The Asphalt Jungle

This tense, cold thriller about the plotting and execution of a million-dollar jewel heist combines John Huston's documentary focus on the interior workings of master-minds and hands with cinematographer Hal Rosson's stunning city exteriors, to create an “American neorealism,” or film noir. Fine performances from a then-little-known cast include Sam Jaffe as the German doctor who masterminds the robbery, Louis Calhern as a crooked lawyer, and Sterling Hayden as a small-time hoodlum.

“Almost all of (Huston's) traits, the strange spastic feeling for time, lunging at what he feels is the heart of a scene and letting everything else go, the idea that authority is inherent in a few and totally absent in everyone else, a ticlike need for posh and elegance, are funneled into this film... its most absorbing stretch being the painstaking breakdown of a professional robbery.... Few directors project so well the special Robinson Crusoe effect of man confronted by a job whose problems must be dealt with, point by point, with (a) combination of personal ingenuity and scientific know-how.... Huston catches the mechanic's absorption with the sound and feel of the tools of his trade as they overcome steam tunnel, door locks, electric-eye burglar alarm, strongbox.”

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