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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Coming at the end of the decade in 1950 - which effectively ended Hollywood's much cherished Golden Age - was MGM's THE ASPHALT JUNGLE. A superbly structured gritty crime drama it was one of the last of the great Noir thrillers. Produced for the studio by Arthur Hornblow Jr. from a novel by W.R. Burnett it was beautifully written for the screen by Ben Maddow and John Huston and outstandingly directed by Huston. The assembled cast couldn't be better even down to the smallest parts such as Ray Teal turning up as a patrolling policeman. The picture is notable also for an early appearance of Marilyn Monroe as the kittenish ingenue of shady lawyer Louis Calhern. Stylishly photographed in stunning black & white by Harold Rosson THE ASPHALT JUNGLE has joined the ranks, alongside "The Killers" (1946) and "Out Of The Past" (1947), as the finest Noir ever made.

    An old time criminal Doc Redinschneider (Sam Jaffe) has just been released from prison and has devised a plan for the "perfect" caper ("I could sell it on the open market for $100,000"). He approaches a small time racing "fixer" Cobby (a brilliant Marc Lawrence) who in turn arranges with dishonest lawyer Alonzo Emmerich (Calhern) to finance the heist of a million dollar diamond haul from a major jewellery firm. Emmerich is also to act as a "fence" to offload the gems. Hired is expert safe-cracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso), the humpback Gus (James Whitmore) as the driver and a small time hoodlum Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) as the group's strong arm. The robbery itself is a success (a riveting intense sequence) but things start to go terribly wrong. First Ciavelli is accidentally shot and then Emmerich, along with an accomplice (an impressive Brad Dexter) attempt a double cross which is thwarted by Dix after a shootout. With the loot now just so much junk Reidinschneider and Dix must go on the run. The movie culminates with Emmerich committing suicide, Redinschneider, Cobby and Gus being arrested and ends with the fatally wounded Dix making a dash out of the city to reach his family farm in the country.

    Performances are terrific! Hayden was never better and only came close to matching this portrayal six years later in Kubrick's brilliant "The Killing" (1956). Outstanding also is Sam Jaffe as the master criminal, Louis Calhern as the crooked lawyer, Marc Lawrence as the "fixer" ("I always sweat when I count money - it's the way I am") and John McIntire as the determined Police Commissioner. All things considered THE ASPHALT JUNGLE is probably the most perfectly cast film ever. The only minor disappointment is the sparse music score by the great Miklos Rozsa. There is a splendid dramatic main title and continues after the credits for a short while but then no more music is heard until the final six or seven minutes of the picture when there is a hectic rhythmic orchestral statement to accompany the mortally wounded Dix and his frantic drive to his family's farm. Then as he reaches home, collapses and lays dying in a pasture the music segues into a reflective melodic theme for the end title. The lack of a full score however is but a minor quibble and does little to alter the fact that THE ASPHALT JUNGLE remains an exercise in meticulous motion picture making.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

    One after another, the criminals in this metaphoric Asphalt Jungle meet their necessary demise. It isn't the jewel heist, functional and classic, that matters. It's the personalities that wind themselves up and then wind back down through the raspy knot where they intersect, and where they fall to unexpected side effects.

    What do we make of the clichés here? The mastermind of the heist is not such a bad guy, the getaway driver is a sweetie who loves cats, the safecracker has a wife and young baby, the "hooligan" is a misplaced sentimentalist who only wants the old farm his family lost to bigger forces. In fact, these "bad guys" are really just you and me, and bigger forces are always out there ready to squash us. So conniving a little jewel theft is not going to hurt a soul, and the presumed victory over inconsequence is huge.

    Or would have been. Maybe it's not coincidence that the biggest impediment of all comes mostly from a duplicitous lawyer, and here we have a character actor, Louis Calhern, sharpened and amplified by director John Huston, a master at making the ordinary just acceptably larger than life. So the man has a cash flow problem, and his suffering and his hapless conniving is alone enough to recommend the film. The small, sad part of his wife, played by the ruefully cheerful Dorothy Tree, only twists the knife, reminding him, and us, of what this man could have had, ordinary happiness. But no one in the movie wants to be ordinary, Calhern has a young Marilyn Monroe, no less, for his diversion.

    Then there are the core contract players in the gang, including a sweaty Marc Lawrence as the fumbling lynchpin connecting them all. As the requisite hooligan, Sterling Hayden is convincing enough, but maybe it is the pathetic desperation of his sometimes girlfriend, played by Jean Hagen, that rips your heart out. At least until Hayden falls in the grass and the horses come to graze by his head, as if we have entered a dream, a thousand miles from from any asphalt or jungle, far far from tension and sorrow of any kind.

    Considered a major film noir, it can also be seen as a major ensemble heist film. Though the gloom is noir enough, it lacks what I think of as the core quality of noir--alienation-- though there is, at least, Hayden's sad listlessness. But it's a great movie with a plot that is useful for bringing out the vivid characters. Everyone talks about how the cast is perfect, and the cast really is perfect. And the cast is perfectly directed, which is a whole other wonder.
  • Out of MGM, The Asphalt Jungle is directed by John Huston and based on the novel of the same name by W.R. Burnett. It stars Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, Teresa Celli, and in a minor but important role, Marilyn Monroe. Miklós Rózsa scores the music and Harold Rosson photographs it in black & white. Plot sees Erwin "Doc" Riedenschneider (Jaffe) leave prison and quickly assemble a gang to execute a long in gestation jewellery heist. However, with suspicion rife and fate waiting to take a hand, the carefully constructed caper starts to come apart at the seams.

