Combustible Celluloid Review - Asphalt (1929), Fred Majo, Hans Szekely, Rolf Vanloo, Joe May, Gustav Frohlich, Betty Amann, Ablert Steinruck, Else Heller, Hans Adalbert Schlettow
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gustav Frohlich, Betty Amann, Ablert Steinruck, Else Heller, Hans Adalbert Schlettow
Written by: Fred Majo, Hans Szekely, Rolf Vanloo
Directed by: Joe May
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 93
Date: 03/12/1929

Asphalt (1929)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Street Hearts

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Considered the last of the German Expressionist movies, Joe May's Asphalt is probably not one of the movement's high points. May starts with a creaky scenario: a naïve beat cop (Gustav Frohlich) is assigned to escort a sexy diamond thief (Betty Amann) into custody, but she works her wiles on him and turns the simple task into a dramatic mess. May decorates around the story's edges with some striking examples of Expressionism, such as slanted angles, and machinery pulsing away, etc. But he fails to use these images as an actual part of the story. Still, even if it's no masterpiece, it has a certain pulp energy that at least rates it a minor classic. Like many of his contemporaries (F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, etc.), May wound up in Hollywood, though with less success. His high point there is probably The Invisible Man Returns (1940).

Asphalt has been previously available in a European import DVD, but Kino Video released it in 2006 in the U.S. on another of their superb silent era DVDs (no other company puts quite as much effort into the silent era). There are no real extras. In 2023, Kino Lorber released a Blu-ray edition. It boasts a luminous video transfer, and the very good score by Karl-Ernst Sasse is available in both 5.1 and 2.0 mixes. Historian Anthony Slide provides a commentary track. There are optional English subtitles, translations of the German intertitles.

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