Le Cercle Rouge, Ocean’s Eleven, Rififi, Reservoir Dogs... Just some of the films influenced by John Huston’s seminal 1950 heist-gone-wrong movie The Asphalt Jungle, now re-released in a new print to mark a retrospective of the director’s work at the NFT. Set in an anonymous mid-western city, this grittily shot tale draws on a classic three-act structure: the planning of the jewellery robbery, the operation, and its tragic aftermath. The scheme is devised by the courteous Doc Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe) and the muscle provided by Dix (the imposing Sterling Hayden), while lawyer Emmerich (Louis Calhern) offers to fence the loot.
What’s so groundbreaking about The Asphalt Jungle is that Huston shows compassion for the criminals, who are men yearning to escape from their lives, but brought down by individual flaws. Look out, too, for an early cameo from a young actress named Marilyn Monroe...