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|Index||123 reviews in total|
Huston's look at LA's underworld is creatively realized, more so than most crime films of the time, and shows the director's hallmark ear for fresh dialogue and colorful, psychologically rounded characters. Players like Doc, the professorial heist-meister with an unfortunate penchant for nymphets, or Emmerich, the high society lawyer gone broke and haywire, make this one of the classics of the genre. Some of the tropes are a bit tired (the muscle-bound gangster longing for a bucolic and peaceful life on the prairie), but the city is shot darkly, a la noir, and the heist scene is truly suspenseful. A very good film.
Huston is always worthwhile for me, and this is the second of his films
that changes before my eyes, the first being my rewatch of Maltese
In both films actors get together to stage a crime story that is our film, actors in the sense of having to hide their identity from the world and often from each other. Both times the center of attention is some ritual shibboleth, a black enameled bird or here a diamond heist, merely the device, the jukebox that gathers dancers together. Falcon wasn't already a noir, though in retrospect we lump it with that group its charm was that the actors would recognize and quote each other's role in the music.
In Falcon it was a matter of shifting the view from the magician's trick to the wink of performance. Here it is the opposite, a matter of moving the eyes from how the trick is staged to the vanishing act.
The heist here is the staging of that vanishing act, the opportunity for players to come together around a plan to bare themselvesone is bankrupt, another fresh out of prison wants one last job before hitting Mexico, another dreams of his father's farm in Kentucky. It matters see that an ominous pall hangs above the whole thing, an existential 'last job' before everyone can attain their idea of peace in the world.
Then a gun backfires and the thing slowly falls apart before our eyes. That's when it starts to become a noir, it was not before, and actually helps throw a great deal of light into what noir actually is, not so much a style that suddenly enters the picture but a worldview that emerges in the players. This worldview is on the surface one of weary fatigue and failure, a bit deeper one of losing narrative control and succumbing to hallucination.
In particular I am captivated by two scenes here with a very dreamlike air that I want to lift from the film and bring into focus, the fates reserved for the last two members of the gang.
One shows the weary old conman who masterminded the story, the author, who stops on the road for one last drink, and there unexpected beauty steals into him, a young girl dancing. The girl's dance is by itself worth the entire film, a marveljuvenile, spontaneous, naive, true.
It's how he holds her in his eyes though for those brief moments by the jukebox that makes it rocket, truly one of the most ecstatic moments in film. Knowing that this whole scene is the old man's dream of Mexico that tauntingly manifests before him, a beautiful girl dancing, knowing at the same time that it reveals in him something that goes beyond sex, a more genuine truth worth staying for, which the girl embodies, the spontaneous capacity for dance that suddenly fills the room, becoming the music for the joy of it.
And second is the Kentucky boy's journey back to the farm of childhood, dying on the road and suggestively slipping to that place without ever arriving. It's more simple than the other because he is a more simple soul, but it is the same evocative arriving before oneself.
Noir Meter: 3/4
Sharply realized crime caper with film-noir elements. Character driven
with a taut presentation is overwhelmingly underplayed by all involved.
The criminal persona's are perfectly unpretentious and all shine when
the spotlight is on.
There is a lot of lecherous intergenerational stuff that is disturbing, yet fitting, for these hoodlum types and adds an atmosphere of primal pursuit along with the greed, double-cross, and hard-boiled nature of life in the undergrowth.
An influential film that perpetuated the noir cycle while veering only slightly off the path to present an amalgamation that pure film-noir would rarely recover. It is sort of a maturation process from the raw beginnings of the genre to a more sophisticated, slick, and somewhat diluted degeneration of a style that was probably too dark for the emerging brightly lit 1950's.
I NEVER tire of this Great Movie. When TCM shows it,I'm there. If not,I'll view it several times each year from my own Collection. I wont get Cinematically cerebral here....we have seen/heard all the terrific points of this Houston Classic. My main observation of Asphalt Jungle is that it's probably one of the few or the ONLY movie,where MOST of the cast at one point or the other...STEALS the Film from the other actors,THAT is how Great the casting of the actors is. However,MY vote for the best "Actor Larcenist" goes to the underrated Marc Lawrence as the Nervous,Greedy,Cowardice COBBY ! Marc Lawrence became a Director of mostly episodic television,with many Westerns under his belt.