    John Huston liked a tough movie, having given film noir in America a jump start with The Maltese Falcon in 1941, he also that same year adapted W.R. Burnett's novel High Sierra. Burnett also had on his CV crime classic stories Little Caesar & Scarface, so it's no surprise that Huston was drawn to The Asphalt Jungle. As it turned out, it was a match made in gritty urban heaven.

    The Asphalt Jungle was one of the first crime films to break with convention and tell the story from the actual side of the criminals. Where once it was the pursuing law officers or private detectives that were the heavy part of the plotting, now under Huston's crafty guidance we have a study in crime and a daring for us to empathise with a bunch of criminals, villains and anti-heroes. As a group the gang consists of very differing characters, and yet they have a common bond, for they each strive for a better life. Be it Hayden's luggish Dix, who dreams of buying back his father's horse ranch back in Kentucky, or Jaffe's Doc, who wants to retire to Mexico and surround himself with girls - it's greed and yearning that binds them all together - With alienation and bleakness, in true film noir traditions, featuring heavily as the plot (and gang) unravels.

    With gritty dialogue and atmospherically oozing a naturalistic feel, it's also no surprise to note that Huston's movie would go on to influence a ream of similar type films. Some good, some bad, but very few of them have been able to capture the suspense that is wrung out for the actual heist sequence in this. Fabulous in its authenticity, and with that out of the way, it then sets the decaying tone for the rest of the piece. Interesting to note that although we are now firmly in the lives of the "gang", including their respective women (Hagen, Monroe & Celli all shining in what is a very macho movie), we still know that the society outside of their circle is hardly nice either! This is stripped down brutalistic film noir. Merciless to its characters and thriving on ill fate, and closing with a finale that is as perfect as it gets, this is a top line entry in what is the most wonderful of film making styles. 9.5/10
  • I am a fan of film noir, owning many of them, and this one is right about at the top of the list and climbing each time I view it. It might even have passed Double Indemnity for the number one spot. It's that good.

    For anyone who has not seen it: the poster art and the video/DVD cover are both misleading. They usually feature Marilyn Monroe in publicizing this movie, but she only has a small role. Many times they feature Monroe, Jean Hagen and Sterling Hayden all together....and those three are never on screen at the same time. My point being: what you see on the outside is not what's on the inside.

    Hayden is the star of the film but Sam Jaffe and Louis Calhern are not far behind. In fact, the more I watch this film, the more I see the latter two as the real stars here, and I especially have begun to appreciate the great acting by Calhern in here.

    Actually, everyone performs at a very high level. The diverse and interesting characters are really fun to watch, one of the big reasons I rate this film so high. Hayden, with his big body and tough demeanor, was perfect for film noir. He is a legitimate tough guy, nobody to fool with. Jaffe was fascinating as the little German "doctor" but until I got the DVD and put on the English subtitles, I never understood all his dialog, which is terrific, and "Doc" is my favorite character in this film. Kudos also go to James Whitmore and Marc Lawrence for great supporting role performances.

    The two women, Hagen and Monroe, also do their bits nicely. I never understood people who criticized Monroe's acting. I thought she was pretty good right from the start, with this film as an example. I also liked seeing her thin and in shape.

    This movie is a gritty, tough, no-nonsense crime story concerning a jewel robbery where things go wrong and eventually does everybody in. Actually, it isn't just a botched robbery that ruins some of them - it's character weakness, from greed to sexual lust.

    "You reap what you sow" could be a moral of this story.
  • "The Asphalt Jungle" is one of the greatest crime films. The movie has its roots in several great film noir projects, such as "Double Indemnity", "The Killers", "Criss Cross", and "Out of the Past". Its lasting impression over time is based upon its quality and its unprecedentedly brilliant use of the "caper" as a plot device. As stated in other comments, this film noir's influence can be seen in hundreds of disparate "caper" movies - "Rififi", "A Simple Plan", "The Guns of Navarone", "The Usual Suspects", and "How to Steal a Million", just to name a few.

    I will not give away the results of the "caper", but the film is truly superior in how it explores relationships and deception. This is one of John Huston's greatest works, and the script lays down the tension from the first moment and doesn't let up. Huston uses multiple closeups to literally drain the emotion out of the characters. Hayden, Calhern, Lawrence, Hagen, and Whitmore turn in superb performances with many memorable moments, but Sam Jaffe steals the film in an Oscar-worthy performance as the brain behind the caper. Marilyn Monroe makes an indelible impression in a fairly brief but pivotal role.

    Please do not miss this - an easy 10 out of 10.
  • I guess the great John Huston knew what he was doing when making this film. Get the right cast and so he did.! The timeless touches in this film make it so watchable so often that we forget that a studio like MGM rarley made a gutty film like this.

    Every character in the " Asphalt Jungle" has his/her moments! When Angela Phinley says to Emerich( Calhern) what will happen and Emerich responds the appropriate " you'll have lots of vacation".

    Marc Lawrence as cobby has never been better since his part as Ziggy in "Key Largo" Jean Hagen shows some real ability and we wonder why she was used in future films to a lessor effect.Hayden, as Dix Hanley has a warped credo for a man on the edge.Sam Jaffe steals the show as doc..smart enough in most items save for your girls dancing in bars.

    Even the supporting cast shines under Huston, Mcintre and the police chief , Brad Dexter as the crooked investigator, Barry Kelly as the corrupt cop with James Whitmore playing a man whose body is warped but whose soul is still intact.

