There were a few previous versions of The Asphalt Jungle, W.R. Burnett’s novel about the perfect gang robbery and the tragic flaws that bring about the decline and fall of the participants.
First came John Huston’s classic, next a Western transplant called The Badlanders, and then an even more exotic British variation under the title Cairo. There may have been others, but it’s safe to say that Cool Breeze was the first to feature – apart from a stray white cop or two – an all-black cast.
With the plot neatly tailored to suggest that the proceeds of the $3,000,000 diamond robbery will be used to set up a Black People’s bank, thus stilling possible qualms about a film which is otherwise pure entertainment with no racial significance, it must have seemed a good idea at the time.
The trouble is that one cannot help remembering the 1950 Huston version, and regretting that the characters have been glamorised and the fatalistic structure tampered with in order to add a slight uplift to the Black Power implications.
On the other hand, the Los Angeles locations are strikingly used, Barry Pollack’s direction retains much of the built-in excitement of the situations, and it makes an invigorating change to see black actors getting a slice of the cake as they go through the routines of Hollywood villainy.
Sidney Lord Jones
Julian Christopher (as Jim Watkins)
Lt. Brian Knowles
Captain Lloyd Harmon
Lt. Carl Mager
Raymond St. Jacques