OK, so calling The Asphalt Jungle a dud may seem a little bit unfair. After all, this one was directed by John Huston, spawned a TV series and was nominated for four Oscars. And yet, it felt like a dud in the context of the 1001 films and in 1950. It might have been awesome in 1940. It might have been an unforgettable classic in the pre-Code era.
We’ve been watching Code-impaired crime flicks for a while now, so we know the drill: all the interesting characters either die or go to jail at the end. Objectively speaking, the only thing in any way special about this one was how detailed the heist planning was. That made the movie interesting.
But other than that, it was pretty much standard fare, mixing elements of film noir in with neo-realism to create something that is neither, but isn’t particularly new. It’s a decent Code-era crime flick, entertaining and well-paced but with the limitations of the genre. You will never know how much you love not being able to guess how a film ends until you watch a few Code-era crime films in a row in which the main characters are criminals. You spend the entire movie getting to know them, all the while knowing they are doomed. An exercise in futility.
This one, however, does have one redeeming feature.
Yep, that’s Marilyn herself, playing a minor but notable part, in one of her breakout roles before her trademark look was quite perfected and looking young and innocent–although her role as one of the character’s kept women was anything but innocuous. It’s the one thing that gives this film a link to the future as well as countless ties to the past. Say what you want about Huston’s miss on the screenplay, but he sure knew how to pick aspiring actresses for supporting roles.
Well, at least once, anyway.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest book is a creature feature with an utterly unpredictable ending entitled Jungle Lab Terror. Buy it here!