The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

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Movie Info

The Asphalt Jungle is a brilliantly conceived and executed anatomy of a crime -- or, as director John Huston and scripter Ben Maddow put it, "a left-handed form of human endeavor." Recently paroled master criminal Erwin "Doc" Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), with funding from crooked attorney Emmerich (Louis Calhern), gathers several crooks together in Cincinnati for a Big Caper. Among those involved are Dix (Sterling Hayden), an impoverished hood who sees the upcoming jewel heist as a means to finance his dream of owning a horse farm. Hunch-backed cafe owner (James Whitmore) is hired on to be the driver for the heist; professional safecracker Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso) assembles the tools of his trade; and a bookie (Marc Lawrence) acts as Emmerich's go-between. The robbery is pulled off successfully, but an alert night watchman shoots Ciavelli. Corrupt cop (Barry Kelley), angry that his "patsy" (Lawrence) didn't let him in on the caper, beats the bookie into confessing and fingering the other criminals involved. From this point on, the meticulously planned crime falls apart with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. Way down on the cast list is Marilyn Monroe in her star-making bit as Emmerich's sexy "niece"; whenever The Asphalt Jungle would be reissued, Monroe would figure prominently in the print ads as one of the stars. The Asphalt Jungle was based on a novel by the prolific W.R. Burnett, who also wrote Little Caesar and Saint Johnson (the fictionalized life story of Wyatt Earp).
Rating: G
Genre: Classics , Drama
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: John Huston , Ben Maddow
In Theaters: wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
WARNER BROTHERS PICTURES

Cast

Sterling Hayden
as Dix Handley
Louis Calhern
as Alonzo D. Emmerich
Jean Hagen
as Doll Conovan
James Whitmore
as Gus Ninissi
Sam Jaffe
as Doc Erwin Riedenschneider
John McIntire
as Police Commissioner
Barry Kelley
as Lt. Ditrich
Anthony Caruso
as Louis Ciavelli
Teresa Celli
as Maria Ciavelli
Marilyn Monroe
as Angela Phinlay
William Davis
as Timmons
Dorothy Tree
as May Emmerich
Brad Dexter
as Bob Brannon
John Maxwell
as Dr. Swanson
James Seay
as Janocek
Alex Gerry
as Maxwell
Thomas Browne Henry
as James X. Connery
Don Haggerty
as Andrews
Helene Stanley
as Jeannie
Raymond Roe
as Tallboy
Henry Rowland
as Franz Schurz
Judith Wood
as Woman
Ralph Dunn
as Policeman
Pat Flaherty
as Policeman
Jack Shea
as Policeman
John Cliff
as Policeman
Ray Teal
as Policeman
Frank Cady
as Night Clerk
Strother Martin
as Karl Anton Smith
Henry Corden
as William Doldy
Benny Burt
as Driver
Fred Graham
as Truck Driver
Eloise Hardt
as Vivian
Tim Ryan
as Jack; Police Clerk
Howard Mitchell
as Secretary
Sol (Saul) Gorss
as Policeman
Tom Browne Henry
as James X. Connery
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News & Interviews for The Asphalt Jungle

Critic Reviews for The Asphalt Jungle

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (3)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | November 2, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

John Huston's greatest noir thriller.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

This is among the most generally influential American films of the 1950s.

Full Review… | June 5, 2016
Antagony & Ecstasy

One of the first films to depict crime from the POV of the deviants rather than the police, this seminal film (arguably Huston's best) had a huge influence on the genre, manifest in the early work of Kubrick--and decades later Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs

Full Review… | April 29, 2007
EmanuelLevy.Com

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | December 29, 2006
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Asphalt Jungle

I was expecting Dix to start talking about our precious bodily fluids at any moment. Like other noirs, it inspired far better movies, and this one gets a bit too preachy regarding the "greater good" of the police and what not. Ok flick, not Huston's best.

Tsubaki Sanjuro
Tsubaki Sanjuro

John Huston's highly influential heist/noir The Asphalt Jungle resonates so profoundly because of the way its director invests each crew member with personality and motivation. A low-life hooligan with the heart of a farmboy (Sterling Hayden), a German career-con who's really a romantic with a penchant for senoritas, and safe-crackin new father, team up for a jewel caper. Of course crime doesn't pay, but when a film's lawless hoods are as human as these you sure as hell wish it did.

Bob O'Reilly
Bob O'Reilly

Huston's 1950 Noir about a jewel heist is an incredibly captivating film. Normally when I hear a film described as being about a heist, my mind immediately turns to the myriad examples of bad films centered around a them. For example: Entrapment, The Heist, The Score, Soul Plane However, much like he in the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, he creates fully realized characters that allow this film to soar high above it's heist film cohorts. The film centers around a million dollar jewel heist. Sam Jaffe plays Doc Erwin, a criminal mastermind who has been released from prison and is planning another big score. Through a local bookie, he pulls together a group of criminals to get the job done. While the above could summarize many different films, I assure you there is nothing like The Asphalt Jungle. The film utilizes the POV of the criminals to tell the story. Yet, unlike Reservoir Dogs which some people have equated this film with, this isn't just an hour and a half full of slick dialogue. While they may partake in criminal activities, Huston gives us the people behind the criminal actions. A fantastic Sterling Hayden desires to get money not so he can fund more criminal endeavors, he wants to buy back his families farm that he lost in the Great Depression. The safe cracker Louis wants to support his wife and his kids. Huston does an incredible job of letting the viewer empathize with these characters by letting us see their lives away from planning and executing the job. Huston shows the audience that crime isn't always driven by malice, crime is sometimes just a part of life. Louis Calhern sums this notion up best in the film when he states: "After all, crime is only... a left-handed form of human endeavor..." While Huston doesn't vilify the criminals, he doesn't deify the cops either. For the most part they are crooked and although they exclaim that they do not want to let the "beasts rule the jungle", they often stand shoulder to shoulder with the brutes. It is a simply marvelous & thought-provoking film. If Huston keeps this up he will keep moving up on my list of astounding directors.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

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