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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Superb slices of life!17 May 2006
William Timothy Lukeman
- Published on Amazon.com
As previous reviewers have noted, this is a remarkable drama series from an earlier, more idealistic time. It's a pity we don't have a bit more of such earnestness & idealism today, because I'm not sure that the edgy, dark "realism" of some contemporary entertainment will age as well as this show has, for all that it's clearly rooted in its time. But what a time! TV was still open to literate, questioning, even experimental drama; and even with the network restrictions then, it pushed for truly adult entertainment. Indeed, it's quite possible that those network restrictions made the writers more creative & inventive.
Each episode is almost a small movie, with a distinctive look & vivid characters. Strict realism is often eschewed for intense characterization, sometimes a little larger than life, in order to illuminate one facet of the human soul. We get symbolic drama, absurdist farce, whimsy, elegy, regret ... all depending on the story being told.
Just to pick a few of the episodes:
"Today the Man Who Kills the Ants is Coming" shows us a decent, hardworking man, driven by gnawing demons both within & without, crumbling before our eyes. It's an early depiction of the toll exacted by life, when even doing your best isn't enough. John Larch gives a performance that's almost too painful to watch in its naked honesty.
"The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish" is more in the whimsical vein, although with a serious point. Here we have a man living several lives at once, because he sees no reason why he shouldn't try & experience life on as many levels as possible. A paean to non-conformity, Herbert Konish puzzles & bemuses the police attempting to track him down, because he isn't actually committing any crimes. He isn't in it for the money or any scams, he simply wants to sample as many possibilities as he can.
"Idylls of a Running Back" is probably one of the earliest depictions of the deluded celebrity stalker, with Sandy Dennis chilling as a young woman living in her own fantasy world. It's telling that even when the truth is revealed, the life of the innocent football star she claimed as her lover is still tainted, and it's clear that things will never be the same for him again. Aldo Ray is excellent as the man who's physically capable of overcoming any obstacle, but helpless in the face of this very different threat.
"Daughter Am I in My Father's House" is a truly fascinating, sexually twisted tale of an overprotective father, whose attempts to maintain his daughter's honor are gradually revealed as his own warped drive for control, for sexual release through violence, and an almost incestuous compulsion.
"And by the Sweat of Thy Brow" is practically a fairytale with a twist. Richard Jordan portrays a scarred young man who lives by night, almost in another world. Barbara Barrie is the somewhat too prim & self-denying young woman whose life he saves. It's rather like Beauty & the Beast, except that the story goes even deeper, revealing Barbara Barrie's own inner scars, even as Richard Jordan is eased into the daylight by a sympathetic but firm Detective Flint.
And let me comment here on the overall fine performances of the cast regulars, who serve as our guides into this complex & compelling New York. Even when they seem to take a back seat to the week's guest stars, they all have revealing lines & quirks which flesh them out fully over the course of the series' run. And the commercials are an extra treat, a real time capsule!
All in all, an exemplar of superior television, most highly recommended!
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Not to be Missed!18 Jan. 2006
Claude M. Gruener
- Published on Amazon.com
OK, lest I sound with my raves like a paid PR man for the Naked City series, I am not.
For anyone interested in film noir, New York of the late 50's and 60's, and the early careers of some of our top actors today, this set of three DVDs is a must-have.
For those who don't know about Naked City, all the outdoor scenes were filmed on the streets of New York. It's a very different place than today with the series offering a realistic portrait of the sometimes raw, sometimes glorious city some 50 years ago. (When I watched it when it was first shown on TV, I knew I had to move to New York as soon as I could...and I did.)
This DVD offers stunning performances by a host of actors, many of whom would later become stars including Jean Stapelton, Barbara Harris, Dan Duryea, Maureen Stapleton, and Barbara Barrie. One of my favorites, Idylls of a Running Back, features ever wonderful Sandy Dennis and Aldo Ray. It's about a sensitive and pathetic young woman who goes too far with a football player she adores. He doesn't even know she exists.
