The Asphalt Jungle

John Huston, USA, 1950, 112 minutes

John Huston was a filmmaker of quite exceptional ability. A versatile talent, he turned his hand to a wide range of subjects and concerns. Over the years his work has received massive critical and commercial approval. Among his cinematic triumphs are The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen and The Misfits. To this list can be justifiably added his 1950 thriller, The Asphalt Jungle.

The film concentrates on the (largely unsympathetic) characters involved in a large-scale diamond heist. Heading the cast is Sam Jaffe, playing a high class German jewel thief recently out of prison. He has an apparently fool-proof plan for a robbery. Five assorted individuals soon join forces with him to fulfil his dream. Nothing can go wrong, can it?

The Asphalt Jungle is a very well constructed film. Tension builds minute by minute. The characters (principal and secondary) are well drawn and strongly delineated. The ensemble acting is terrific. The superlative cast includes such stalwart character actors as Steriing Hayden, Loius Calhern and James Whitmore. The director uses the camera remarkably assuredly, creating a tense atmosphere which perfectly complements the nature of the plot. Watch out for a young Marlyn Monroe as Calhern's mistress!

Review by Stephen Townsend
Taken from EUFS Programme 1993-94