminal. This set includes Robert Duvall (in two separate episodes), Christopher Walken, Carol O’Conner, Diane Ladd, Peter Fonda, Robert Redford, and Jean Stapleton, among others.

Airing from 1958 to 1963, the series owes a great deal to film noir, as it employs much of the starkness and high drama associated with the genre. The first episode featured in the set, “Sweet Prince of Delancey Street”, is a perfect introduction to the collection, as well as a great example of the style. The episode revolves around robbery and murder at a warehouse and a father and son are both considered suspects at one time. The detective work involved in piecing together the various versions of the story, along with the strong performances by Robert Morse, James Dunn, and a young Dustin Hoffman, all make for an intriguing and satisfying hour of television.

Modern audiences would probably view the acting as melodramatic, but through the course of the 20 episodes, the series establishes and reestablishes the contrast between Flint – and his fellow officers – and the criminals they are in pursuit of so single-mindedly. The contrast is most obvious in the almost always cool and collected Flint juxtaposed with the desperate and histrionic criminals.

One of the standout performances is by Robert Sterling in “Alive and Still a Second Lieutenant”. The episode is especially successful because of the layers involved in telling what could be a simple instance of rage turned to murder. However, because Sterling’s Jason Colwell is struggling with a romantic relationship and overwhelming guilt, the story becomes more identifiable, regardless of the extenuating circumstances, and he is actually sympathetic even though he is the criminal of the week. Jon Voight is also very good in the episode as the son of the murdered man and the scenes between him and Sterling are wonderful to watch.

Despite the series’ focus on the lawbreakers, one of the highlights in the set is the episode entitled “Prime of Life”. It's from the series’ fourth and final season and as such has earned the right to shift the spotlight to Flint. The episode centers on Flint attending the execution for a man he helped to put away. Other officers and reporters join him, as they witness a man die. Flint’s reluctance to attend and discomfort while awaiting the prisoner’s death, lead to flashbacks and dreamlike sequences that shed light not only on the man set to be executed, but on Flint as well, in a way that the other episodes in the set do not. While his relationship with his actress girlfriend, Libby (Nancy Malone), is a recurring point in the series, this episode offers a real glimpse into Flint that delves deeper into the character’s sensitivity and moral code.

In many ways, Naked City is an early precursor to Law and Order and its brand of gritty criminal stories with guest stars of note routinely employed. The series makes excellent use of New York City as the backdrop and this well-chosen collection includes terrific performances from many actors who would go on to have long-lasting and distinguished careers. In shifting the focus episode to episode, Naked City successfully brings together both sides of the law in a way that is both absorbing and exciting, while still doing an admirable job of character development.

The DVD release contains no special features.

8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Award-winning folk artist Karine Polwart showcases humankind's innate link to the natural world in her spellbinding new music video.

One of the breakthrough folk artists of our time, Karine Polwart's work is often related to the innate connection that humanity has to the natural world. Her latest album, A Pocket of Wind Resistance, is largely reliant on these themes, having come about after Polwart observed the nature of a pink-footed geese migration and how it could be related to humankind's intrinsic dependency on one another.

Keep reading... Show less
Film

Victory Is Never Assured in ‘Darkest Hour’

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour (2017) (Photo by Jack English - © 2017 FOCUS FEATURES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. / IMDB)

Joe Wright's sharp and only occasionally sentimental snapshot of Churchill in extremis as the Nazi juggernaut looms serves as a handy political strategy companion piece to the more abstracted combat narrative of Dunkirk.

By the time a true legend has been shellacked into history, almost the only way for art to restore some sense of its drama is to return to the moment and treat it as though the outcome were not a foregone conclusion. That's in large part how Christopher Nolan's steely modernist summer combat epic Dunkirk managed to sustain tension; that, and the unfortunate yet dependable historical illiteracy of much of the moviegoing public.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image