The Asphalt Jungle (1950): When The City Sleeps

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

The The Asphalt Jungle adapted by Ben Maddow from the novel by R.W. Burnett is a movie with soul. A film that treats every character in the story as someone with a life worth knowing: the essence of a film noir. The command by director, John Huston of his story, his ensemble players, and the filmic context is profound and breathtaking.

From the opening shots, dramatised by the almost post-modern score of Miklos Rozsa, you know you are entering the realm of a great film-maker:

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Throughout this opening sequence we hear the police radio chatter from inside the police car, but the visuals are never disturbed by a cut to inside the vehicle.

I will not cover territory more ably explored by others, but will focus on one scene that transcends melodrama and the noir genre. Safe-cracker Cavelli after being wounded during the robbery is seen in the background dying in his marital bed, through the open door of the bedroom from the kitchen of his apartment, where his distraught wife, Maria, beautifully played by Teresa Celli (who appeared in bit parts in only a handful of movies before moving into obscurity in 1953), at the kitchen table admonishing the hunchback getaway driver, Gus, for bringing this tragedy upon her young family.

The Asphalt Jungle (1950) The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Maria has the best line in the picture. As a police siren wails in the background:

“Sounds like a soul in hell.”


  1. Dennis Bedard

    Sam Jaffe steals the show here. The best scene? When Jaffe spends his last moments as a free man and admires a young girl dancing to jukebox music. He politely asks the cops if they let him have his last thrill intentionally before they arrested him. Great movie. All the elements of a classic noir.

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