Friday, July 27, 2007

The Asphalt Jungle: Images Speak

I had never put much thought into it but when I recently did a repeat viewing of The Asphalt Jungle (1950) for my film noir class, I kept thinking about the various publicity pictures and posters used to promote the film. They vary greatly and each says something different about the movie and the time it was released. It got me thinking, what goes into these works of art and photography? Because first impressions are everything, I'm sure that the creators of these promotional images thought very greatly about who the potential audience was and what would draw them in enough to pull out their wallet and fork over the cash to buy a movie ticket.

So I had some fun and let my mind run wild with the idea. I scoured the internet (okay I just Google'd) and picked 3 of my favorites to discuss.

This is by far my favorite one. I had discovered it a couple of years ago when I did my regular post-viewing research of The Asphalt Jungle. This image is straightforward and eye-catching. You've got all the main stars in the image and it's a clever shot of them from below. They are surrounding a pile of jewels which ties them all to the jewel heist which is at the center of the film. This is the image most representative of the film's story. It's not just about a convoluted robbery that goes bad, it's about several individuals who all have their own weakness that leads to their downfall.

This one confuses me greatly and downright irks me. It reminds me of the pathetic cover of a certain BBC-Austen miniseries in which the American packaging showcased 2 models instead of the actors because they were better looking than the actual stars. It's misleading and wrong! This particular poster tells the audience, "come watch this film because you'll see sexy Marilyn Monroe strut her stuff." Those poor lustful souls will only come away disappointed to have seen her in just 3 short scenes.

As I write this, I cannot help feeling like a hypocrite. I did come to find this film as a Monroe fan wanting to see more of her films. I liked the film for what it was and not necessarily for Monroe's role. Yet this title is often distributed as a Monroe film. I'm hoping that in a few years this will be known only as a very good film noir.

Let's ignore Marilyn Monroe scared face in the corner for a moment and look at the other elements of this image, which happens to be the DVD cover. This is quite good. In the background, you have the asphalt jungle and the tagline "The City Under the City" which is representative of both the underground scenes and the "underground" network of hoodlums. Then set below the city you have the 3 main people involved with the actual heist (versus those involved with only the planning of the heist); Sterling Hayden, the hoodlum, James Whitmore, the driver and Anthony Caruso, the box man ~ explosives. Then right below them you've got the sex, i.e. Monroe. Clever thing about this image, is that it's on a tilt symbolizing the impending downfall of these characters (except the sex, which survives of course).

1 comment:

  1. I just created a thesaurus for film noir movie posters in an indexing class and I found this one to be my favorite. Look how small M.M. is. Funny. I think they got this one right.


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