The Asphalt Jungle (1950) A Robbery In The Sin Sodden Shadows Of A Noir Soaked City

No messing around. Lets drop the score. Yep it’s a straight 10. Been sitting on The Asphalt Jungle for a while. You know the feeling. You know full well that it’s gonna hit the spot. Enough people have nudged me. I’m sure you’re like me? It’s gotta be the right time, you want that perfect time. That perfect head space to sit back and let it flood over you. Last night was that time. Damn man! Was it fantastic! Ready to watch it again. Not only did it look incredible and believable, you could feel the sweat and hot heads bursting through the screen. All the characters felt rounded and real. Every single player dropped into the drama. They all linked perfectly up with the other. Each move, how big or small, effected the next play like a chain of events that fell fateful into place. The darkness, the grimy opening dirty streets. The sweat, the tension, the running and the pounding of fists.

No real spoilers. I’m just gonna introduce all the players connected in the crime. You’ll find dialogue and random quotes. To be honest there’s not a single line lost within the film. The script is busting out, on fire from the start.

The Asphalt Jungle was at first a novel in 1949 by W R Burnett. Director John Huston helped out on the script with Ben Maddow who wrote the screenplay. What they create together is a crime movie that I can only imagine inspired directors and writers for decades to come…………

Tagline –A story of the sin-sodden shadows of a great city

Police Commissioner Hardy played by John McIntire

The Justice. The wily sharp Police Commissioner has seen it all before. Years on the force has made him delve inside the criminal mind. He knows the workings of each as an individual but can he predict what this newly formed group of wise guys and degenerates are up to?

People are being cheated, robbed, murdered, raped. And that goes on 24 hours a day, every day in the year. And that’s not exceptional, that’s usual. It’s the same in every city in the modern world. But suppose we had no police force, good or bad. Suppose we had… just silence. Nobody to listen, nobody to answer. The battle’s finished. The jungle wins. The predatory beasts take over.

Gus Minissi played by James Whitmore

The Driver. A tough steadfast dinner owner. He’s punchy. Ready to fight. Years of torment for his hunched back and small size have shaped this man like stone. Dependable and committed. If you are his friend he will stay loyal and help when ever he is needed. He’ll take the heat and won’t flap his lip.

You dirty fink! You’re gonna wind up where you belong! You’re gonna wind up in the morgue! You wait and see, you dirty fink! Home of the pigeons! Fink! Fink!

Dix Handley played by Sterling Hayden

The Muscle. Towering thuggish hulk. Rugged, gritty and filled with brute force. A handsome man but deeply damaged by drink and gambling. Bitter with life and trusts no one. Only thinks with his fists. Dreams of returning home to his childhood family life with horses and a simpler time.

Why don’t you quit cryin’ and get me some bourbon?

Doc Erwin Riedenschneider played by Sam Jaffe

The Mastermind. A small German career criminal recently released from prison after a seven year stretch. He has an unassuming demeanor which hides his wise criminal ways. He’s almost invisible but his plan is grand. A fortune in diamonds. A jewel heist. The plan is foolproof. He’s planned it all during his sentence. He knows what he want’s to spend it on. Fat cigars and young dancing ladies.

Ever been in Mexico City, Dix? It’s 8000 feet up. The air is very pure. Many first-class clubs, restaurants, a horse track and girls. Beautiful young girls. How would you like to go there, all expenses paid?

Doll Conovan played by Jean Hagen

The Girl. Slightly damaged by life. A stripper maybe? Could be turning tricks for cash. An alcoholic trying to keep her head above ground? There’s a kind heart under the tears. She’s desperate for love from Dix. She’s in love but he’s emotionless. She would be there for him if he’d have her.

They raided the Regal. The cops must of all gone crazy. So it’s a clip joint, so what? And it had have to happen on pay night!

Alonzo D. Emmerich played by Louis Calhern

The Money Man. The demeanor of a lawyer. Suave and elegant but sly and over confident. He’s got a promise of cash to fund the heist. The opportunity to make some big bucks. His unwell wife lays alone upstairs whilst he entertains his pretty blond plaything lounging around downstairs.

Married 20 years, consorting with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. It’s disgusting! But nothing about Emmerich would surprise me. Educated man who uses brains to circumvent the law. Worst type of human being.”