Beyond the performances of these actors, you can't beat the "regulars," Paul Burke and Nancy Malone. They are totally real, touching and "New York."
While you are on the time machine and transported back to New York, you will laugh and cry. Don't miss it!
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Early '60s earnestness19 Feb. 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I used to think that "Naked City" was an antecedent of shows like "NYPD Blue," but nothing could be further from the truth. What each show is is a reflection of the times in which they were made. Det. Flint is always probing the psychological motives of the suspects and people involved in a case, much to the exasperation of Lt. Parker. Det. Sipowicz usually assumed the guilt of someone they've brought in for questioning, and wasn't above roughing someone up or telling them something deceitful to get a confession, methods that would horrify Adam Flint.
Many "Naked City" episodes spend much of their time on the inner torment of the criminal, in keeping with the Kennedy-optimistic "forward" thinking of the time. Thus the guest stars are guys who were good at portraying twisted minds, like Robert Duvall and William Shatner. "NYPD Blue" is very victim-focused, with two-dimensional creeps and weirdos for bad guys, with punishment extracted seen as justice done.
"Naked City" can come off as too earnest and idealistic, especially through Flint's character, but at least the motives are noble, and it's actually refreshing now to see such integrity.
The cast is terrific with Nancy Malone very attractive in a pert early-'60s way, very independent in her Broadway career and on a par with Flint as his gal, and often feeding him smart advice. It's a very believable relationship for the brief periods we see it. (The best is going to either of their apartments: It's a veritable catalog of mid-century modern design tips.)
From a pure viewing perspective, the NYC location shooting and overall cinematography is phenomenal, and on progressive-scan TV is so amazing you feel sad that such work could not be fully appreciated in its original airing, having been seem mostly on piss-poor B&W televisions averaging 19" diagonal.
Music -- what can you say about the intersection of the Sinatra world here with themes and incidental music from Billy May and Nelson Riddle?
Stories, acting, cinematography, music -- each episode plays out like a short noir. Being in the early '60s, though, gives it that added "anything seems possible" earnestness and optimism even amid the grimness of the stories.
I've been getting every DVD as they came out (and even wrote to Image after the first release to encourage more), and I love the new bigger sets with the original commercials and station-ID interstitials.
To see the attempts of ad agencies to manipulate viewers 45 years ago is to see crude early stages of techniques that seem laughable now in their transparency. However, you can see the basis for manipulations done in more sophisticated ways today. Aside from that, they're just a riot!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A Great Series5 April 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
The 138 episodes (all in B&W) of the police drama "Naked City" were originally broadcast on ABC from 1958-1963. The series started in a 30-minute format (39 episodes), took a year long break and return in a 60-minute format. The series was filmed in the old Biograph Studios in the Bronx, famous as the studio where D.W. Griffith got his start.
Image Entertainment's 3 DVD release "Naked City - Set 2" contains an assortment of twelve of the hour-long episodes from seasons 3 and 4. The titles, episode numbers, and original air-dates are detailed below.
Although the title makes it sound like a racy exploitation series it is actually the total opposite. Many consider this gritty crime drama the best ever of its genre and the title reflects a focus on stripping away the glamour off NYC and exposing its ugly inside; at least to the extent that they could get away with on broadcast television during those years.
"Naked City" is a follow-up to the 1948 film noir feature of the same name. Both movie and television series utilized extensive location shooting and they definitely have a different feel than the Hollywood product of that era. Also unusual was featuring jazz music by Billy May and Nelson Riddle.
