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Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes (DVD Review)

Naked-CityNaked City is a spin off television of the film noir classic of the same name.  The show spanned for 4 seasons and ran 138 episodes from 1958-1963.  While the film version was very noir, this show has some of that feel, but is more of a police procedural than anything.  And it’s more procedural than anything we can think we know by that format today.  Modern CBS shows look like HBO/Showtime programming in comparison.  For this release, Image has collected 20 episodes featuring some of the biggest name guest stars of the entire series’ run.  You’ll see the likes of William Shatner, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen (fighting a midget!), Robert Duvall and more as you make your way through the episodes.

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Series 

Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes contains 20 episodes spread over 5 discs

Disc 1

“Sweet Prince of Delancey Street” – Dustin Hoffman, Robert Morse

“Portrait of a Painter” – William Shatner

“The Night the Saints Lost Their Halos” – Peter Fonda

“The One Marked Hot Gives Cold” – Robert Duvall

Disc 2

“Down the Long Night” – Leslie Nielson

“To Walk in Silence” – Claude Raines, Telly Savalas

“Shoes for Vinnie Winford” – Dennis Hopper

“Tombstone for a Derelict” – Robert Redford

Disc 3

“Alive and Still a Second Lieutenant” – John Voight

“A Hole in the City” – Robert Duvall, Ed Asner

“Bullets Cost Too Much” – Jean Stapleton, Bruce Dern, James Caan

“Prime of Life” – Gene Hackman

Disc 4

“Robin Hood and Clarence Darrow, They Went Out with the Bow and Arrow” – Christopher Walken

“Lady Bug, Lady Bug” – Peter Falk

“One of the Most Important Men in the Whole Word” – Richard Conte

“Line of Duty” – James Franciscus, Diane Ladd

Disc 5

“Spectre of the Rose Street Gang” – Carroll O’Connor, Jack Warden

“The Multiplicity of Herbert Konish” – Jean Stapleton, David Wayne

“The Pedigree Street” – Suzanne Pleshette

“The Tragic Success of Alfred Tiloff” – Jack Klugman, Jan Sterling

Naked City is a weird being.  It is and isn’t my cup of tea all at the same time.  I’m not a procedural guy, so the fact that the slate cleans after every episode and we start fresh loses my interest.  We have characters that are in every episode, but I wouldn’t likely call them “main characters” as I know nothing about them other than them doing their job every episode.  However, some of the old technique and some touches (even Twilight Zone-esque at times) fascinate me.

Every episode we spend pretty much the entire course of it with those committing the crime or those playing victim to it.  The police and detectives build their presence as the episode wages on, but they are there for pretty much the same structured paint by numbers cop game every time.  So, it gets pretty formulaic really fast.  There are good moments to be had, but in the end most feel rather long and sluggish.  When I began, the opening of Sweet Prince of Delancy Street got me pretty excited as it was very noir and horror at the same time.  Little did I know this was the exception and not the rule.

For fans of this series, this release may be slightly disappointing as 11 of the episodes contained on the disc were already on a previous release.  And considering the whole series is not available, it’s hard to have this as encouraging sign that the rest is coming.  But, 9 isn’t bad, especially ones with big time stars appearing.  There is stuff to like here, but for me personally it’s a mixed bag as I’m not a fan of straight procedurals.

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Video 

Image releases Naked City, respecting its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.  The MPEG-2 encoding features for the most part an impressive presentation.  A couple of the episodes come off a bit worn out and feature some heaving ghosting, scratches and dirt.  Most of the episodes, however, feature some good quality, maybe a few dust specs here and there, but look close to what their broadcast quality may have been.  For fans of the series, this is likely the best you’ll get for now.

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Audio 

The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround is sufficient enough in keeping the audio loyal to its video counterpart.  Hearing a record hiss and some scuffing is there, but it only feels natural given the age of the product.  Nothing is ever outright distracting and those going into this in the first place know what they are getting into.  Like the video, I don’t see it getting much better than this unless they actually release this on Blu-ray.

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Extras 

Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes contains no extras.

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Summary 

This is a good collection for fans of the series, especially if they have not picked up any of the previous sets.  As a whole it’s not my thing, but I did find some enjoyment in some episodes and some of the ideas and scenes present in others.  There’s definitely some good fun to be had seeing some of the big names at such a young age and before they made it big.  Some of them you wouldn’t have imagined ever did television.  This is definitely for fans and collectors of the series, but caution to those who have never seen it and may be curious.


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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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