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Dec. 1, 2010 at 12:05pm Saturday Movie - The Asphalt Jungle

Hollywood legend, John Huston, directed The Asphalt Jungle, brilliantly developing it into a high point of the film noir movement. Perhaps much of his success with this film was due to the way he treated the culprits as human beings rather than as some kind of weird degenerates. In The Asphalt Jungle, viewers encounter the seedy underbelly of society and some of the humans it disgorges . These are greedy, suspicious, and altogether smarmy, but like others, they have their hopes, dreams and loves.

Huston used lesser known actors for this film, perhaps to emphasize the everyday aspects of the characters. Ironically, as it turned out, cast members like Sterling Hayden, James Whitmore, and Marilyn Monroe went on to outstanding Hollywood careers.

The film employs shadowy, black and white photography, as is typical of film noir. The central plot element is a meticulously planned, high stakes heist, followed by the subsequent undoing of each of the perpetrators. The story is very much like the one seen in the acclaimed Rififi, which followed several years later. The ending of The Asphalt Jungle is both predictable and unexpectedly moving, perhaps because it represents the manner in which most of us fail to fulfill our youthful dreams and our hopes of returning to a lost innocence.

Paul Jacobson, library film reviewer

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