Family Movie Night: We're running a Sterling Hayden retrospective all summer! Film acting wasn't Hayden's main thing; he was an adventurer. A secret agent for OSS before it became CIA, he parachuted behind enemy lines and ran guns to Partisans in WWII, on a boat he piloted, and he sailed from S.F. to Tahiti in defiance of a court order. 6'5" tall, he didn't just play a tough guy in the movies, he was one for real.
Huston's is still one of the great noirs, a near perfect balancing act between expressionism and on-the-streets realism. Note how tenderly he sketches what makes his crooks tick. Note how low he keeps the camera, how often the ceiling is visible, as if it's closing in. And note that a never-sexier Marilyn Monroe was so pre-fame she's not even in the opening credits. I can only go so long without cinema this good.
Some debate persists about whether ASPHALT is a B-picture or an A-picture. Come on. This is primo A stuff, kids. This is Hollywood movie factory perfection. Huston resembles his friend Orson Welles not just because he is a towering cult of personality, but because he is a outsider within the system and in possession of a similarly versatile visual sensibility. They also both provide ground for actors to excel.
I think Rififi might have slightly outdone it, but The Asphalt Jungle remains a point to which all subsequent heists films can trace their roots. And, depending on when you ask me, I might say that it still tops all of them.
Images and scenes that will stay in my memory : Doc Erwin Riedenschneider looking at a teen dancing, Dix Handley's steady gaze at the witness about to identify him, Dix Handley's death, Marilyn Monroe in pyjamas and all the scenes involving James Whitmore. It's dark, it's fatalistic, it's Noir. Masterpiece. A DVD zone no future.
Sterling Hayden gives a top-notch performance as the hooligan, the guy who makes sure the job goes smoothly. Of course the job can't go smoothly, because crime didn't pay back in the '50s. Just once I'd like to see the bad guys get away with it.
The perfect blueprint of the great heist films. a lyrical, fatalistic and bitter work, like a castle of cards. Superb from Huston expressionistic direction to Sterling Hayden's deeply felt portrayal. Marilyn Monroe never looked more beautiful.
Noir heist film from director John Huston is unfortunately only a minor classic. Strong, well-developed characters and a top-notch cast, but it's surprisingly dry and talky - which makes it seem to drag on and on. It has its moments, but despite its reputation, this is not one of Huston's best.