The show never stopped changing its cast and was a bit like "Police Story" in this regard, as it was designed to showcase its many great guest stars (it drew a lot of big names from Broadway); this variety was the show's greatest asset.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
7 March 1962: (3-21) Today the Man Who Kills the Ants Is Coming 25 April 1962: (3-26) The Sweetly Smiling Face of Truth 9 May 1962: (3-27) And If Any Are Frozen Warm Them! 23 May 1962: (3-29) The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish 6 June 1962: (3-31) The Rydecker Case 13 June 1962: (3-32) Memory of a Red Trolley Car 26 Sept 1962: (4-2) Idylls of a Running Back 3 Oct 1962: (4-3) Daughter Am I in My Father's House 10 Oct 1962 (4-4) And By the Sweat of Thy Brow 17 Oct 1962 (4-5) Kill Me While I'm Young So I Can Die Happy 31 Oct 1962 (4-7) Go Fight City Hall 28 Nov 1962 (4-11) Dust Devil on a Quiet Street
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
eight million stories . . . but unfortunately not all of them are that interesting18 Feb. 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I had not seen Naked City (1958-63) before, and was expecting a gritty cops and robbers type drama, but that is not what this series is about. The program is hard to classify, as sometimes the focus is on the episode's guest star(s), with the regular cast of police detectives barely involved. Each episode starts with a fresh canvas, but it is nearly impossible to predict what kind of picture will be painted.
Box Set 2 contains 12 episodes from the fourth and final season of the series (1962-63). Set in New York City, these stories vary widely in subject matter, quality and style. Seldom straightforward criminal investigations, instead these tales often meander down some obscure paths. The result is a very mixed bag. The episodes run from very compelling and thought provoking, to the offbeat, to a few that are over the top, to some that are tedious and not very interesting.
Because the regular cast is not always prominently featured, it takes a while to develop some sense of the relationship between Detectives Adam Flint (Paul Burke), and Frank Arcaro (Harry Bellaver), and Lt. Mike Parker (Horace McMahon). Unfortunately Flint's fiancé Libby Kingston (Nancy Malone), has very little screentime. Which stories may be of interest is probably a very individual matter. These are the episodes that I found noteworthy.
The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish: David Wayne is a classy and talented actor, and this intriguing story about exploring freedom, where he plays a character leading three different lives, is a nice showcase for his talents.
Idylls of a Running Back: Features Oscar winner Sandy Dennis (Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf) in an interesting role, as a delusional and homicidal woman. Aldo Ray is a football player, who becomes the victim of a fantasy. The story is rather unusual for this collection, as it features a rare premeditated act of violence.
And By The Sweat of thy Brow: A very sensitive story, with a strong performance by the underrated actress Barbara Barrie (Suddenly Susan), and a close to the edge performance by Richard Jordan (Logan's Run, The Yakuza), as a man who hides his deformity in the darkness of the night.
Daughter Am I in My Father's House: A story with a real edge to it, as a father (Dan Duryea) uses his daughter (Barbara Harris), as bait to vent his inner rage. This kind of twisted behavior was not yet an overused cliché, and although the story may not be that believable, and the ending is tepid, it is still interesting to see how the concept of vigilantism was handled.
The Rydecker Case: Detective Flint stops a car that is moving erratically, drugs are found on the scene, and the young woman (Kathryn Hayes, As The World Turns) driving is arrested. When the case comes to trial, Flint's motives come into question, as his past behavior in a similar case is revealed in court. This episode is notable as a rare occasion where Flint is the main focus.
Lawrence Dobkin the narrator for the series, closes each episode with the line, `There are eight million stories in the Naked City, this is has been one of them'. Naked City is definitely about telling stories, most which are unconventional for a standard police drama. Superwriter Sterling Silliphant, was the executive story consultant for the series, and some of the episodes have similarities to the kind of exploratory adventures Silliphant was also producing on Route 66. Nelson Riddle provides the music for the series.
Naked City has a bold approach, but it is not always successful, and the focus wanders far and wide. With crime and the police often on the periphery, the regular cast is pushed far into the background, making it hard to consistently identify with them. Paul Burke is a fine actor, but his talents are underused here. While some of the episodes are interesting, the overall quality of the series is too uneven to justify a general recommendation of this collection. If you are curious, you may just have to see for yourself. Something which is an now a very expensive proposition, as the price of the set has gone sky high, since going out of production.
The image quality of the episodes is excellent, but subtitles are not available. Original commercials from the era are also included as extras, but unfortunately there are no features specific to the series. With the passing of Paul Burke in September of 2009, Nancy Malone is at this time, the only surviving cast member.