    Thanks goodness there is no music( film score) during the jewel heist. This fact alone lets us know this is a real film..unlike the ones being released today.

    Mikos Rosza's score is emotional for sure..and the final in a Kentucky field is very poetic a la Huston

    Perfection...

    C Pope
  • I'm a sucker for a good heist film, and three of the best I've ever seen were made around 1955/56 - 'Rififi', 'Bob le flambeur' and 'The Killing'. Now they are still three of the greatest crime thrillers ever made, but now that I've finally seen 'The Asphalt Jungle' it's obvious what source those movies were drawing on! Not that I'm saying they're rip offs, they're not, but they are kind of three (excellent) variations on Huston's theme. 'The Asphalt Jungle' must therefore be seen as the most influential crime movie of the modern era, and the blueprint for every subsequent caper movie ('The Anderson Tapes', 'Thief', 'Reservoir Dogs', 'The Usual Suspects', 'The Score',etc.etc.) This superb film noir is almost impossible to fault. The script is first rate, John Huston's direction is inspired, Sterling Hayden - possibly America's most underrated actor - is fantastic as troubled ex-con Dix Handley, and the ensemble cast are all excellent, especially James Whitmore ('Them!'), Louis Calhern ('Notorious'), Sam Jaffe ('The Day The Earth Stood Still') and John McIntire ('Psycho'). The early role for Marilyn Monroe made a strong impact on a lot of people, but I was even more impressed by Jean Hagen as Doll. She is unforgettable and her scenes with Hayden are wonderful. Why did she never become a major star? This is a crime classic and brilliant entertainment. Highly recommended!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE ASPHALT JUNGLE epitomizes Film Noir. It's dark, grim and it's not afraid to show us seedy, down-and-out characters who are nevertheless complex and deeply human. This film has men and women who inhabit the underworld, that 'city under the city'. Most of their needs are spelled out, and the backgrounds are painted in memorable detail.

    We see little men like Cobby (the late Marc Lawrence in a sweaty, realistic performance) and Gus (James Whitmore); a woman with nothing but a romantic illusion to cling to (the great Jean Hagen as Doll); men whose lives have been crippled by crime and who persevere only through their own folly-laden dreams: Doc (who sets it all in motion, expertly played by Sam Jaffe) and Dix (Sterling Hayden). There is also family-man safe-cracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso), whose motivations are understandable to us all and whose desperation is painful to watch at times. While Dix is often seen as the central protagonist in JUNGLE, he really shares that position with Alonzo Emmerich. Emmerich is a corrupt lawyer: a formerly wealthy, urbane man reduced to the same doomed schemes as his cohorts, men to whom he feels superior and whom he ultimately intends to double-cross. Emmerich is almost tragic in the Greek or Shakespearean mold: he has farther to fall than Dix and the rest, but he has already met the ground halfway as the film begins. He's broke, and no more debts can be called in to support the new scheme. Unlike the younger men, who could possibly take other paths, there is really nowhere for him to go but down. Emmerich's scenes--rendered immortal by Louis Calhern's performance, the greatest in the film--are the most interestingly complex. He pretends he is smarter than everyone else, but he knows that hubris has brought his life past the crisis point. He is painfully aware that neither the money from the stolen jewels, nor the foolish romantic escape with his mistress (Marilyn Monroe) will ever redeem him.

    The robbery sequence, around which the film ostensibly revolves, is very brief and anti-climactic. This is surely Huston's intention: it's all over in a few minutes and nobody actually gets what they want. The stolen jewels are brought to Emmerich and a violent scene leads to a foil of the rich man's double-crossing scheme. In the end, everyone can see that this particular gleaming treasure--like the gold dust in TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE or the 'black bird' in THE MALTESE FALCON--is ultimately worthless: the jewels are too hot and no one dares fence them. So Doc ends up with most of them in his black bag. He begins pursuit of his dream of a tropical isle, surrounded with dancing girls and ends up in a roadside bar where he feeds nickels into a jukebox as a pretty teenager bops around for him. The waiting cops close in quickly, and all is over for Doc. Emmerich, too, is soon caught. The alibi plan with the mistress doesn't hold water. And the police make a direct connection to him and his dead henchman Brannom (Brad Dexter). Making short work of it, he goes into his private office and shoots himself in the head.

    Other characters meet their ends behind bars (Cobby and Gus) or with ironic justice (corrupt detective Barry Kelley, who tries to play both sides), or in death (Ciavelli). At the close of the film, we are left with a mortally wounded Dix, driving toward his dreamed-of horse farm. At his side is the faithful Doll, who knows the jig is up. Dix has never given up his illusions, where the other characters probably never believed their own. He dies, with poetic rightness, in a field surrounded by curious horses, as poor Doll is left to her own devices. The film, which opened on a dim stretch of urban asphalt, closes on a sunny rural vision.

    What makes THE ASPHALT JUNGLE a great Film Noir? The wide array of doomed characters and a persistent feeling of encroaching doom go a long way to take it in that direction. In this way, the film exemplifies the strong fatalism that is essential to Noir. Along the way, we hear some of the most intelligent, yet convincing dialog in all of Noir (by Huston and Ben Maddow) characters who sound real, who say what someone might actually say or be thinking.

    This realism is enhanced by the look of the film, starkly, yet vividly shot in black-and-white by Harold Rosson. It's worth noting that Rosson uses some sophisticated camera techniques, such as deep focus and and the extreme foregrounding of a single character. If, while watching, the viewer imagines a B-movie version of this story, with conventional camera work and a lackluster cast and script, the greatness of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE becomes even more evident. The consummate technical work and artistry involved elevate the film far above any genre or pulp limitations.

