A list of Edgar Wright's favorite 1000 Movies per his list on Mubi on July 27th, 2016.
The Asphalt Jungle
The City Under the City
Recently paroled from prison, legendary burglar "Doc" Riedenschneider, with funding from Alonzo Emmerich, a crooked lawyer, gathers a small group of veteran criminals together in the Midwest for a big jewel heist.
One way or another, we all work for our vice.
My second John Huston adaptation of a W.R. Burnett novel this week, the first one being High Sierra. Huston co-wrote this one with Ben Maddow, but also directed this time around. It is one of the most influential heist films ever made for the simple fact that Huston and Maddow realized, even at this early stage, that what would make the film great wasn't the heist itself, but the characters involved.
The film is filled with clearly defined characterization with, even more impressively, very specific dialogue styles written for everyone in the film. Combine that with great performances by the entire ensemble cast and you end up with…
I have to admit that I was a bit predisposed to like this movie, I might say even giddy. It stars Sterling Hayden, and he plays two of my favourite characters in two of my favourite films; The Killing, and Dr. Strangelove. While it could be argued, successfully, that he plays the same character every time, I don’t really care. I just love his no nonsense tough guy delivery. Probably even more than James Cagney or Humphrey Bogart.
The first thing that struck me was the absence of score. Beyond the opening, there is none. The second thing that struck me was the sumptuous cinematography. This is a master plying his trade. This is the best looking and photographed Noir…
John Huston's heist noir is grittier than his Maltese Falcon, with Louis Calhern as the respectable criminal who is messing around with a slinky Marilyn Monroe and living on the brink of bankruptcy.
There's a jewellery robbery, a crooked private detective, a cripple, a couple of seedy convicts, and a double cross. It's all standard fare for the genre bit it's so dirty you need to wash your hands when you've seen it.
Small pleasures - Sterling Hayden's thug playing the heavy with his team, playing it soft with his girl Jean Hagen; James Whitmore setting up meetings; Sam Jaffe as the dapper mastermind; Monroe's stretching; Calhern's fop playing cards when his butler calls.
In the jungle no one is…
I like how Marilyn Monroe has retroactively been billed as the star of the film despite having maybe two minutes of screen time.
In some ways, he's the most dangerous of them all. A hardened killer. A hooligan. A man without human feeling or human mercy.
The more I watch this, the more I realize how much of an underrated character Dix Handley is with a great performance by Sterling Hayden. Simple in nature, but he has some layers to him.
I don't know why I expected Asphalt Jungle to be one of the best film noirs ever made. Perhaps it was because I was so familiar with the title that I made that assumption. There is little doubt that my very high expectations contributed to my disappointment.
The film isn't bad by any stretch; it just isn't the masterpiece I thought it would be.
It takes a while for the film to get going, and there is very little drama in the first few segments to be fully engrossing. The word "flat" describes it best but I'm not sure I could explain it if asked.
There is a very long introduction to all of the characters made interesting simply because…
Definitely my favorite noir and Huston. Two things I'm not normally this much of a fan of. Hayden sounds so much like Patrick Warburton. This is thrilling and every character feels unique and real in their own ways.
Sterling Hayden will always be my favourite old-timey tough guy. The scene near the end where the Doctor fills the jukebox in the diner to keep the girl dancing is fantastic.
(6/8 is "Good")
An enjoyable heist film. The noir motifs both elevate the characterisation, look and exchanges of characters but also make it a bit predicatble.
But I guess that's unavoidable.
From the poster one might expect the lyricism and expressionism oft associated with Noir. Not a chance. In The Asphalt Jungle, the story takes center stage and demands the attention of all other aspects of the film -- even the soundtrack mutes itself in respect. Not a particularly interesting story, I might add, which should be the death-knell to a film dependent on it, but, curiously enough, it isn't. Sure, the ceiling is lowered -- the contrived unraveling undermines the fatalism no doubt sought after, the emotional beats aren't properly developed thus don't pay off, and so on -- but there's a considerable workmanlike appeal that comes from both the steady work of the characters of the film and the always competent, sometime expressive direction of Huston. A well individualized, expansive cast add interest to the proceedings.
A precisely constructed heist film which benefits from its clever but not too showy production. The film is tightly written, every character is humanised quickly without spending too much time on it. The performances are excellent and there's some great payoff to do with their vices.Tension is built gradually and carefully, edited exactly to keep you focused on the central story constantly. Creative decisions regarding blocking and lighting communicate meaning and tone with but overly flashy and feeling the need to shove it down your throat.
It's a clever film that refreshingly doesn't feel the need to show off.
366 Films in a Year
Film # 308: The Asphalt Jungle (1950, John Huston)
A classic heist film buoyed by a stellar cast, solid direction and an engaging story. Despite her presence on this poster, Marilyn Monroe is a minor character in this film but acquits herself quite well. It's the performance by Sterling Hayden, as a hardened hooligan who is looking for a big score that will get him out of the city and back to the Kentuckian farmland of his childhood, is a true highlight of the film. I'm not sure I would consider this a true Film Noir, even though it deals in grim themes and shady characters, there is not a heavy reliance on darkened streets…
Arguably the most influential crime film. Sterling Hayden was the John Wayne of noirs. A much missed screen presence of doom.
“The Asphalt Jungle” takes on its subject with a matter-of-fact straightforwardness that was quite edgy for its time. There is not one iota of the hokey “ripped from the headlines” moralizing to be found in earlier films like “Scarface,” yet neither is crime glorified or idealized in any way whatsoever. Every prominent character in this heist film is a crook and not the stylish, suave George Clooney of “Ocean’s Eleven.” These are gutter low-lifes, compromised policemen, and white collar hypocrites with no more than a handful of redeeming qualities between all of them. The filmmakers make no attempt to create a sympathetic backstory for one of them or try to show them as adhering to some imaginary thieves’ code of…
Edgar Wright's 1000 Favorite Movies via MUBI.