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Author Topic: The Asphalt Jungle (1950)  (Read 1459 times)
cigar joe
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« on: September 21, 2011, 06:55:17 AM »

Welcome to THE JUNGLE!

Directed by John Huston and stars: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, John McIntire, Marilyn Monroe, and Jean Hagen. The Asphalt Jungle tells the story of Dix "don't bone me" Handley (Sterling Hayden).  'Doc' Riedenschneider (Jaffe), a legendary crime "brain" just out of prison, has a pen hatched plan for a million-dollar diamond burglary.

He approaches a small time racing "fixer" Cobby ( Marc Lawrence) who in turn arranges with dishonest lawyer Alonzo Emmerich (Calhern) to finance the heist of a million dollar diamond haul from a jewellery firm. He recruits safecracker Louis, driver Gus, and muscle  Dix Handley. Movie posters tried cashing in on Marilyn Monroe (see below) but she actually has a very small part in this film.



This is a nice tight running yarn with Hayden doing some of his best work. Marilyn Monroe is great in a small part as a young mistress of the creepy Louis Calhern. She calls him "Uncle" and the way Calhern is leering you can just imagine what she does with his lollipop.  Evil



This film is beautiful in how it examines relationships, depicts deceptions, greed and sexual lust. It abounds is some memorable dialogue, also.



A gritty, tough, no-nonsense crime story where you know that things will eventually go wrong, but it keeps you guessing as to the why and when.  Tension ratchets ever upwards from the first scene to the frantic ending.

The DVD I have is the Warner Brothers 2004 release, commentary track is by Drew Casper and actor James Whitmore

I'll give it a 9.5/10, it just lacks (for my personal tastes anyway), some of the memorable visuals that some other great Noirs have.

« Last Edit: September 21, 2011, 07:01:25 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2013, 11:33:02 PM »


Before there was Rififi, Bob le Flamebur, The Killing, or Le Cercle Rouge, there was The Asphalt Jungle  Afro

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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2015, 07:53:08 PM »

watched the DVD again last night. What a terrific movie 9/10

Sam Jaffe here delivers one of the all-time greatest supporting performances. (Truth is, he could be considered as much of a lead as Sterling Hayden here, but whatever ...)

My only criticism of the movie is Jean Hagen; I absolutely can't stand her. She is so annoying; I tried to forward her scenes. Without her it would be a nearly flawless movie.

As it is it is damn good. One of the all-time best noirs.

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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2015, 09:54:57 AM »

watched the DVD again last night. What a terrific movie 9/10

Sam Jaffe here delivers one of the all-time greatest supporting performances. (Truth is, he could be considered as much of a lead as Sterling Hayden here, but whatever ...)

My only criticism of the movie is Jean Hagen; I absolutely can't stand her. She is so annoying; I tried to forward her scenes. Without her it would be a nearly flawless movie.

As it is it is damn good. One of the all-time best noirs.
I don't understand your animus against Ms. Hagen. I love her here, I love her in Singin' In the Rain, I love her in anything.

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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2015, 12:14:46 PM »

Did you love her in SIDE STREET?

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« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2015, 03:02:37 AM »

Hagen was properly cast (only) in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, cuz there she is supposed to be an annoying, irritating, grating character. That was the only thing she could (not help but) do well Wink

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« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2016, 02:48:03 PM »

Criterion Blu release in December:
Quote
SPECIAL FEATURES

• New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 2004 by film historian Drew Casper, featuring recordings of actor James Whitmore
• New interviews with film noir historian Eddie Muller and cinematographer John Bailey
• Archival footage of writer-director John Huston discussing the film
• Pharos of Chaos, a 1983 documentary about actor Sterling Hayden
• Episode of the television program City Lights from 1979 featuring John Huston
• Audio excerpts of archival interviews with Huston
• Excerpts from footage of the 1983 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony honoring Huston, featuring actor Sam Jaffe and the filmmaker
• Trailer
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien
• More!


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« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2016, 11:11:37 AM »

I am really not sure there is any reason to get the new BRD - unless you are just a  completist who needs every CC BRD.

I am looking at Beaver's screencaps - which, of course, are not always trustworthy http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film6/blu-ray_reviews_74/the_asphalt_jungle_blu-ray.htm

do these look better than the DVD to you? To me, they don't. Looks like the image has been brightened. I have noticed that Criterion does this quite often, the black-and-white films on Criterion BRD have a brighter image, and I don't think it's always good. particularly with a film that is supposed to be a noir, why would you want to brighten the image?
If you want to buy the disc just for the new new interviews with Eddie Muller and  John Bailey, then go ahead. But as far as the film is concerned, I do not see a reason to buy the BRD based on these screencaps.

