Thanks to its emphasis on character, this film noir about an old crook fresh out of jail who brings a gang of criminals together for one last crime spawned a host of imitations, including The Ladykillers (1955), Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), a criminal mastermind, is just out of prison and has a brilliant plan for a million-dollar jewellery heist.
He recruits Louis (Anthony Caruso) as a safecracker, Gus (James Whitmore) as the driver, and Dix (Sterling Hayden) as a strong-arm man to help with the raid.
Initially, the plan runs like clockwork, but each member of the gang proves to have his own fatal flaw and each contributes to his own downfall.
Unlike many of the movies which drew inspiration from The Asphalt Jungle, this film is less concerned with the cunning plan or brilliant heist. Instead explores deception, relationships and human weakness.
Louis Calhern starred as the crooked lawyer who double-crosses the gang and Hayden played the prototypical criminal loner to perfection. Outstanding performances were also given by Jean Hagen and Jaffe, while starlet Marilyn Monroe – in her big break – was notably sexy with a bit role as Calhern’s bimbo mistress.
Despite being largely unknown, the cast was no less talented for it. Most had wide experience in supporting roles and each showed a deft touch in revealing his or her character’s taints.
Harold Rosson received an Oscar nomination for his cinematography. John Huston – here at the top of his game – was nominated not only for direction but for the clever screenplay which he wrote with Ben Maddow.
Alonzo D. Emmerich
Doc Erwin Riedenschneider
Police Commissioner Hardy
William Davis William