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Movie GuideThurs., April 23, 1998  
 
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Database Review
 
ASPHALT JUNGLE, THE
John Huston, 1950
[4.5 Reels]
Our rating: 4.5

movie still
Sam Jaffe, Sterling Hayden, Anthony Caruso and James Whitmore

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Adapted by director John Huston and co-screenwriter Ben Maddow from the novel by W.R. Burnett, this classic, often copied but never equaled, focuses on the robbery of a swank jewelry firm, meticulously planned by master criminal "Doc" Erwin Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) while imprisoned. Alonzo D. Emmerich (Louis Calhern) is a sleazy lawyer who'll fence the stolen jewels, giving "Doc" and his cohorts $1 million for their labors. The assembled gang includes Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden), a somewhat dumb but standup fellow who has dreams of buying back his father's Kentucky horse ranch; Gus Ninissi (James Whitmore), a tough-as-nails, cat-loving hunchback who runs a diner; and Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso), a professional thief who's enlisted to blow the safe under Riedenschneider's supervision. After carefully drilling the gang members, "Doc" leads the men on the robbery attempt. The safe is blown and the gems secured, but his "perfect" crime immediately unravels.

Huston directed this superb production with tremendous assurance, developing his characters incisively but not at the expense of the rapidly developing plot. Indeed, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE boasts a rogues' gallery of definitive portrayals, led by creepy mastermind Jaffe, whose voyeuristic pursuit of Lolitas finally frames him. Calhern figures nicely as the crooked lawyer who keeps Monroe, in an outstanding cameo that foretold her future stardom. Jean Hagen's moll is a rare lead female performance, poignant and subtly shaded, that is totally devoid of studio-era vanity. Rosson's moody photography and Rozsa's moving score further enhance this film noir masterpiece.

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awards

Academy Award Nomination: Best Supporting Actor - Sam Jaffe
Academy Award Nomination: Best Director - John Huston
Academy Award Nomination: Best Screenplay - Ben Maddow, John Huston
Academy Award Nomination: Best B/W Cinematography - Harold Rosson
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Country of origin:
U.S.
Genre:
Crime
Color or b/w:
Black & white
Production Co(s).:
MGM
Released by:
MGM
MPAA rating:
NR
Parental rating:
Cautionary; some scenes objectionable
Running time:
112
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cast
Sterling Hayden
Dix Handley
Louis Calhern
Alonzo D. Emmerich
Jean Hagen
Doll Conovan
James Whitmore
Gus Ninissi
Sam Jaffe
Doc Erwin Riedenschneider
John McIntire
Police Commissioner Hardy
Marc Lawrence
Cobby
Barry Kelley
Lt. Ditrich
Anthony Caruso
Louis Ciavelli
Teresa Celli
Maria Ciavelli
Marilyn Monroe
Angela Phinlay
William Davis
Timmons
Dorothy Tree
May Emmerich
Brad Dexter
Bob Brannon
John Maxwell
Dr. Swanson
James Seay
Janocek
Thomas Browne Henry
James X. Connery
Don Haggerty
Andrews
Helene Stanley
Jeannie
Henry Rowland
Franz Schurz
Raymond Roe
Tallboy

credits
Producer:
Arthur Hornblow Jr.
Director:
John Huston
Writer:
Ben Maddow
John Huston (based on the novel by W.R. Burnett)
Cinematographer:
Harold Rosson
Editor:
George Boemler
Music Composer:
Miklos Rozsa
Art Director:
Cedric Gibbons
Randall Duell
Set Decorator:
Edwin B. Willis
Jack D. Moore

 
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Photo credit: MGM/The Kobal Collection

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