The Story (continued)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
The headlines of a manhunt compel gunman Dix and Doc, the only at-large criminals, to leave Donato's. Meanwhile, the taxi-cab hackey that deposited Doc at Cobby's "bookie-joint" establishment reports to the police station and the commissioner about his recollections. On their way through an old railroad car barn, Doc and Dix are confronted by a night guard who recognizes the ex-convict, and Doc suffers a bloody head wound. They find refuge with Doll where she is staying (in the vacant apartment of a girlfriend). While hiding out at her place, Doc summarizes the problems and multiple bad breaks that doomed the heist:
Put in hours and hours of planning. Figure everything down to the last detail. Then what? Burglar alarms start going off all over the place for no sensible reason. A gun fires of its own accord and a man is shot. And a broken down old cop, no good for anything but chasing kids, has to trip over us. Blind accident. What can you do against blind accidents? One thing I ought to have figured and didn't was Emmerich. I know why I didn't. I'm not kidding myself. It was the extra dough he promised. I got hungry. Greed made me blind.
Following the tip from the taxi-driver and with pressure from above, Lt. Ditrich is sent to Cobby's warehouse with a search warrant. In order to break the case, strong-armed Ditrich puts the heat (or squeeze) on the cringing Cobby, beats him up, and forces obedience from the cowardly bookie to "turn states" evidence and name his accomplices:
Ditrich: We'll make ourselves a little deal with the commissioner. You won't get more than a year or two.
Cobby: I'm clean! I don't know where Doc went. That's the truth.
Ditrich: They won't believe you at headquarters, Cobby. Every time you'd tell 'em that, they'd work you over. And you ain't the type that can take it, believe me. You'd spill your guts in half an hour.
Cobby: Give me a break. You came to make a pinch, sure, but I'm not here...
Ditrich: You're right here, Cobby.
Cobby: (groveling) I've always treated you right, Lieutenant. Let me duck out. You can get away with it.
Ditrich: No, I couldn't. The commissioner's mad. He's out for blood. And it's not going to be mine.
Cobby: You're not gonna stop me. You're gonna let me go. You're gonna do that. If you don't...
Ditrich: Yeah, I know. You'll be a grade-A pigeon.
Cobby: That's right. I'll tell 'em you saw Riedenschneider here and didn't roust him. Why? Because you had to explain what you were doin' here. I'll tell 'em about all the juice you've been gettin' out of me.
Ditrich: Cobby, the only thing you're doing is making me sore.
Cobby: Once I start singing, I won't stop. They'll jug you right alongside of me.
Ditrich: That's where you're wrong, Cobby. Even if they believe you, it won't go too hard with me. Because I'll be the guy that cracked the biggest case ever pulled in the country... (Cobby is repeatedly slapped until he whimpers and cracks under the pressure.)
Cobby: They'll call me a fink.
Ditrich: That's my boy.
After Cobby betrays the gang for a better deal with the judge (and signs a confession), the police (with the commissioner) finally catch up with Emmerich at his cottage with Angela, where he is promising her a trip for a change of scenery (to "the coast, Florida, anywhere you like"). In the memorable scene, she proposes going to Cuba - a beach locale she's only read about in a magazine:
Imagine me on this beach here in my green bathing suit. Yipe! I almost bought a white one the other day, but it wasn't quite extreme enough. I mean, don't get me wrong, if I really went in for the extreme extreme, I would have bought a French one. Run for your life, girls, the fleet's in. Oh, Uncle Lon, am I excited? Yipe! (referring to the magazine's pictures of a tropical resort) Look, Uncle Lon, isn't it romantic? Real palms and ocean and everything.
After Emmerich is threatened with arrest (for "complicity in robbery and in murder"), Angela is summoned from her room, where she insults Detective Andrews: "Haven't you bothered me enough, you big banana-head?! Just try breaking my door and Mr. Emmerich will throw you out of the house." She is questioned by the police commissioner about her false alibi and cover-up for him. Sensing problems and becoming "smart," Angela confesses the truth after being encouraged to do so by Emmerich. And then she apologizes and tearfully asks her sugar daddy about her trip to Cuba:
Angela: I'm sorry, Uncle Lon, I tried.
Emmerich: You did pretty well, considering.
Angela: What about my trip, Uncle Lon? Is it still on?
Emmerich: Don't worry, baby, you'll have plenty of trips.
Shortly after, Emmerich, pens a note to his wife at his desk in his study ("Dearest May - Forgive me - I cannot bear to face what I have done to you I - "). But unable to face up to his crimes, he rips up the unfinished note and then shoots himself in a desperate act of suicide. In another part of town, the police find a family wake and last rites being conducted for the deceased Louis Ciavelli, and they arrest Gus and throw him behind bars near where Cobby has already been incarcerated.
Dix and Doc read headlines of Emmerich's suicide (LAWYER EMMERICH SHOOTS SELF) - the well-educated and respected attorney who practiced in the city for over twenty five years committed suicide to avoid disgrace and exposure. Emmerich's poor judgment to avoid scandal, jail time and financial ruination disturbs Doc:
What foolishness! Unbelievable. He wouldn't have got more than two years.
