NABOKV-L post 0006008, Thu, 7 Jun 2001 10:13:50 -0700

Subject
"The Asphalt Jungle" and Lolita
Date
Body
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'Doc' Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe), criminal mastermind and brain behind
the
heist in John Huston's 'The Asphalt Jungle' (1950), displays distinctly
Humbertian tendencies - he has a weakness for teenage girls. Early in
the
film we see him distracted by pin-up girls on a calendar, but this small
detail of characterisation is played out expertly at the end of the film
when the Doc gets caught by the police because he stays too long in a
roadside cafe watching a pretty teenager dancing to a jukebox. Although
he
is running away with a case full of stolen jewels, the vision of this
girl
dancing stops him in his tracks, so much so that he even supplies her
with a
pile of nickles to feed into the jukebox so that he can watch her for a
little bit longer. The parallels with HH feeding nickles into 'gorgeous
jukeboxes' are marked, but there are also echoes of Lo in this young
anonymous girl. She is an innocent, totally unaware of the Doc's
motives,
and is simply grateful that someone is letting her have some fun. She is
quite happy to oblige this older man, and has only just been complaining
to
her boyfriend that he doesn't know how to give her a good time on a
date.
Huston, however, ensures that the audience senses the danger in her
blindness to the Doc's response to her, whilst the suspense generated by
the
tension between these two characters both complements and amplifies the
overall suspense of the movie. The parallels between the 'Doc' and HH
are
overt. The Doc is a European, a German, and like HH, his perversion is
related to the idea of his being an alien and therefore solitary figure.
And
of course, like HH, his weakness leads to his ultimate demise.

I wonder, if VN saw this film (it was nominated for several Oscars in
1951),
whether it gave him a few ideas...

Barbara Wyllie
bwyllie@ssees.ac.uk