    Underlining the bleakness of Huston's vision right from the opening credits is the music score by Miklos Rozsa (who also scored CRISS CROSS) in a departure from from his scores for DOUBLE INDEMNITY and SPELLBOUND, Rozsa places his cues sparingly. The score only calls attention to itself under the main titles and during Dix's wild death ride. As for the robbery scene, Rozsa provides no music for it, and dialog is minimal. While it's far briefer, we can see this scene as the true precursor of the robbery scene in Jules Dassin's RIFIFI (1955), famed for its nearly complete silence.

    But John Huston himself may deserve the lion's share of credit for this film. Taking the advice of an older director he had known (possibly Josef Von Sternberg?), he directs each scene as if it were the most important one in the film. This gives every scene its own sense of urgency and keeps a consistent tone, making the film one long, tragic descent into doom.
  • I hadn't seen The Asphalt Jungle for nearly 30 years until tonight, I think I must have (wrongly) considered it to be a "modern film", ie post rock'n'roll and dismissed it as too earthy as a result. Well I was wrong, it's certainly a Golden Age film made with high production values, with all the right actors, direction, music and story the Golden Age had produced. The music especially links it back to Double Indemnity and of course Huston to The Maltese Falcon, Jaffe to Lost Horizon etc. It was simply a signpost to the type of films to come , the ones I avoid.

    It's gritty, as realistic as a gritty fantasy could be in 1950, as realistic as I want. The multi character interplay sticks in the mind, everyone's grafting and ready to dump on the next guy, apart from The Hooligan who dumb as he is really has a heart. It's Sam Jaffe's film though, his calculating but flawed dirty old man character was a classic perv-ormance, nowadays we would not have been spared the sleaze, but he walked a fine line successfully.

    And again, the sleazy relationship between Uncle Louis Calhern and young Marilyn Monroe was perfectly handled.

    All in all a marvellous film from the twilight years of the Golden Age.
  • bkoganbing22 November 2006
    It took over 40 years until Goodfellas was made to make a film interesting and realistic about criminals as The Asphalt Jungle. The power in the characters that John Huston brings to life is so vivid and you root for them, yet you never forget they are criminals.

    Sam Jaffe, a cool and calculating planner, brings a scheme to big time lawyer Louis Calhern about a jewel robbery. Calhern is a criminal attorney who really does work both sides of the fence. But he's also got some high living expenses and a young mistress in the shape of Marilyn Monroe in the first film that got her notice.

    Jaffe needs three to help pull off the job, a safe cracker, a driver, and a strong arm guy, a 'hooligan' as he calls it. Calhern provides them in the persons of Anthony Caruso, James Whitmore, and Sterling Hayden.

    You wouldn't think it, but Jaffe and Hayden bond in this. The educated criminal mastermind and a man who might not have finished grade school. Jaffe sees in Hayden a reliable sort.

    Sterling Hayden did not think too much of most of the action/adventure stuff he did, but he liked The Asphalt Jungle as well he should. He's a country kid, his nickname is 'Dix' short for Dixie. His family owned a farm and bad luck hit them as it did so many in The Great Depression. Hayden turns to criminal enterprise because his skills for making an honest living are limited. His biggest accomplishment is having a B girl from a clip joint fall hard for him in the person of Jean Hagen. Both of their characterizations ring well and true, dare I say it, sterling performances.

    Of course after the job is done, fallible and corrupt human beings like bookmaker Marc Lawrence, corrupt police lieutenant Barry Kelley, strong arm man Brad Dexter, and Calhern himself bring the whole thing crashing down.

    One of the reasons you root so hard for the criminals to succeed is the magnificent and unheralded performance of John McIntire as the police commissioner. Imagine if Charles Laughton as Inspector Javert, had not gotten so tangled up in searching for Jean Valjean and rose to become the head of the Surete in France. You've got McIntire. I don't think any honest cop has been made so unpleasant on the screen before or since. At one point he's telling the press that he'll get Hayden and Hayden is a callous brute. The most callous person in the cast is McIntire and we go through 112 minutes of The Asphalt Jungle and know how very human Sterling Hayden is.

    Sam Jaffe got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to George Sanders in All About Eve. The film itself got three other nominations including for Huston as Best Director. It had the bad luck to run up against another classic film in All About Eve, in it's own way as cynical a film as The Asphalt Jungle.

    John Huston took a cast and got perfect performances out of the lot of them and The Asphalt Jungle holds up every bit over fifty years later. Should really be seen beside Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas to get a full appreciation for today's generation.
  • When the intelligent criminal Erwin "Doc" Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) is released from prison, he seeks a fifty thousand-dollar investment from the bookmaker Cobby (Marc Lawrence) to recruit a small gang of specialists for a million-dollar heist of jewels from a jewelry. Doc is introduced to the lawyer Alonzo D. Emmerich (Louis Calhern) that offers to finance the whole operation and buy the gems immediately after the burglary. Doc hires the safecracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso), the driver Gus Minissi (James Whitmore)and the gunman Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) to the heist. His plan works perfectly but bad luck and betrayals compromise the steps after the heist and the gangsters need to flee from the police.

    "The Asphalt Jungle" is a fantastic film-noir by the legendary director John Huston and with magnificent performances. The brilliant story of bad luck and betrayal in a heist was nominated to four Oscars, three Golden Globes and nominated and winner of several other prizes. Marilyn Monroe is sexy and gorgeous in a minor but important role. My vote is nine.

