Monday, August 3, 2015

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) Welcome to THE JUNGLE!

(SLWB - September 21, 2011)

Directed by John Huston (The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Misfits (1961), The Night of the Iguana (1964), Fat City (1972)). Written with some excellent dialog, by Ben Maddow (screen play) and John Huston (screen play) based on a novel by W.R. Burnett. Beautifully Noir stylistic camerawork by Harold Rosson (The Wizard Of Oz (1939)), and the Music was by Miklós Rózsa (Double Indemnity (1944))

 The film stars: Sterling Hayden (eight Classic Noir), Louis Calhern, James Whitmore (Crime in the Streets (1956)), Sam Jaffe, John McIntire (eight Classic Noir), Marilyn Monroe (Don't Bother to Knock 1952), Niagara (1953)), Anthony Caruso (Night Editor (1946), The Blue Dahlia (1946), Scene Of The Crime 1949)), Marc Lawrence (three Classic Noir) and Jean Hagen (Side Street (1950), No Questions Asked (1951)). 

The film also has cameos of actors who will become well known in film and TV in the 60s and 70s, Brad Dexter (The Magnificent Seven), Frank Cady (Sam Drucker in The Beverly Hillbillies), Ray Teal (Bonanza), Jack Warden (Twelve Angry Men), and Strother Martin (Cool Hand Luke). 

 The Asphalt Jungle tells the story of Dix "don't bone me" Handley (Sterling Hayden), and  "Doc" Riedenschneider (Jaffe), a legendary crime "brain," both of whom are just out of prison. Doc has a can't miss, pen hatched plan, for a million-dollar diamond burglary in the Ohio River town of Cincinnati.

There is a short establishing sequence showing The Roebling Suspension Bridge and the Ohio River Levee with the PCN and Carew Towers in the background, but the majority of the film was shot in L.A.'s Bunker Hill neighborhood.


Roebling Bridge and Ohio River Levee

Levee with PCN and  the Art Deco Carew Tower in the background
Doc is a bit of a lech, he's addicted to young snatch, in all forms, he peers at pinup calendars and leers at bobby soxers.  Doc on some dope he got in the can, approaches a small time betting parlor owner and  racing "fixer" Cobby ( Marc Lawrence).

 "Doc" Riedenschneider (Jaffe)

Cobby (Marc Lawrence)
Colby in turn arranges with dishonest lawyer Alonzo Emmerich (Calhern) to finance the details for the heist of a million dollar diamond haul from a jewellery firm, he figures that they can net about half of that in cash from the fences. Doc and Cobby begin to whittle down candidates for the job. They need a box man (safecracker), a wheel man, and a hooligan. He recruits safecracker Louis Ciavelli, driver Gus Minissi, and for muscle Dix Handley. Movie posters of it's re-release tried cashing in on rising star Marilyn Monroe (see top left) but she actually has a very small part in this film.

Dix Handley (Hayden)

Alonzo Emmerich (Calhern) and Cobby
Of course it all goes Noirsville with various unexpected snafus, human weaknesses, and doublecrosses


2nd Street, Bunker Hill, LA filling in for Cincinnati 

rousting Dix

Frank Cady at far left

L.A. Gas Works

Strother Martin

Private Detective Bannon (Dexter)

Angela (Marilyn Monroe) and "Uncle" Emerich

Emerich and Police Commissioner Hardy (McIntire)

Doll Conovan (Jean Hagen)

Louis The Box Man (Anthony Caruso)

notice the L.A. City Hall to the left

This is a nice tight running yarn with Hayden doing some of his best work. Marilyn Monroe is great in a small part as a young mistress of the creepy Louis Calhern. She calls him "Uncle" and the way Calhern is leering you can just imagine what she does with his lollipop.

This film is beautiful in how it examines relationships, depicts deceptions, greed and sexual lust. It abounds is some memorable dialogue, also.

A gritty, tough, no-nonsense crime story where you know that things will eventually go wrong, but it keeps you guessing as to the why and when.  Tension ratchets ever upwards from the first scene to the frantic ending.

The screencaps are from the Warner Brothers 2004 DVD release, commentary track is by Drew Casper and actor James Whitmore

A 10/10.

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