The Asphalt Jungle

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

He has his fans and he has his detractors, but director John Huston was entering another decade and gearing up another crime tale, but this time of the caper kind. There are characters and a whole lot of loot at stake but when push comes to shove, it can take a struggle to escape from the streets and the hustle and bustle of the city that can also be known as The Asphalt Jungle.

It’s the street in the daytime and Dix Handley (Sterling Hayden) has been pulled over and the subject of a police lineup where the accuser fails to identify either of the lined up. It’s not until after this that a mysterious individual named Doc (Sam Jaffe) comes along with a proposal that he proclaims is the “fool proof” plan. He devises a plan of valuable jewels and a worth of a half a million dollars. The money is tempting and the plan is even more so, but complications arise and things don’t end up so fool proof.

Here is what started it all in the caper genre and what better way to start than with The Asphalt Jungle. There is mostly about the characters and less about what is stolen and what is recovered and how the police will react to it. There is no cliches of this. There is no predictability. From seeing many caper films, this ranks very well as it doesn’t take the direction the viewer expects.

The characters are desperate misfits and everyone has an agenda and everyone has their own idea of what they want to do with their share. Little by little, the flaws of all of these characters show and what seems to be fool proof at the start slowly but surely falls apart and Huston captures this very well similar to the environment he presented to us earlier in the previous decade with Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

With all of it’s gritty environment and it’s less than stylish atmosphere, The Asphalt Jungle has it’s share of animals and exotics even in the confines of the big city and it succeeds very well.

Video: How does it look?

Warner gives a solid full frame treatment to The Asphalt Jungle as the print of the film has it share of specks every five minutes but for the most part, it retains a lot of clean images and gives a nice look whether it’s the closeness of Sterling Hayden’s stubble or the beauty of a young Marilyn Monroe (in a small part) Warner retains a nice image that have it’s own share of little flaws now and then but the positives outweigh the negatives visually and the image stays solid throughout.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital mono track is all geared toward the center channels whether it’s of dialogue or Miklos Rosza’s memorable score filled with many strings and the occasional horns now and then. All the activity comes out clear as the track comes out nicely and muted despite the limitations of the source materials. Overall a good track. this disc also has a French mono track as well as English French and Spanish subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

As part of it’s Film Noir series, Warner gives a decent amount of extras to The Asphalt Jungle right down to the lovely poster art on the cover. As for the extras on the disc, there is a brief introduction by John Huston done at the time that takes audio effect six seconds into it and is a nice descriptive lead-in to this film.

Also, there is a commentary by Film-Noir specialist Dr. Drew Casper who gives a great commentary feeling like a lesson in film history up to this period in film dealing with studios and his own take on Huston’s caper. This viewer felt like he was taught very well in Dr. Drew’s class and it made for a very good commentary track complete with inclusions of seperate soundbites from actor James Whitmore who gave his brief feedback of his experiences on the film. Great things never change and through the years, Whitmore’s voice has never changed and his voice is much welcomed on this track.

Last, there is the film’s theatrical trailer.

With the smell of desperation and a gritty feel, The Asphalt Jungle might be a rough world but the overall effect is a caper amongst itself along with a overall very good DVD.

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