    Title (Brazil): "O Segredo das Jóias" ("The Secret of the Jewels")

    Note: On 30 September 2016, I saw this film again.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE ASPHALT JUNGLE comes close to being the best film of the film noir style. A study of a complex, well planned jewelry robbery that is destroyed by double crosses it is a model for later films like THE KILLING, RIFIFI, TOPKAPI, and THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe (whose sole mistake is giving into a weakness to watch pretty young girls dance for too long), Louis Calhern (whose death scene is shattering), Marc Lawrence, and Marilyn Monroe all did first rate work under John Huston's direction. For these reasons alone I recommend the film.

    But I can't avoid commenting on one irony that Huston (and his screenplay writers, including W. R. Burnett) may have intentionally included. John McIntyre plays the local Police Commissioner Hardy, who comes across as a hard-nosed S.O.B., fully pushing law and order as the safety of the community. He has tightened down on the town, making the plans for the robbery more difficult. When a policeman is shot in the escape of the thieves McIntyre goes ballistic, guaranteeing that the criminals are really going to be captured.

    And (no real revelation here) they are. But what is ironic is the smug, self-congratulatory way McIntyre tells the media about the triumph of the police and law and order over the criminals - which he fully takes credit for. This triumph involved several crooked cops beating up on at least one suspect. And when I say crooked, the one in charge of the beating knew about the robbery. That officer (Lt. Det. Ditrich - Barry Kelly) is seen standing just in back of McIntyre during the news conference! McIntyre, for all of his self-congratulating and self-publicity, is still a puppet himself of the very corruption he claims he is conquering.

    To me that moment near the conclusion of the film is one of the most realistic bits in all film noir. How successful can we be in conquering crime? How can we be when depend upon it by not asking too many questions that should be asked?
  • A major heist goes off as planned , an ex-convict (Sam Jaffe) gathering a gang (Sterling Hayden , Marc Lawrence , James Withmore , Anthony Caruso ..) to pull it off until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel.

    This is a realistic study heist ; dealing with the plotting and the gathering of a misfit band that sours , building suspense , intrigue , emotion in Crescendo for any unexpected surprises that might pop up . Plenty of excellent characterization and tautly made , resulting one of the greatest crime movies of all time . The picture is well paced with an electric current that never let up . The movie has the thematic unity of 'Key Largo' , ' We were strangers' , ' Maltese Falcon' or ' The treasure of Sierra Madre' the John Huston's best . This thrilling story is stunningly scripted by Ben Maddow and the same John Huston from a W.R. Burnett novel ; letting the audience in early on what the outcome will be and increasing in power as they scheme the path closer to their destination . Both Director John Huston and ex-communist star Sterling Hayden were members of the Committee for the First Amendment, which stood against the blacklisting of alleged communists working in the film industry during the Red Scare . The main credit for this masterpiece must be shared among Sterling Hayden as a tough criminal , Louis Calhern as a mean lawyer and especially Sam Jaffe as an old ex-con . Furthermore , top-notch support cast , Jean Hagen as Doll Conovan , James Whitmore as Gus Minissi , John McIntire as Police Commissioner Hardy , Marc Lawrence as Cobby , Barry Kelley as Lt. Ditrich , Anthony Caruso as Ciavelli and debut of Strother Martin and Jack Warden. And of course a splendid bit by Marilyn Monroe as Angela , John Huston originally intended the role of Angela Phinlay for Lola Albright . The musical scoring by Miklós Rózsa is magnificent , being perfectly attuned but extremely scant, occurring only for the main titles, continuing through the opening sequence up to the point where Handley enters the café, and then returns some 107 minutes later when Handley and Doll return to his boyhood farm , total scoring just under 6 minutes

    Rating : Above average , this is one of John Huston's best films , a model of his kind , definitely a must see if you are aficionado to Noir Film . Huston broke a new ground with this landmark movie , providing classic scenes and unforgettable dialogs . Also shown in horrible computer-colorized adaptation . Frequentely imitated and remade no less than five times in different styles such as Western in ¨Badlands¨¨ by Delmer Daves with Alan Ladd , Katy Jurado and Ernest Borgnine , set in Egypt titled ¨Cairo¨ by Wolf Rilla with George Sanders , Richard Johnson , Eric Pohlmann and Blaxploitation ¨Cool Breeze¨ by Barry Pollack with Thalmus Rasulala , Judy Pace , Lincoln Kilpatrick , Margaret Avery and Pam Grier .
  • John Huston, one of the great film makers of all times, was at the top of his craft when he undertook the direction of "The Asphalt Jungle". The book by W.R. Barnett was brilliantly adapted by Mr. Huston and Ben Maddox and the result stunned everyone. In fact, the film has been so influential one sees parts of it in other movies of the genre. The magnificent cinematography created by Harold Rosson speaks by itself. The music score by Miklos Rozsa stays in the background and never interferes with the action.

    This is a film that looks as good today, as when it first was released. In fact, one discovers more nuances as one watches it again, when it's shown on cable. The cast of the film is one of its best assets going for "The Asphalt Jungle". Mr. Huston assembled some of the best talent working in the American cinema of that time.

    Sterling Hayden, as Dix, gives a tremendous performance. The excellent Louis Calhern, though, steals the picture with his take on Lon Emmerich, the man who finds he is broke and wants to be at the center of the caper, without risking anything. Marilyn Monroe has only two scenes in the movie, but she shines in them. Also Jean Hagen, an actress that should have gone far, but didn't, makes a valuable contribution with her Doll Conovan.

