Saturday, September 5, 2015
"The Asphalt Jungle" (1950)
If you look way down deep into the blackest heart of film noir, near the nadir you'll find this grandaddy of all caper flicks. Every character's motivation is driven by the darker side of human nature, and that can only lead to tragedy. But oh what cinematic thrills await in the telling of the tale! All caper films follow the same basic formula, this one set the rules (and the high bar): a group of shady types, each with his own expertise, concoct a high stakes heist that must be executed with Swiss timepiece accuracy. What could go wrong? The answer is almost always plenty. But that's not even when the real drama begins. How do all these nefarious types divvy up the booty? As the saying goes, 'there's no honor among thieves'. A perfect ensemble cast (Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Same Jaffe, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, and making her slinky film debut, Marilyn Monroe), all somehow manage to make you care for these desperate people even as you watch them do despicable things to each other. Only that irascible devil of a director John Huston could pull off this witch's brew of movie malevolence. Must-see viewing for anyone who loves film.