I think what caught my attention the most in this film was the idea of developing 6 unique characters that all hold an important roll in the film. Not only do you learn their struggles as the film goes on, but you get the feeling that the combination of these six people are what hold this film together. However Sterling Hayden does an well job at creating a very feared character. His ending scene was one of my favorites because it was as if he finally made it to his destination before he passed away. The horse range was all he wanted. This realistic, documentary-like, urban heist film has amazing cinematography where the deeper shadows help hide the night.
Super gangster/crime movie, which had me engrossed throughout.
"A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel".
The stars of this film are Louis Calhern and Sam Jaffe. They dominate every scene they are in, so whilst the other players give solid performances they are put in the shade by the two aforementioned actors.
The cleverness of this film is that it seems to suck the viewer into the weave of the story and keeps one there as the plot thickens. Masterful script and excellent direction makes this an outstanding movie.
Deserves high marks, hence:
Directed and partly written by the legendary John Huston, "The Asphalt
Jungle", 1950, was nominated for four Oscars, including best original
screenplay and set a new gold standard for crime drama films of the
The story is genuinely interesting, intelligent, well observed and insightful, as it follows a jewel heist orchestrated by an elderly crime figure. As an early film for Marilyn Monroe, she was given a minor role as a gangster's mistress and does well in her two brief scenes in the film. With her brief role in this film and "All About Eve", of the same year, Marilyn began to get noticed as a film actress.
Both "The Asphalt Jungle" and "All About Eve", would receive a combined total of 18 Oscar nominations. "All About Eve", would receive a record setting 14 Oscar nominations, including four in the acting category, which was a rare and special achievement.
This could very well be a bold statement to make, but I genuinely believe that is so. The Asphalt Jungle is just wonderful, it is shot with documentary realism, and it is an exceptional film. The cinematography is fantastic, the whole film looks so good, and Miklos Rosza's(Spellbound, The Thief of Baghdad) score is superb. The Asphalt Jungle is also brilliantly scripted, very sophisticated and witty, the direction from John Huston is right on the money and the plot is gripping. And the acting is superb, Sam Jaffe is totally convincing as the mastermind, while Sterling Hayden and Anthony Caruso are solid as rocks in their roles and they are superbly supported by Jean Hagen and Marilyn Monroe. Overall, simply exceptional, a must-see. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With a merely serviceable heist caper at the fore, The Asphalt Jungle
could easily be just another standard '50s noir offering: worth
watching, but lacking enough original angles to make it stand apart
from the glut of noir films lovers of classic black-and-whites have
undoubtedly consumed. However, with some great character actors in the
fold and a nice set of twists leading to the climax, this film manages
to edge its way ahead of many of its contemporaries.
The set-up is very simple: Sam Jaffe's Doc (who steals the show), enlists a group of skilled thugs to pull off a heist, which of course goes awry when the plan is foiled by an unexpected security officer, and gets further complicated by the scheming machinations of the caper's financier. Variations of this formula are noir keystones, but Huston injects fresh energy into his casting and execution, which elevates The Asphalt Jungle into the ranks of the better films of the genre.
Of course, one of the major selling points for classic film fans is an early appearance by Marilyn Monroe, which is a bit deceptive. (If you note the stills at the top of this IMDb entry, you'll see that Monroe appears in almost all of them). However, Monroe's presence in the film is limited to a pair of scenes and nearly as few minutes, so Marilyn completists won't find much here to supply their fix. But Monroe does excel in this role, and despite her limited screen time, she is certainly breathtaking every time we see her, easily outshining her experienced co-stars by sheer magnetic personality alone. Her more-than-slightly creepy relationship with Louis Calhern's Emmerich (who appears to be about thrice her age) adds an unsettling element to his character, which actually works in the film's favor as the series of double-crosses begin to unfold.
