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Crime dramas shot in the city

A few posts back, I linked to a video of Bullitt‘s famous car chase geocoded. As a near-San Franciscan, one of the things I love about Bullitt is the use of real San Francisco locations.

I recently rewatched the mother of all shot-on-location crime pictures, The Naked City. I strongly recommend viewing the Criterion Collection edition, which has a gorgeous picture, audio commentary from the writer who crafted the story, and illuminating interviews.

If it weren’t for The Naked City, you’d have no Law & Order or CSI – this one movie pretty much is the blueprint for all police procedurals to come. And, in addition, it was shot on location in New York City (107 locations!), and used the entire city — not just the shiny parts of Manhattan.

The Naked City was released in 1948, and Bullitt in 1968, so we also have their anniversaries to celebrate. I have no idea if there’s a quality location-shot crime drama from 1988, and I’m pretty certain we haven’t seen any this year.

(It’s also worth noting that The Naked City is the second of a string of 5 amazing pictures helmed by Jules Dassin, perhaps one of the most overlooked/underappreciated directors in Hollywood history.)

  1. And speaking of location shots, how about “The Streets of San Francisco,” a series which ran in the early 70s and starred Karl Malden as the street-savvy veteran cop to Michael Douglas’s college-boy cop. I loved Karl Malden, but even way back then I knew that something was off with Michael Douglas (for details see the section on “Fatal Attraction” in Susan Faludi’s ‘Backlash’).

  2. You ask for a quality location-shot crime drama from 1988. DIE HARD qualifies on all three counts: quality filmmaking, great location shoot and 1988.

    Also from 1948, and with a story, characters and dialogue that holds up better today than NAKED CITY is HE WALKED BY NIGHT. Shot in the streets and sewers of Los Angeles, featured actor Jack Webb used this film as his template for DRAGNET.

    NAKED CITY also led to the TV series of the same name, and there would have been no STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO without BULLIT. The DIE HARD franchise, of course, became its own film series.

  3. Ah. Of course. DIE HARD. It’s not the same detective-on-the-beat as NAKED CITY or BULLITT, but it does use it’s location remarkably well.

    I also neglected to mention my favorite police procedural film, Kurosawa’s HIGH AND LOW.

  4. HIGH AND LOW is based on King’s Ransom, An 87th Precinct Mystery novel in a popular series by Ed McBain. An American TV series also derived from these books and the KING’S RANSOM segment aired in 1962.

    Kurosawa also adapted Dashiell Hammett ‘s Continental Op procedural RED DUST as YOJIMBO, which Sergio Leone then lifted as FISTFULL OF DOLLARS.

    Hollywood is notorious for many vapid remakes and other versions of foreign material, but overseas filmmakers seem to often do better by our inspirations.

  5. I guess the next question is — is KING’S RANSOM any good? I’ve never read any Ed McBain.

  6. I haven’t read the book. I did see the TV segment about a year before I saw High and Low because it featured friend of mine in a major role. You can imagine my surprise watching High and Low and quickly realizing it was a Kurasawa re-make of a TV show. My recollection is that the TV version was a decent, but standard handling of a fabulous “fix”, the switcheroo kidnapping. But High and Low is anything but standard. Kurasawa, Toshiro and the writers combined to create a true masterwork of cinema with fresh and unique elements that can never be forgotten.

    By the way, I’m talking about 45 years ago when I was almost your age. What have you seen recently that you think might hold your interest for the next 45 years or so?

  7. Another thought occurs to me, regarding re-makes and updates, etc. Maybe it’s time to pitch a re-make of High and Low. What studio could resist Clooney in the lead, De Caprio as the top cop and Jolie as the hate-driven kidnapper. Take your pick of bankable directors, it’s a done deal.

    If you think it’s a reach with Jolie to play the maddened kidnapper, originally a great male performance, I suggest that she and Theron are currently the only young screen actors with enough balls for the part.

  8. “What have you seen recently that you think might hold your interest for the next 45 years or so?”

    I honestly don’t know. Definitely not the stuff that people loved last year — NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Those will fade away.

    I wonder if YOU AND ME AND EVERYONE WE KNOW will last. Probably not.

  9. It appears that the international film industries are not in the business of making films that might stand the test of time. The talents and care that went into HIGH AND LOW are no longer employed by production conglomerates and other entities that are primrily interested in opening day grosses, back-end paydays and even worse–ego gtrips.

    There have been many good and even memorable films realeased in recent years, but I have to go back to 1994’s FRESH to think of a movie I have seen four or five times and expect to see again, and maybe again before my screening privileges are canceled. And when was RoboCop released? I could definitely watch that some more. But recent releases I think will last, even for young fogies….I’ll have to get back to you on that.

  10. Hrm (to quote one of peterme’s best contributions to online thought-sounds). I am sorry to say I have to go WAY back to cite the films I’ve seen again and again, that will always be with me. But there’s a reason: for the last 10 years or so I’ve been online, and earning a living from creating online experiences, that my lust for movies has all but dried up. I used to earn my living as a documentary filmmaker (Kartemquin) but now it’s rare for me to take the time to sit and watch a movie from beginning to end. ‘Ratatouille’ has been sitting on top of my DVD player for three months or more, while Netflix keeps charging my account its monthly fee. But back to the subject at hand: The Great Escape, Battle of Algiers, Burn. I could almost recite dialogue. In fact, I can: “Cooler.” “Ali LePointe!” “Your bags, señor?”

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