Thursday, 20 October 2011
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Two years after directing this film John Huston ran away to Ireland to escape Joseph McCarthy's scrutiny (a strange choice - Ireland being almost a far-right theocracy at the time). With Huston's history, a Jew in the role of a German, and a crooked policeman and two-timing lawyer as the real bad guys, it would be easy to hypothesize strands of subversion here. This, I think, would be a mistake. The actors are fully capable of imbuing their characters with shades of grey without directorial help - Huston's touch remains light.
Likewise, we shouldn't read too much into Riefenschneider's confession that he worked as a librarian in the slammer. The inmate-librarian is a plot device in Escape from Alcatraz and a launchpad for all kinds of moralizing nonsense fluff in The Shawshank Redemption (... redemption through books... yawn). In Riefenschneider's case, it shows his attention to detail and his wilyness, the head-below-the-parapet-and-buried-in-refill-pad attitude that lets him plan almost perfect capers. For as fans of the sub-genre know, there's no such thing as a perfect caper.