    The supporting cast is amazing. James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, Anthony Caruso, Brad Dexter, and the rest, play well together to give the film a seamless look.

    "The Asphalt Jungle" shows why John Huston was one of the most influential men in pictures. His films are a must see for all movie lovers and studied by his successors and people working today owe a lot to this master, who pioneered a style that stands as his legacy.
  • I suppose the only reason why this movie can be purchased on video (not on DVD though, it seems) is the fact that Marilyn Monroe plays a part in it. If I am right, this shows how much the movie industry has to rely on big names. Sometimes this is a real shame. No movie proves this better than Asphalt Jungle.

    This caper movie is one of my all time favorites and frankly the best of its genre. Its brilliance lies for me in the fact that no big name of the Hollywood acting community was involved – Monroe was small fries then. Instead John Huston worked with a cast of reliable, mostly very experienced character actors many people will know as "supports" from numerous other movies of the period. And many of those actors probably gave here the best performances of their lives. Everybody is cast dead right, this is what is so magnificent about Asphalt Jungle. The balance is perfect, the chemistry works all ways. Maybe just one miscast actor or actress would have spoiled the whole atmosphere. No one is overacting at any time, and there are many, many very moving moments as one can observe these characters struggling on the sidelines of urban society.

    One is always tempted to name an actress or an actor whose performance one liked best in a movie. Here, I could not do it – I liked them all. Yet I want to mention one actor: Louis Calhern. Seldom has a sudden change of mood and countenance in a character had such an impact on me as a viewer.
  • In one of John Huston's best told stories as a director, Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) gets involved with a group of jewel thieves in on a deal to score half a million dollars in the Midwest. But things get complicated, as they usually do, but in some unexpected ways. This is a crime story that has 'film-noir' written all over it, with stark, striking cinematography (some great close-ups of Hayden in a few key moments), slick, bare-bones direction from Huston, and the best cast of character actors one could hope to see- Hayden is terrific as Handley, a kind of archetype for the tough guy in many hard-boiled crime stories; Jaffee and Calhern are perfect as the Doc Riedenschneider, quirky but smart mastermind behind the caper, and the scheming rich man Emmerich fronting the money for the caper. Marilyn Monroe, in her first scenes in any movie, is a highlight as well as the sort of ditsy dame of the story. The climax is a knockout, and the robbery scenes themselves are quite tense, but the details leading up to the robbery and the aftermath are the best parts.
  • "The Asphalt Jungle" is a classic "film noire" caper movie directed by the legendary John Houston. Except for the opening and closing scenes, the story takes place entirely at night.

    As in most films of this genre, there are no heroes or villains, only a collection of tragic losers who are trying to better themselves through one last big caper.

    Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) has just been released from prison. He has plans for a major jewel heist but needs financial backing and a crew to assist him. He goes to a small time bookie named Cobby (Marc Lawrence) who in turn puts him in touch with money man Emmerich (Louis Calhern). Doc assembles his crew, Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) a small time thug, a driver Gus (James Whitmore) and explosives man Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Carouso). But it seems that Emmerlich is broke what with his high living and young mistress Angela (Marily Monroe). So Cobb is convinced to back the job.

    Along the way we meet Doll Conovan (Jean Hagen) who carries a torch for Dix who doesn't really care. There's the corrupt cop Lt. Ditrich (Barry Kelley) and an unscrupulous private eye Bob Brannon (Brad Dexter) trying to get in on the action. While the caper seems to be going along nicely, several chance events occur which change the whole outlook of the event.

    Even though filming at the prestigious M-G-M, Huston wisely cast his film with largely (at the time) relative unknowns. Hayden is excellent as the doomed anti-hero Dix and Hagen superb as the tragic Doll. But it is veteran Sam Jaffe as the cultured, German-accented and very cool Doc who steals the picture. Marilyn Monroe on the verge of stardom (Why didn't M-G-M sign her?), is very good as the "femme fatale" of the piece.

    Also in the excellent cast are John McIntyre as the Police Commissioner, Don Haggerty and James Seay as a couple of detectives and Ray Teal as the policeman who causes grief for two of the escaping thieves. Watch for Strother Martin and Frank Cady (of TV's "Petticoat Junction")in the line-up sequence at the beginning.

    Huston made only one more film for M-G-M, "The Red Badge of Courage" (1951) which he blamed the studio for butchering. Nevertheless, he left us with another classic in "The Asphalt Jungle.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It was only a few weeks ago that I described 'Du rififi chez les hommes (1955)' as the film that pioneered the traditional crime caper, carving a narrative mould that would continue to be reused in films of its sort for decades to come. While Jules Dassin's picture is undoubtedly the finest in a sub-genre affectionately known as "the heist flick," I have now discovered that the concept stretches back at least another five years, to one of Hollywood's most revered adventure directors, John Huston. Revealing a seedy underbelly of society, overflowing with smarmy criminal figures and crooked authorities, the film is a potent film-noir thriller, employing dark, shadowy black-and-white cinematography, and a selection of suitably sordid characters, whose greed, obsession and violent temperaments ultimately lead to their own demise. The film's success would trigger a considerable boom in the popularity of heist thrillers, most notably in Crichton's 'The Lavender Hill Mob (1951),' Dassin's 'Rififi (1955),' Mackendrick's 'The Ladykillers (1955)' and Kubrick's breakthrough picture, 'The Killing (1956),' which also starred Sterling Hayden.