In their preparation to leave the area, Doc plans to take a taxi to the edge of town, and then be driven as far as Cleveland. He offers some of the stones, $50,000 worth, to Dix (in exchange for $1,000 in cash to finance his flight), but the 'hooligan' declines: "What would I do with 'em? Can you see me walkin' into a hock shop with that stuff? First they'd think they were phony, and then they'd yell for the riot squad." Doll looks longingly at the jewels as they are rejected, and sewn into Doc's outer coat. And Doc wisely refuses to carry a heater as a precautionary measure:
I haven't carried a gun since my twenties. You carry a gun, you shoot a policeman. Bad rap, hard to beat. You don't carry a gun, you give up when they hold one on you.
After the mastermind criminal leaves, Dix delivers a footnote tribute to the German, and then watches his departure from a window as he walks down a rain-slickened, dark street:
Dix: That squarehead, he's a funny little guy. I don't get him at all.
Doll: Maybe it's because he's a foreigner. They just don't think like us.
Dix: ...Anyway, he's got plenty of guts.
Doc hires a Globe company taxi-cab, driven by a fellow German named Franz Schurz, and bonds with him by speaking German. The driver agrees to drive Doc all the way to Cleveland - for a promised $50 tip. Doll purchases a getaway car for $400 for Dix, now that he has begun to bleed again from his side and wants to drive home to the Kentucky farm of his youth. The compassionate, supportive Doll vows to help him drive since he is weakened and is beginning to lapse in and out of consciousness: "I just want to be with you."
With his avowed weakness and predilection for young nymphets, Doc is quickly captured by police on the outskirts of town - he is detained in a roadside cafe for a few critical minutes while feeding nickels to a young, well-endowed girl named Jeannie (Helene Stanley). Entranced, the pedophile voyeuristically watches the teenager's nubile figure as she gyrates and dances to jukebox music. Outside to the two officers, Doc admits sadly that his lingering delay of "two, three minutes" at the soda fountain - "about as long as it takes to play a phonograph record" - was all that it took to cause his arrest and loss of freedom.
While he is slowly bleeding to death, Doll drives Dix to a Dr. Swanson (John Maxwell), who wryly states: "He hasn't got enough blood left in him to keep a chicken alive." When the suspicious doctor phones the police about the gunshot wound to inform on them, they hurriedly race to their car and drive off.
Police Commissioner Hardy, pleased that "maybe we're getting somewhere at last" in the fight against crime, holds a press conference after the arrest of the duplicitous cop Lt. Ditrich (the one dishonest cop in a hundred). [Cobby undoubtedly finked on him.] During his impassioned, moralizing speech, Hardy turns on four radio speakers (lined up in a row) that broadcast crime reports (a robbery, two men with guns, a shooting and a strong-arm slugging), and then announces that crime doesn't pay. He creates sensational headlines for the media when he melodramatically postulates what the city (or entire world) would be like without urban law enforcement to keep back "the jungle" of career criminals ("predatory beasts...without human feeling or human mercy"):
Let me put it this way. It's not anything strange that there are corrupt officers in police departments. The dirt they're trying to clean up is bound to rub off on some of 'em, but not all of 'em. Maybe one out of a 100. The other 99 are honest men trying to do an honest job. Listen... (One by one, he flips the switch on police radios that broadcast crime reports.) I know you're police reporters and you hear this all day long, but I want you to listen with your conscience, not just your ears. We send police assistance to every one of those calls 'cause they're are not just code numbers on a radio beam, they're cries for help. People are being cheated, robbed, murdered, raped. And that goes on 24 hours a day, every day in the year. And that's not exceptional, that's usual. It's the same in every city of the modern world.
But suppose we had no police force, good or bad. Suppose we had (he flips off all four radios) - just silence. Nobody to listen, nobody to answer. The battle's finished. The jungle wins. The predatory beasts take over. Think about it. Well gentlemen, three men are in jail [Gus, Cobby, Doc], three men dead [Emmerich, Brannom, Louis], one by his own hand. One man's a fugitive [Dix] - and we have reason to believe seriously wounded. That's six out of seven, not bad. And we'll get the last one too. In some ways, he's the most dangerous of them all. A hardened killer. A hooligan. A man without human feeling or human mercy.
In the final downbeat sequence, an ironic conclusion following the commissioner's speech about police pursuit for a "hardened killer," Dix drives furiously with Doll to his beloved Kentucky homeland to fulfill his last obsession - his lost childhood dream. Hallucinating with memories of the simple life he once experienced at the farm, he mumbles to himself as it approaches, signaled by long rows of white fences. Under the bright, sunny sky, he staggers into a bluegrass field just outside his family's Kentucky Hickory Wood Farm. [The scene was filmed on location in Lexington, Kentucky.] In the lyrical ending, he falls down exhausted and expires from his bleeding wound in the meadow grass, amidst four grazing and nuzzling colts he had dreamed of owning.
Also Worth Your Attention...
AMC Filmcritic's Review of The Asphalt Jungle