In 1947, producer Mark Hellinger and director Jules Dassin made The Naked City on the streets of New York, with distribution and studio facilities provided by Universal-International Pictures. The movie was a huge hit, and led to a cycle of cinéma vérité-style crime thrillers set (and usually shot) on the streets of New York -- RKO did The Tattooed Stranger and MGM did Side Street, while Universal made The Sleeping City as its own contribution to the cycle, directed by George Sherman. The results weren't as stylistically striking as The Naked City, but had an appeal all its own -- the location shots had a more polished and slightly more visually lyrical look than those of The Naked City, and if the music by Frank Skinner (who'd scored part of the Dassin movie) wasn't as ornate as that of Miklos Rozsa (who scored the Dassin movie's finale), it helped sustain the tension set up by the script. Richard Conte practically melted into the role of Fred Rowan, the detective masquerading as an intern, and Coleen Gray wasn't far behind him as duplicitous ward nurse Ann, and John Alexander, who'd made his name playing Teddy Roosevelt in the play and the film of Arsenic and Old Lace, was nicely hard-boiled as Rowan's boss, Inspector Al Gordon. Alex Nicol also acquits himself well in one of the better roles of his career, as a depressed, tormented intern. But the best performance in the movie comes from Richard Taber as Pop Ware, the eccentric elevator operator, who commands the camera with the cock of an eyebrow. Sherman, whose main forte was comedy, showed himself quite capable of handling a sometimes violent and very atmospheric mystery-thriller. The only criticism lies with the final chase, which -- apart from mimicking the chase in The Naked City, carrying us to higher and higher elevations -- isn't shot or edited too well, with a man clearly hit in his chest and looking stricken in some shots, yet shown capable of running very fast for a significant distance and up a large number of steps.
by Bruce Eder review