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The Asphalt Jungle: Criterion Collection (1950) - Blu-ray Review

The Asphalt Jungle: Criterion Collection

Based around a single make-or-break heist, The Asphalt Jungle is known in the halls of film noir thrillers as the first ever caper flick and, honestly, this brilliantly scripted offering is more than deserving of its praise and its legacy, which is why the Criterion Collection has added it to their list of 2K digital restorations for blu-ray release.

"this brilliantly scripted offering is more than deserving of its praise and its legacy"


Directed by John Huston and featuring Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest film roles as Angela Phinlay, The Asphalt Jungle sets an unidentified midwest city as its location as criminal mastermind Erwin "Doc" Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) finds himself up against a heist worth more than half a million dollars.  He needs the money to hire three team members - a safe cracker, a muscle man, and a driver - and his bookie (Marc Lawrence) knows who to go to, Alonzo Emmerich (Louis Calhern), a wealthy lawyer, with a mistress who is hot to trot for revealing swimsuits and Cuba.

But is Alonzo worthy of any trust?  

With the money secured, Doc secures his team, who have their own heartbreaking reasons for the heist, including Dix’s, who’s ultimate plan is buy back his father’s horse farm and the colt he used to love as a boy, but the home-brewed nitroglycerine his team uses to break into the bank safe with doesn’t care about wronging a right and things go from bad to worse relatively quickly as alarms are triggered, guards are brought to attention, and he winds up with one of them shot in the gut and on the run with stolen jewels.The Asphalt Jungle: Criterion Collection

The Asphalt Jungle stars Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, and John McIntire and features the double-cross of the century as Alonzo tries to keep the jewels for himself, selling the gang out to a private detective, who storms the slums trying to get money for the broke fool.  Everything fails, including the double-cross and Alonzo winds up dumping his PI’s body in the river.  

Suddenly, all involved in the heist find the cops breathing down their necks.  No one is safe as far as the jewels are concerned.  Both poetic and atmospheric in its use of location and the shadows involved in a black-and-white REEL CLASSIC.  This is a film full of underbelly lowlifes and it absolutely soaks in the naturalistic beauty of its locations, its characters, and its dark setting.  Can you ever outrun the law?  It seems not, but you’re still going to make those do-gooders pay for it.

Even if it means your life.  The Asphalt Jungle is now on blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.

5/5 stars

The Asphalt Jungle: Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- December 13, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

In a smog-choked city somewhere in the American Midwest, an aging criminal mastermind, newly released from prison, hatches a plan for a million-dollar jewel heist and draws a wealthy lawyer and a cherry-picked trio of outlaws into his carefully devised but inevitably doomed scheme. Anchored by an abundance of nuanced performances from a gifted ensemble—including a tight-jawed Sterling Hayden and a sultry Marilyn Monroe in her breakout role—this gritty crime classic by John Huston climaxes in a meticulously detailed anatomy of a robbery that has reverberated through the genre ever since. An uncommonly naturalistic view of a seamy underworld, The Asphalt Jungle painstakingly depicts the calm professionalism and toughness of its gangster heroes while evincing a remarkable depth of compassion for their all-too-human fragility, and it showcases a master filmmaker at the height of his powers.

Video:

With a crisp black-and-white 2K transfer, The Asphalt Jungle lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts of Criterion.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that has previously dogged it. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout.

Audio:

No more unclear, muffled audio and no more pops and clicks. The newly remastered and uncompressed monoaural soundtrack comes in loud and clear, unlike the previous DVD releases. Overall, a very solid restoration.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There is an audio commentary from 2004 by film historian Drew Casper, featuring archival recordings of actor James Whitmore

Special Features:

Criterion loads this release with plenty of different looks at the film, plus an essay from critic Geoffrey O’Brien. 

  • Pharos of Chaos, a 1983 documentary about actor Sterling Hayden
  • New interviews with film noir historian Eddie Muller and cinematographer John Bailey
  • Archival footage of writer-director John Huston discussing the film
  • Episode of the television program City Lights from 1979 featuring Huston
  • Audio excerpts of archival interviews with Huston
  • Trailer

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

The Asphalt Jungle: Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
112 mins
Director
: John Huston
Writer:
Ben Maddow; John Huston
Cast:
Sterling Hayden; Louis Calhern; Jean Hagen
Genre
: Drama | Crime
Tagline:
The City Under The City!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman. Just when you think one's all right, he turns legit."
Theatrical Distributor:
MGM
Official Site: https://www.criterion.com/films/28690-the-asphalt-jungle
Release Date:
May 12, 1950
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 13, 2016.
Synopsis: In a smog-choked city somewhere in the American Midwest, an aging criminal mastermind, newly released from prison, hatches a plan for a million-dollar jewel heist and draws a wealthy lawyer and a cherry-picked trio of outlaws into his carefully devised but inevitably doomed scheme.

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The Asphalt Jungle: Criterion Collection

 

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