Angela Phinlay played by Marilyn Monroe

The Blond. Happy to have a sugar daddy she calls Uncle Lon. She smiles and looks gorgeous with the lure of gifts. A little hollow headed? She can be loyal for fancy new bathing suits and the promise of sunny vacations.

Imagine me on this beach here in my green bathing suit. Yipe! I almost bought a white one the other day but it wasn’t quite extreme enough. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if I really went in for the extreme, extreme, I woulda’ bought a French one. Run for your lives, girls, the fleet’s in. Oh, uncle Lon, am I excited. Yipe!

Bob Brannom played by Brad Dexter

The Private Detective. Hired by Alonzo D. Emmerich. A tough, confident burly set guy. Sent to collect owed money for his employer. Has a gun at the hip. He has it all sussed out. No one tells him what to do. He likes a drink. Never easy on the liquor.

Half-drunk, I got better wits than most people. And more nerve.

Louis Ciavelli played by Anthony Caruso

The Safe-cracker. A recent father. Bills to pay and adoring, loving wife. He was a career safe-cracker. Hung up his explosives now fatherhood had arrived. He needs money. Cramped up in a one room apartment is no place for them. Besides he’s an expert with “the soup”. Yep nitroglycerine. He trusts Gus, only Gus. He’s in.

There’s only one driver, as far as I’m concerned. Gus Minissi. Ask Cobby, he knows him.

Cobby played by Marc Lawrence

The In-between Man. Sweating, always sweating. Pencil thin mustache and oiled slick back hair. What little hair he has left that is. He knows everyone. From street hustlers, dirty cops and more. A man of many rackets. Has the cash to sweeten palms. Cash that makes him sweat. More every time he has to hand it out. He like’s his bourbon and has all the numbers, the contacts, the men.

Here’s to the drink habit. It’s the only habit I got that don’t get me into trouble.

The atmosphere and gritty street talk dialogue pushes the boundaries of this heavy beautifully written script. It’s brutally realistic. You care for and hate different characters in equal amounts. You can’t help but let it all get under your skin. The heat, the worry, and stress and…. death! As you can tell, I loved it. I’m sure you did/would to, let me know your thoughts on this masterful crime dram noir.

Thanks for having a read and I apologise for the lack of posts the last few months. Starting to get my movie review mojo back. All the best. Mikey Wolfman.

PS to sign off here’s some choice pieces of script and a few ace posters.

Sounds like a soul in hell….

That bullet just ripped through my side and went about it’s business….

It was no drowning! He had a hole right through his pump!….

There ain’t enough blood in him to keep a chicken alive!….

15 thoughts on “The Asphalt Jungle (1950) A Robbery In The Sin Sodden Shadows Of A Noir Soaked City

  1. What a completely bare-knuckled, head-over-heels, smashes-it-out-of-the-park review!
    As regards the clip below, if nothing else it’s a masterclass in the art of the backhander, softened only by the act of serving your victim a drink after it’s over –

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glen thanks duuuude for the review of the review 🙂
      Good gosh that back hand slapping scene was relentless. Haha yes indeed a masterclass in the act.
      I wouldn’t be surprised to hear each one of them connected and that drink was real to numb the pain.
      What a scene. A real powerhouse.
      “They will say I’m a “fink”. I’ve heard a lot of words for an “informer” over the years but never that one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post 🙂 Interestingly enough, lead actor Sterling Hayden would star in another heist classic six years later in 1956 with Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. I love that film 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brilliant, Mikey! This is my favorite post on Wolfman’s Cult Film Club. Terrific! Such a great film. It’s one of my favorite noirs. Sterling Hayden is fantastic in it. Jean Hagen is great. The whole cast is stellar. It’s cool to see Monroe in her first major role. You can see the allure and sizzle of a future legend. You can’t take your eyes off of her. One of John Houston’s masterpieces. I’m with you, Mikey. It’s a perfect 10. If you haven’t seen Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing with Sterling Hayden playing the “mastermind” this time, you must put it on your list. It too is a noir/heist film, but it’s very different. It’s more of a police procedural, except it’s a heist procedural with all the corrupt characters. It’s almost as good as The Asphalt Jungle, but not quite–in my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh yes Pam The Killing is incredible to. I didn’t do a review of it at the time. It was just when I started the film blog at the beginning of 2017. Looking back I gave it a ten/ten too 🙂 Great to see the comparisons. Sterling being in both joins them together in someway. Both equally excellent and I agree, like you say, are very different films. You can see QT and Scorsese etc, ideas they’ve had popping up through-out their own films.
      Yes it was wonderful to see Monroe in her first major role. She was very good in her screentime. She wasn’t over the top. Pitched just right.
      I’m so excited I’m going to watch The Killing again and hopefully Asphalt Jungle again not too long after.
      As always thank you Pam
      All the best

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That is soooooo weird. I thought I’d seen all of Kubrick’s movies. Now I’ve gotta see The Killing.

