The Criterion Collection Movie ••• Picture •••½Sound ••• Extras ••
Despite its B-movie story and overreliance on the limited charms of actor Barry Fitzgerald, this 1948 Jules Dassin-directed noir still packs a wallop. As is the case with the TV series that the The Naked City spawned a decade later, William Daniels' fantastic location cinematography shot all around New York City is the real star of this manhunt thriller. (A pulse-pounding climatic chase sequence running from the Lower East Side to atop the Brooklyn Bridge virtually defines first-rate moviemaking.) The new Criterion Collection transfer is pristine and exquisitely crystal-clear, completely free of the artifacts and murky picture of the 1999 DVD release, and highlights every detail of Daniels' crisp, stark black-and-white images. Recorded-in-the-city-streets background noises add to the movie's documentary feel, part of Dassin's homage to Italian neorealism. The extras are dominated by several bland audio essays, including a surprisingly lackluster one by original co-screenwriter Malvin Wald; only architect, author, and filmmaker James Sanders' enthusiastic discourse on New York provides any real substance. Dassin's 2004 appearance at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is likewise interesting to see, but doesn't add anything to the movie's experience. [NR] English, Dolby Digital mono; full frame (1.33:1); dual layer.