Image Entertainment // 1958 // 972 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // March 2nd, 2013
There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is twenty of them.
Inspired by the 1948 classic noir, Naked City was a phenomenal television program that aired between 1958 and 1963. During these years, lead writer Stirling Silliphant (Route 66) and company revolutionized the television police drama, focusing as much on the criminals as the police. Led mostly by Paul Burke (Valley of the Dolls) as Det. Adam Flint and Harry Bellaver (From Here to Eternity) as Det. Frank Acaro (the first season was a half-hour program with a slightly different cast, switched to an hour after its cancellation and reboot), Naked City presented years of brilliant programming that featured a slew of guest stars who were the real highlights of the show. Twenty of these episodes, with stars of the past and future, are presented here on Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes, a highly worthy, if fairly random, collection from Image Entertainment.
* "Sweet Prince of Delancy Street" -- Both a father and a son are accused of
the same robbery turned murder and each of them confesses. Who's covering for
whom? That's what the detectives are there to discover.
Guest stars: Robert Morse (Mad Men); Dustin Hoffman (Midnight Cowboy)
* "Portrait of a Painter" -- A mentally disturbed painter awakes one morning
to find a painting of his beautiful wife and her dead body on the floor. He
doesn't remember doing either, so goes to his psychiatrist, who elicits a
confession from him, but the detectives believe it was coerced. Can they find
the real culprit?
Guest star: William Shatner (Incubus)
* "The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos" -- Driving around one night, a
pair of buddies goes past the place where one of them used to work. On a whim,
they decide to rob the place, but things go wrong, the security guard puts a
bullet in one of their legs. While the investigators try to find them, they try
to dress the wound and stay out of sight.
Guest stars: Peter Fonda (Easy Rider); Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now)
* "The One Marked Hot Gives Cold" -- A man who was orphaned by his father
breaks into the orphanage where he grew up to steal his records and a few
dollars (the value of a hat stolen from him in the old days). In the police
investigation, they discover a man with a checkered past, a lot of pain, and a
Guest star: Robert Duvall (The Godfather)
* "Down the Long Night" -- An ad man believes that a man from his past is
going to try to kill him, so goes to the police for help, but since no crime has
been committed, they can't do anything. One cop, though, goes out on his own
time to investigate, only to discover that both have dark secrets to keep.
Guest star: Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun)
* "To Walk in Silence" -- An investment banker is hit by a stray bullet
during a mafia hit and, fearing for his reputation, refuses to cooperate with
the police. He has to make a very difficult choice when the gunman comes for the
Guest Stars: Claude Rains (Casablanca); Telly Savalas (Kojak); Deborah Walley (Benji)
* "Shoes for Vinnie Winford" -- A rich youngster with terrible anger and
mommy issues is wanted by the police for selling fake cabaret licenses. He
thinks his status should exempt him and makes the one who can testify
Guest star: Dennis Hopper (Red Rock West)
* "Tombstone for a Derelict" -- A group of Neo-Nazis begin killing vagrants
for some obscure purpose. When the investigators finally track him down, they
discover that the leader has a special message to deliver.
Guest star: Robert Redford (The Natural)
* "Alive and Still a Second Lieutenant" -- A corporate vice president has to
reckon with his anger and his morality when he murders a man in a street fight
over a parking space.
Guest Stars: Robert Sterling (Show Boat); Jon Voight (Heat)
* "A Hole in the City" -- A career criminal is on the run from the police
after a robbery and murder. He hides out at his aunt's house after not seeing
her for twenty years and learns that the memories that drove him to crime aren't
Guest Stars: Sylvia Sidney (Sabotage); Robert Duvall; Ed Asner (Elf)
* "Bullets Cost Too Much" -- Detective Flint witnesses a robbery that ends
in murder and is unable to stop the crime. While his name gets scorched in the
papers, the criminals enlist the help of a doctor cousin to keep one of their
Guest stars: Dick York (Bewitched); Jean Stapleton (Michael); James Caan (Misery); Bruce Dern (Django Unchained)
* "Prime of Life" -- Flint goes through an existential crisis when he must
sit witness to the execution of a murderer he helped to imprison.
Guest star: Gene Hackman (Unforgiven)
* "Robin Hood and Clarence Darrow, They Went out with a Bow and Arrow" --
After a series of liquor store robberies, a store owner tries to prove to his
two sons that he's a hero by doling out some vigilante justice.
