Monday, November 12, 2007

Dir. by John Huston

This 1950 film tells the story of the perfect heist that had a few flaws. The script is by W.R. Burnett (High Sierra, Little Caesar, &c), the master of hard-boiled crime movies, and the direction is by John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre) making Jungle a playground of titans.

The story may seem a trifle complex: Doc (Sam Jaffe) has just been released from prison and wants to make a one big score and get out of the country. He contacts Emmerich (Louis Calhern), a big shot crooked lawyer who agrees to bankroll a massive jewel heist. While these gentry provide the mcguffin, Dix Hayden (Sterling Hayden) is the heart of the movie. He’s a down on his luck hoodlum who just wants to make enough dough to go back to the farm in Kentucky.

The trip back to Kaintuck ain’t an easy one. Everyone is on the make, and the merely dishonest are prey for the utterly corrupt. As Doc’s plan begins to fall apart from unforeseen consequences and treachery from within, the true character of the gangsters is revealed. Burnett’s hoods move from sleazy to decent or to something worse than sleazy. But Burnett finds something worthy in even the worst of them. Pretty soon blood is flowing and the people who appeared indispensable become disposable and underdogs get their moment in the sun.

Marc Lawrence and gives a marvelous performance as Cobby, the low-life bookie. James Whitmore is a hunchbacked diner operator who moonlights as a getaway driver. His food may not be much, but he’ll hide your gat if the cops are about to frisk you. The supporting cast is rounded out by Barry Kelly as a crooked cop and Marilyn Monroe as Emmerich’s girlfriend.

While never as over-the-top bloody as modern crime movies, The Asphalt Jungle is suspenseful. It is also a movie that makes you care about what happens to its cast of hoodlums, criminal masterminds, and three-time losers.

-Dave Hardy


Charles Gramlich said...

Interesting review considering I just finished reading "The Postman always rings twice" last night. I've just started "Double Endemnity"

Dave Hardy said...

I think Cain is a trifle uneven. Postman and Double Indemnity are two of the best serie noir you can find. On the other hand I found "The Butterfly" and "Serenade" to be a bit over-done. "Mildred Pierce" was perhaps better as a movie.

A true Cain treat is "Past all Dishonor", a crazy noir-Western. Not for the faint hearted!