[of course, I bought it anyway. Cuz I saw someone selling it on Amazon real cheap ($20.95 + $3.99 shipping for a brand new copy - still some available; seller is LGFineBooks) and I know I'll probably buy it anyway cuz I love this film so maybe I am a bit of a completist nut. also, now with my new larger TV, I wonder if maybe the higher image quality on BRD will be more visible. But even the idiot Beaver says that for this movie, the BRD is not as big an upgrade over the DVD as usual.]

Main point here is, why is CC brightening these images?
Another example, not of a noir but a Western: Look here at the Red River screencap comparisons http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/DVDReviews8/red-river.htm , between the DVD (first image) and the Criterion screencaps (bottom images). Seems they brightened the image and I am really not sure that I like it.

How did the films look when it was first released? I have no idea. I was not around in the 40's or 50's. But Criterion has been brightening these images and - whatever the many positives about Criterion - I am not sure this is one.

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« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2016, 01:33:16 PM »

I don't know, cause I wasn't there, but my suspicion is that lighter is more accurate. Ever since certain films were declared "noir" there has been a bias in favor of those so labeled being printed darker than what was standard for the time. These were just crime films when they came out. All black and white films pretty much conformed to industry standards. As such, there's no reason why The Asshat Jungle should be printed any darker than Bringing Up Baby. There may be exceptions. John Alton's films, for example, may be better served by inkier blacks. Let arguments be made for special cases. But generally speaking, a black and white film is a black and white film, and all should follow the industry standards of the time of their creation in terms of brightness. There's been a lot of revisionist tinkering regarding black levels and contrast settings, and regardless of how good they may look, they are anachronistic.

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« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2016, 01:51:29 PM »

This review is worth a look: http://criterionforum.org/DVD-review/the-asphalt-jungle-blu-ray/the-criterion-collection/1681

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« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2016, 03:34:47 PM »

I don't know, cause I wasn't there, but my suspicion is that lighter is more accurate. Ever since certain films were declared "noir" there has been a bias in favor of those so labeled being printed darker than what was standard for the time. These were just crime films when they came out. All black and white films pretty much conformed to industry standards. As such, there's no reason why The Asshat Jungle should be printed any darker than Bringing Up Baby. There may be exceptions. John Alton's films, for example, may be better served by inkier blacks. Let arguments be made for special cases. But generally speaking, a black and white film is a black and white film, and all should follow the industry standards of the time of their creation in terms of brightness. There's been a lot of revisionist tinkering regarding black levels and contrast settings, and regardless of how good they may look, they are anachronistic.

I agree that the goal should be top have the film look exactly (or as exactly as possible) as it did when it was released. But, assuming that is not possible, all I can go on is what looks best to me now. And to me, those screencaps for the brightened Red River BRD do not look better than the darker DVD images (In fact, I even purchased the DVD - but it has so many damage marks, especially early on in the film, so I just gave it away. In THAT regard - cleaning up damage - Criterion is great.) And red River is not a noir.

In general, with the b/w crime dramas of the 40's and 50's - which years later came to be knows as noir - is it not true that they were filmed in higher contrast than other films? Are you saying the noirs were made in the same shade of silver as other b/w films?

BTW, of course, many movies used these effects that today we call noir, even non-crime dramas. Films like Citizen Kane and Casablanca used as much noir cinematography as any movie that today we call noir.

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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2016, 06:56:06 AM »


In general, with the b/w crime dramas of the 40's and 50's - which years later came to be knows as noir - is not true that they were filmed in higher contrast than other films? Are you saying the noirs were made in the same shade of silver as other b/w films?

Most of them were not printed differently from other films. There may be individual exceptions--that's why I name checked Alton--but most black and white films were printed the same. The Asphalt Jungle shouldn't be darker than any other b&w film of that year. I'm not talking about the use of shadows and whatnot--I'm talking about black levels and contrast settings. There is a tendency now to go back and darken films that are now labeled "noirs", but that tendency should be resisted.

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« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2017, 05:51:00 PM »

I love this film: the backgrounds of the characters, the way they interact with each other, the heist itself, and especially the way Monroe's character is finally brought to reality by the commissioner. He really let her have it near the end of the movie!

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