1001 Movies are history. I've watched them and spent time with them all, by writing about them.
Now...the real challenge begins.
I continue watching. I continue rating. I continue building my own list of 1000 films (because who needs that extra 1?)
Well here we are; one week after it has began, “Seven
Shadows Week” is prepared to come to a close and what a week in film it has
been. I was hoping that when Karen and I first talked about this collaboration
that I would come out of this week with a new appreciation and better
understanding for film noir and I definitely have. By sheer coincidence, we
have saved the best for last.
The film revolves around a jewelry heist and really takes
shape when “Doc” Erwin Riedenschneider (Jaffe) is released from prison and
makes one of his first stops a bookie joint, run by a seedy individual named
Cobby (Lawrence). Doc makes his plans for the jewel heist known and fortunately
his reputation precedes him and Doc doesn’t have to do much talking to convince
Cobby to take part. Cobby suggests that the two go to see a wealthy lawyer
named Alonzo Emmerich (Calhern) and try to convince him to back their caper.
Emmerich is very interested, as he’s informed that he stands to walk away from
the deal a half million dollars richer. Doc releases more of the plan, stating
that he’ll only need a team of three men: a driver, a “boxman” (someone to pick
the safe) and a “hooligan” (someone to handle the guards). That’s where our
main character comes in, the top hooligan in the underground and a man who has
a passion for playing the ponies, Dix Handley (Hayden). Dix has been in and out
of jail countless times, but if he could only raise enough money to get back
home to Kentucky and Hickorywood Ranch, then (and only then) he could be
content. The heist is pulled off, but everything doesn’t go as planned, as
usual in a heist film.
Before I started this journey through the “1001 Movies You
Must See Before You Die” book, I didn’t watch a lot of old movies. In fact, my
comfort zone used to be movies from the 90s or 2000s and absolutely no earlier
than the 80s. Anyway, one thing that always used to really irk me about films
(and still does sometimes) is the overuse of the happy ending. I hate when a
film could end on a down note and make a lot of sense, but instead some plot
twist is thrown in at the last minute and everything turns out rosey. With this
week of film noir, I realized that the happy ending is almost nonexistent when
it comes to film noir. They almost always end with dead main characters,
characters in prison or characters that are worse off than when the film
started. That is no truer than in “The Asphalt Jungle”. It’s amazing how this
type of film conditions us to root for the bad guy. We want to see the heist
pulled off successfully, we want to see the criminals off a copper or two, if
one stand in their way and we want to see them prosper in the end. In “The
Asphalt Jungle” the heist itself lasts approximately eleven minutes, but in
reality showing the actual heist itself wasn’t even necessary. This film is not
about a heist, but rather about the type of men that pull off a heist, their
vices and what motivates them. It shows us the events leading up to the caper
and it shows us the aftermath, but more importantly it takes the time to
introduce the characters and let us get a chance to get used to them for a few
minutes. Then the film plays out with characters we actually care about. As it
is, however, I’m glad the actual heist was included, because it’s a pretty
heavy eleven minutes and a great scene.
As I thought about this film throughout the day, I realized
that there was nothing wrong with it. Initially it didn’t hit me as a perfect
movie, but as I type this, I literally have nothing bad to say about “The
Asphalt Jungle”. Having Sterling Hayden in a heist movie, I couldn’t help but
remember “The Killing” – another favorite noir of mine – and this is nearly as
good, if not just as good. The rest of the cast is great too. Louis Calhern,
Sam Jaffe, James Whitmore and Marc Lawrence all great cast choices and even
Marilyn Monroe is present (albeit not for long) and plays her part well. The
cinematography is classic noir style and I couldn’t help, at times, to be
reminded of the French New Wave and how this film had to be another inspiration
to the director’s of that period.
RATING: 10/10 Like I
said, there aren’t any faults here. It’s a fantastic film, one that I could see
myself enjoying over and over again.
MOVIES WATCHED: 443 MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 558
I’d like to take one last opportunity to send a big thank
you to Karen Burroughs Hansberry for providing my blog with three fantastic
articles this week. Also, for allowing three of my reviews to appear on her
blog, Shadows and Satin. I hope my followers took the time to read her words.
She is a woman who is very passionate about films, especially the ones she
loves and I think that shines through in her writing. I had a lot of fun this
week watching these movies and ultimately, this week was a success, with four
candidates for my next TOP 20 rearing their heads this week.