    Nice meaty, passionate reveiw!
    I was wondering why Marilyn wasn’t even on the poster then Pam was talking about Marilyn’s first role. Ooooohhhh. Got it.

    You’ve never heard “fink” before? We used to use it in junior high. But here, in this movie, it sounds a lot funnier, especially with “dirty” in front of it–“You dirty fink!” And then Marilyn’s character saying “Yipe!” all over the place. Did she really say that? I guess it was like, “jeez” or something. So, so funny.

    I was working on an old game show at work (captioning) “To Tell the Truth” I think, in the ’50s or ’60s, and they were using words in their general, normal conversation that I’d never heard of! It’s like it was 1,000 years ago–not under 100 years ago!

    And that one line really got to me: “Educated man who uses brains to circumvent the law. Worst type of human being.” Oh, man, does that ever apply to our resident AG over here, William Barr. Such a perfect way to put it. Or should I say–Yipe! That really applies to Barr, that dirty fink!!!

    Great descriptions of all the characters. I love it!! Glad you’re getting back into reviews. It’s been hard, hasn’t it?! I don’t think I’ve posted anything in over a month.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still got a couple of Kubrick’s to go. The “Killers Kiss” from 1955 and the one I’m probably gonna get hissed and boo’d at for not seeing yet, “Barry Lyndon”. For years I thought I had seen it. Until this year when I realised I got it mixed up with “The Duelists” from Ridley Scott. Doh! Both 18th Century so I might be able to give myself a tiny pass. LOL

      Yeah Mazza not in it much but she is very good in her role. Funny as the later film poster when MM gets way more famous than the rest of the cast, she suddenly gets top billing and she is featured on the posters. LOL

      Fink is one that I’d had never heard. I’d heard a lot over the years. “Grass” is probably the big one over here. Yeah “Dirty Fink” got some power to it.

      Old words are amazing. One of the joys of watching the oldies is the word use/play. That’s amazing you working on captioning “To Tell the Truth”… I posted an amazing but weird episode when you know the history of the guy.
      Melvin Purvis the FBI agent who was chasing Dillinger went on an episode. It’s strange to watch him on there.
      And in a weird twist Manson gets a mention in the comments! Spooky.

      Are William Barr and Steven Bannon the same guy. Clones!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wow, SO disingenuous, that later poster with Marilyn dominating The Asphalt Jungle! But else would you expect from Hollywood? Honesty? Ethics? Lack of greed? Ha.
        Interesting the folks they got on those old game shows! The agent involved in possibly bringing Dillinger down. I looked him up, wondering why he would shoot himself. Apparently there’s a possibility he was trying to do something with the gun and may have shot himself accidentally.
        I saw I’ve Got A Secret in reruns when I was a kid and they had an old man on there. This was in the ’50s, again, like Purvis, and this guy was 93 or something, and when he was five years old, he saw Lincoln’s assassination! He didn’t know at the time what was going on. All he remembers is a “man falling onto the stage and breaking his leg,” and he hoped the man who broke his leg was going to be okay.
        Amazing ! ! !
        As for clones…yeah. William Barr, Bannon, Trump, Manafort, Flynn, even Ivanka. I think they’re all clones of the same person and just change clothes an wigs. The list is endless, by the way…..


  5. You’re dead-on right, Mikey…one of the great noir films. I love this movie as well, and it has one of my favorite noir scenes of all time, if not THE favorite: towards the end, when Sam Jaffe is hanging out at that roadside juke joint. Just perfect…the storytelling, the atmosphere, the sense of impending doom, the camerawork. Just great all-around, and your appreciation of this film really shows in your review. Now I have the urge to find that scene on-line and watch it again…or just pop in my disc and watch the entire movie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha yes the jukebox scene. It was the wonder and the twinkle in his eyes. You spot on Todd the camera work and impending doom pushed that scene. Nothing crazy happens but the tension is tight. He kind of got his dancing girl in the end!!
      I’m gonna be watching that movie again very soon. In a double bill with The Killing.


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