Strangely, the weakest link in the cast is the first billed. Sterling Hayden's essay of Dix, the thug with solid-brass honor and brains to match his brawn, is so flat and one-dimensional, it's surprising his name in the film wasn't "Hood # 2". I'm not very familiar with Hayden's work, but it's a bit odd that he chose to play this character so brick-faced. While I'm aware that he's supposed to be an intimidating fellow who could shut most men down with a mere glance, the detail and nuance Huston fleshes the character out with as the film goes forward reveals that there is indeed a soul beneath the stony exterior. Hayden never channels that, so even when he's waxing nostalgic about his life as a young farm boy riding horses with his grandpa, he still looks like he's thinking about punching the horse (and maybe grandpa too). To be fair, Dix's most important role in the film is as the heavy who supplies the mettle to Doc's soft-spoken demeanor, and in that capacity, he plays an excellent intimidator.
The Asphalt Jungle is certainly not the best offering in the abundant classic noir mold, but it has a lot of heart, and enough clever turns to make it an excellent way to spend a rainy afternoon. Flawed, but still highly recommended.
Having just been paroled, a legendary burglar played by Sam Jaffe with
a perfect film noir criminal mastermind's name, Doc Riedenschneider,
with funding from a tragic crooked lawyer, gathers a small assembly of
career street crooks in the Midwest for a big jewel heist.
The film encompasses subject matter to which I am definitely partial, but it is particularly joyous for me to see because it was partially shot in my home town of Cincinnati, and there are particular shots in which I can tell that I am looking at a moving document of my city in 1950. There is even a point where I feel like I can comprehend what is just around the corner from what is being filmed.
Jaffe's Doc Riedenschneider becomes a very charming character, a German man with a great penchant for seeing right through people, as he organizes this job in a very professional and steady manner. Sterling Hayden, in his usual mediocrity, plays a hardened and unhappy thug from Kentucky with gambling trouble who sees the job as a way to bankroll his dream of buying back the horse farm that he lost in the Great Depression. A hunchbacked Italian diner owner is hired as the getaway driver, Anthony Caruso plays a professional safecracker and loyal family man, and Marc Lawrence plays a bookie functioning as the mediator.
In a taut 11-minute heist sequence, the criminals confidently carry out the heist in a patient and calm manner. Caruso climbs down into a manhole, pounds his way through a brick wall, climbs the basement stairs to the jewelry store, deactivates the door's alarm and lets in the other thieves, and then heads to the main safe. With care, he slides flat on his back under the electric-eye system, picks the gate's lock, drills holes into the safe's door, gingerly opens a corked bottle of nitroglycerin, and sets off a charge on the jewelry store safe. This is not all technical stuff, as the script is spiced up with some streetwise poetry, such as when they refer to the nitroglycerin as "the soup." And it takes talent to build upon a heist the way The Asphalt Jungle does. As the crooks do all of this, it seems well-planned just as Doc's arrangement of the operation is impressive, really a clever way of building his character. But, though I won't give anything away, we realize despite the thieves' mindsets of desperation and instinct after the heist goes down that these are not wise or reasonable men, or at least that is not the state of mind in which they have operated recently.
On the whole, this well-made, hard-boiled crime flick is quite good, and every male character is fashioned well through the actors, script and direction. The females, however, are not granted the same justice. Jean Hagen is a silly token weakling woman for the male character with whom she is coupled to boss her around. And thus my gripe with John Huston. The Asphalt Jungle, yes, is about hardened male criminals, and it is a male bonding picture, neither of which are bad, but there's a difference between a film like The Godfather in which the women "know their place" in the depicted traditional hierarchy and film like The Asphalt Jungle in which the only female characters---Marilyn Monroe's blonde squeaky bimbo who one could say ultimately screws things up for one character, Jean Hagen's lapdog of a blindly loyal and submissive quasi-girlfriend of Sterling Hayden's and Teresa Celli, an Italian housewife who only begins to take guff from another male character---are subjugated only because the filmmakers have decided for them to be.
There is great instant camaraderie between Sam Jaffe's ideological German mastermind and Sterling Hayden's compulsive Kentucky roughneck. Again, terrific depiction of male bonding, but couldn't there have at least been some depth to the female stick figures squeezed in just for the patronizing reason that the macho realm of the story seems a little dry and insulated without them? The reasons I am blaming Huston for this and not the writers are because I have not read W.R. Burnett's original novel and because Huston, as the director and co- screenwriter, he had every ability to flesh out these wasted women. Nonetheless, The Asphalt Jungle is a decent and entertaining noir that set the standards that Jules Dassin's Rififi would totally shatter only five years later.
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