    Recently-released criminal mastermind, Doc Erwin Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), has, for the last seven years of his incarceration, protected the plans for the most ambitious and profitable heist of his "distinguished" career. He arrives in a dreary, smoggy, crime-ridden city, where low-lifes patrol the darkened streets and law officers, some honest and some crooked, do their best to control the escalating crime-rates. The Doc hires a diverse assortment of essential criminals to ensure the success of his caper – a "boxman," or a safecracker (Anthony Caruso) with a young family, a "top-notch" getaway driver (James Whitmore) with a twisted back, and a small-time "hooligan" (Sterling Hayden) with a costly passion for horses. Also involved in the elaborate scheme is Cobby (Marc Lawrence), a sleazy, treacherous bookie, and Alonzo D. Emmerich (Louis Calhern), a bankrupt professional businessman who agrees to finance the operation but houses plans for a disastrous double-crossing. The film's female protagonists come in the form of innocent Doll Conovan (Jean Hagen, prior to her career-defining performance in 'Singin' in the Rain (1952)') and an upcoming Marilyn Monroe as Emmerich's sexy, playful and naive young mistress.

    As was typical in film-noir films of the era, whose contents were dictated by the meddlesome Production/Hays Code, the ultimate moral of the story is that crime doesn't pay. Each of the thieves receive punishment for their involvement in the robbery, either through conviction or death, as does the fraudulent detective (Barry Kelley) whose corruption is described as a "one in a hundred" case. Nevertheless, Huston succeeds in creating a certain amount of empathy towards the criminals, sympathetically presenting the audience with each man's reasonable motivations towards breaking the law. By recruiting our support, Huston invariably places the audience in the shoes of the criminals, suggesting, as the perfect scheme begins to unravel, that our own fates lie in the balance. This evocation of realism is certainly complemented by Harold Rosson's gritty, documentary-like cinematography, and the heist sequence itself – while falling well short of Jules Dassin's breathless 30-minute counterpart – is tense, intriguing and authentic. As Huston himself explains in a pre-film introduction on the DVD release, each of his characters is immoral, largely unlikable and driven by a debilitating vice; however, despite this, or perhaps because of it, we can't take our eyes off them.
  • This film is fantastic! It stands with a handful of movies as the best of the film-noir genre and has to be one of the best 300 or so movies ever! Talented, ensemble cast (with standout performances by Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore and Jean Hagen), great script and direction, good cinematography and maintains suspense throughout. This one's a clssic! Highly recommended.
  • ivan-223 August 2000
    Warning: Spoilers
    A great movie. For once I agree with the critics. But they may have missed the point. They saw in it "a superior thriller". I saw in it a touching homage to the humanity of the outlaw. For the first time criminals are presented as human beings, with their broken dreams, their yearnings for The Ultimate Experience that would make life meaningful. There is no justification of crime. It is rather a call for compassion and understanding for all the misunderstood and unpopular people of this world. The ending is heart-breaking. A fugitive whom society has branded a cold-blooded killer arrives at the ranch where he grew up, to die of his bullet wounds. There are no heroes and no villains in this movie. Compassion is the only character.
  • THE ASPHALT JUNGLE is a sometimes unsung triumph of director/writer John Huston. Sterling Hayden plays a down and out hoodlum who pairs up with cheesecake obcessed master thief Sam Jaffee. The seedy urbane characters that populate their world keep you glued to the screen. Marilyn Monroe is perfect as the spoiled mistress of crooked lawyer Louis Calhern. James Whitmore deserved an Oscar for his role as Gus, the diner owner with a fondness for kittens and crime. Has a great look, will make you pine for more black and white.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Today, classic posters focus on the blonde beauty who only appears in the film for a brief minute, but this film is so much more. It is about desperation. It is about disappointment. It is about decent people sinking into amorality by aligning themselves with people of very low character. It is a character study. It is another example of how capers never succeed, even if you somehow manage to get away with it. It is also a master class in writing, directing and acting, with superb photography and editing, and a new wave view of post war realism that MGM's head man Louis B. Mayer begrudgingly had to allow to be done, even if he was still of the Andy Hardy school of thought of movie storytelling.

    The caper involves a desperate jewel heist, utilizing plot devices that would later be used in other jewel heist films, some more serious than the others, but all cleverly executed in their manner. You've got the struggling businessman (Louis Calhern), mistress on the side, ailing wife at home, bad deals making him nearly bankrupt, the crooked career criminal (Sterling Hayden) who wants one more heist to call it quits, shady doctor Sam Jaffe (even close-ups on him would make me never want to be treated by him under any circumstance), the hunchbacked James Whitmore, and interloper Brad Dexter, whose sudden presence makes the whole scheme seem to backfire when violence erupts. It isn't often the law who ruins it for these criminals; They often do it to themselves, like another later low budget caper "Plunder Road", leading them all to the path of destruction.

    As adopted from the novel by W.R. Burnett, the film (with a script by director John Huston and Ben Maddow) immediately draws you in with these desperate characters, people you know whom would never deal with each other in any other type of situation. Each party plays an important part, and if one of those parts messes up, they could all fall down like a house of cards. Individual detail is given to each of these characters to make them more than just your stereotypical criminal. Motivations are there for everyone, especially for Louis Calhern who had he not been nominated for an Oscar the same year for playing Oliver Wendell Holmes in "The Magnificent Yankee" certainly could have been nominated (in lead or supporting) for this. That is indeed Marilyn Monroe in one seductive sequence as his young mistress, and her brief coo'ing was enough to get attention to warrant stardom for her. Dorothy Tree is perfect as his ailing bedridden wife, certain he is up to something shady, but so desperate and clinging that she couldn't let him go under any circumstance.