Guest star: Christopher Walken (Wedding Crashers)
* "Ladybug, Ladybug" -- A wealthy father is targeted in an extortion plot
and, when he won't pay or work with the police, the criminal starts aiming for
Guest star: Peter Falk (Wings of Desire)
* "One of the Most Important Men in the Whole World" -- The two most
important people in a young boy's life, his Mafioso father and his hard-nosed
teacher, come at odds over a failing grade.
Guest star: Richard Conte (Shoot First, Die Later)
* "Line of Duty" -- A detective feels extreme guilt after being forced to
shoot his first perp. He tries to go to the man's family to apologize, but gets
a very mixed reaction and little help.
Guest star: Diane Ladd (Wild at Heart)
* "Spectre of the Rose Street Gang" -- A construction site digs up the
skeleton of a fourteen year old boy, estimated to have died over two decades
ago. With no leads except for a mysterious lighter, the police must wait for the
one man who might know something to come to his senses.
Guest stars: Jack Warden (12 Angry Men); Carroll O'Connor (All in the Family)
* "The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish" -- The investigation of random
complaint brings up the bizarre tale of a man living six complete and separate
Guest stars: David Wayne (The Andromeda Strain); Jean Stapleton
* "The Pedigree Sheet" -- A car accident results in a dead man, by bullet,
and an uncooperative teenager who clearly has something to hide. By finding her
father, the police are able to undercover the truth.
Guest star: Murray Hamilton (Jaws); Al Lewis (The Munsters); Suzanne Pleshette (The Birds)
* "The Tragic Success of Alfred Tiloff" -- A crook tries to finally impress
his wife by kidnapping a little girl and ransoming her back to her parents, but
his conscience finally gets in the way of his motivation.
Guest star: Jack Klugman (Days of Wine and Roses)
The only complaint that I have about Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes is the lack of rhyme or reason to the particular episodes included or the order in which they appear. It's a tiny problem, though, because the added benefit of the lack of organization is the ability to see just how diverse this show actually was.
Some are the standard murder-investigation-resolution template, which works just fine; Adam Flint's cerebral, modern police work contrasts well with Frank Acaro's old-school ways and they have a good chemistry together. More interesting, though, are the many episodes that verge from this. "Prime of Life" is basically a Satre story in a police show, with a five minute wait for an execution essentially taking fifty minutes to pass. "Ladybug, Ladybug," alternately, gets into the mindset of a child forced to choose between his diametrically opposed father figures, in which the police play a minimal role.
Naked City also deals with some more directly taboo issues, which I really didn't expect from the show. The Robert Redford showcase, "Tombstone for a Derelict," tackles Neo-Nazism, William Shatner's "Portrait of a Painter" handles sheer insanity, and Robert Duvall's first of two episodes in the collection, "The One Marked Hot Gives Cold," my favorite episode presented here and genuinely one of the finest single television episodes I have seen, discusses bullying and child molestation in a fairly frank manner. On the more fun side, look for a very young Christopher Walken looking very different while performing in a nearly identical fashion as his current persona and Dennis Hopper playing well against what would become his type as an ultra-rich man-child.
As a production, Naked City was top-notch. Silliphant's expert writing keeps the show consistently compelling (though he didn't write every episode, he's always credited as a story consultant) and the on-location New York footage is basically a character unto itself. The only real down episodes are the two inclusions from the original season. At only a half-hour, it seems as though they'd move quickly, but they are far less graceful than later seasons after he show found its feat. It seems to be the advent of Det. Flint that gives the show heart and a more modern feel, but whatever the reason, it's far better in later years. Regardless, this is only two episodes out of twenty, and the eighteen hour-long episodes are purely phenomenal television.
Image Entertainment has done fair work on their release of Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes. Presented over five discs, the episodes all look fairly good, especially considering the age of the show. They're pretty clear and crisp, with a minimum of damage to the original material and solid contrast. The mono sound mix is basically flat, but there's virtually no noise to inhibit the dialog, which sounds good throughout. There are no extras in the collection.
Naked City is great television, one of the best police dramas ever to have aired. It was a fantastic showcase for the main cast and an even better one for the guest stars, whether they were young or already established. Not nearly as old-fashioned as one might expect from a show of this era and compelling throughout, Naked City is not to be missed and this collection is as good a place as any to start.
Review content copyright © 2013 Daryl Loomis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 972 Minutes
Release Year: 1958
MPAA Rating: Not Rated