    I call this the apex of the film noir genre, one of the last truly perfect examples of what made these type of films so riveting. It is the type of film that if you can experience your first time seeing on a big screen, it is highly recommended, because there are some films that need that large experience, and with an equally appreciative audience. Whatever city this is supposed to be is shaded with darkness from the start, and while you might be tempted to guess which city it is, aspects of the script fool you from the start. This is a film that gets more tense as it goes on, where each piece of the puzzle seems to fit nicely, but then another piece comes along that seems to go where previous pieces ended up. Even if these characters are low-life's (even the ones living the high life), there is even that desire to see at least one of them get away with their caper, but then, crime would pay, wouldn't it? Film reminds us that all criminals do pay somehow, even if there is some sort of sympathy for one of them.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A group of criminals band together for a daring jewelry heist that goes off as planned. However, bad luck and a series of double crosses cause things to eventually unravel.

    Director John Huston, who also co-wrote the taut and involving script with Ben Maddow, keeps the gripping story moving along at a steady pace, maintains a tough gritty tone throughout, and offers a flavorsome evocation of the sordid urban underworld environment. This film further benefits from a wonderfully rich rogues' gallery of colorful low-life hoodlums: Sterling Hayden as hard-nosed hooligan Dix Handley, Sam Jaffe as shrewd criminal mastermind Doc Erwin Riedenschneider, who has a fatal weakness for pretty young girls; Louis Calhern as slimy two-timing corrupt lawyer Alonzo D. Emmerich, James Whitmore as friendly hunchbacked wheelman Gus Minissi, Marc Lawrence as sniveling weasel Cobby, Anthony Caruso as hapless safecracker Louis Cavelli, and Barry Kelley as brutish crooked detective Lt. Ditrich. Moreover, Jean Hagen radiates tremendous charm as Handley's loyal, but worried moll Doll Conovan, John McIntire delivers a fine performance as the no-nonsense police commissioner Hardy, and Marilyn Monrie makes a nice impression as Emmerich's sweet'n'sexy mistress Angela Phiney. In addition, this movie has a extra bitter sting thanks to its strong sense of bleak fatalism in which all of the lawbreaking characters are undone by their own flaws and vices. Harold Rosson's sharp black and white cinematography provides a pleasing crisp look. Highly recommended.
  • This is an amazing film and one that serious film buffs need to see. However, while it is clearly an example of Film Noir, it represents a very realistic style of Noir--lacking the dramatic excesses of some (such as KISS OF DEATH and its wheelchair scene) or super-snappy dialog (like DRAGNET). I actually like all three types of Noir films but when it comes to realism, this film ranks up there with HE WALKED BY NIGHT and T-MEN--and this is certainly good company.

    The movie is a step-by-step case study of a crime being organized, executed investigated and resolved. While it could have been shot documentary-style (like a few Noir films, such as NAKED CITY), it was handled like a traditional crime drama except that the focus tended to shift back and forth between the criminals and the police--though the focus tended to be on the criminals a bit more often. This really helped make the movie exciting and worked very well. What also helped the movie was the exceptional acting by mostly unknowns or long-time character actors. Good Noir usually does NOT star big names and having the film anchored by Sterling Hayden (who was amazing), Sam Jaffe and Louis Calhern was an excellent move. To assist them were some other exceptional actors, such as James Whitmore and Marilyn Monroe (in a small but exceptional role).

    However, despite the amazing acting, the biggest star of the film was the taut script. From start to finish, it sparkled and abounded with realism and an unflinching message that crime doesn't ultimately pay. The total package is one of the best Noir films ever--only exceeded by a small number of movies (such as my favorite Noir, THE KILLERS). See this film!

    By the way, please take a look at the very amazing biography of Sterling Hayden on IMDb. I did and was totally blown away--what an amazing life he led. It all sounded so amazing that if they turned it into a film, many would think it was fiction!!
  • 'The Asphalt Jungle' was probably the first heist film in a technical sense in cinematic history. It has influenced countless films of the same nature which have come out subsequently. While watching the film, I couldn't help but get constantly reminded of Kubrick's 'The Killing', not only because of Sterling Hayden's presence, but also because of the similarities in the screenplay and the narrative structure. However in spite of the surface-level similarities between the two films, they feel very different because of the tone set by the respective directors and their attitude towards the characters in the films. Kubrick in 'The Killing' presents a dark and uncompromising setting while staying distant and judgmental towards his characters. Huston on the other hand is a lot more sympathetic towards his characters, even though he still underlines that the world, the city and the system which envelopes these characters are unrelenting as ever thereby retaining the quintessential cynicism of post WWII noir films. The characters in 'The Asphalt Jungle' are low-time crooks who are simply trying to survive and their quest for survival leads them to criminal activities. Huston never condones the crime, but he certainly makes us understand the criminals, where they come from, their motivations and most importantly their weaknesses and sources of fragility. As a part of a film-noir double feature, 'The Asphalt Jungle' could be chosen as the more heartfelt and humane companion piece to Huston's 'The Maltese Falcon'.

    The cinematography has the noir-ish visual elements of prominent shadows and the interplay between light and dark textures. But there is much more naturalism in Huston's staging and direction of scenes compared to some of his earlier works. He uses quite a lot of long unbroken takes and the camera lingers on images and makes gentle movements. The acting is solid from everyone.

    Certainly Recommended.
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