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Asphalt (1930)

Gustav Fröhlich , Albert Steinrück , Joe May  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Gustav Fröhlich, Albert Steinrück, Betty Amann, Else Heller, Hans Adalbert Schlettow
  • Directors: Joe May
  • Writers: Joe May, Hans Székely, Rolf E. Vanloo
  • Producers: Erich Pommer, Max Pfeiffer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Silent
  • Language: German
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Kino Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 18, 2006
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FS9FLM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,379 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Asphalt" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

From its amazing opening sequence of human and vehicular traffic sweeping through a nighttime cityscape entirely created inside the Ufa film factory, Asphalt marks a late addition to the eye-catching, mind-bending artistry of the German Expressionist cinema of the '20s. Released in March 1929, when silents were on the way out, until recently it was just a title, and the source of a few grabby stills, in the film history books. In this most complete restoration yet, it stands as the ultimate "street film," a genre prized for bravura artifice and potent allegory. In such urban symphonies, the cinema was simultaneously defining and reimagining the essence of modernity in images both hypnotically dark and ablaze with shattered light.

The story is a simple one, but told with psychological subtlety and strikingly fluid camerawork and editing. A young cop (Gustav Fröhlich, the hero of Metropolis) with rectitude in his veins apprehends a sneak thief (Betty Amann) in the act of stealing a diamond, then fails to turn her in. There's a gratifying mutuality to their seduction; although the lady's tiger-like leap upon her captor is astonishingly feral, she's soon as vulnerable and perplexed in their relationship as he is. A subplot involving her longtime lover, a master criminal (Hans Adelbert von Schlettow), eventually intersects with their love affair. Up to the very end--which somewhat anticipates Robert Bresson's Pickpocket--we can't be sure who's going to be sacrificed to save whom.

Director Joe May was no auteur on the order of Fritz Lang or F.W. Murnau; it's hard to locate an artistic personality in his movie. But he and cinematographer Günther Rittau had a state-of-the-art camera dolly to play with, making the German ideal of "the unfettered camera" a freewheeling reality. Amann is beguiling as a Louise Brooks knockoff, an ambulatory white fur under a cloche hat who evolves into a dark, hieratic figure of Fate. --Richard T. Jameson

Product Description

Gustav Fr+Ýhlich, best known as the young protagonist of Metropolis, stars as Holk, a strait-laced traffic cop who has the simple task of escorting a diamond thief to the police station. However, the thief is the exotic and beautiful Else (played by Betty Amann), which makes the task far from simple. The stage is thus set for a scandalous turn of events, and the drama is made all the more exciting thanks to the dynamic photography of G+ƒ-+nther Rittau (The Blue Angel) and the equally impressive sets of Erich Kettelhut (Metropolis).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Romantic Expression March 31, 2008
This stylish and sophisticated silent film coming just before sound has a sexy and romantic glow that rises above its melodramatic origins and ultimately touches the viewer's heart. German director Joe May, who would eventually gravitate to Hollywood and make some memorable "B" pictures, shows both flair and tenderness for subject matter in this story of a beautiful girl so long fallen that love might not be within her grasp.

Set designer Erich Kettelhut and cinematographer Gunther Tittau give a rich and opulent look to the simple storyline which proved too risque for some and was banned. No original negative is known to exist but this print discovered in Russia is probably as close to how it first appeared as we are likely to ever see. Viewed today, of course, it seems quite tame. Whether that is due to a more sophisticated understanding of matters pertaining to love and lust or just a benchmark of how far we ourselves have fallen depends on your point of view.

Beautiful thief Else Kramer (Betty Amann) uses her feminine charms and gracefully curved assets to steal. When she is finally caught, it is up to young street cop Holk (Gustav Frohlich) to escort her to justice. But the young man who still lives with his mother and father, who is also the Chief of Police, will prove no match for the game Else brings to the table. She cries and and pleads and implores on the short journey to the station, and once he gives in and allows her to make a stop at 11 Kirchstass, she overwhelms him and he falls in love.

Like all men who've just been with a woman, all he can think of across the gulf which separates them is his longing to be with her again.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb silent film November 7, 2007
By Ingalls
I collect silent films and I thought that I had seen all of the films that were worth seeing. I was wrong. Here is a superb 1929 German film that was made at the height of silent cinema's expressiveness. If this film had been made with sound, its power would have been severely diminshed. Close-ups and few title cards explain all you need to know about the plot and underlying motivations of the characters. I won't spoil the ending so I will only give a bit of the plot. A young, honorable police officer is seduced by a female thief into neglecting to do his duty. His shame and the powerful emotions that his dereliction of duty unleashes in both the policeman and the thief propel the rest of the movie to its conclusion. This is a VERY German film. Some themes occur over and over in the German films of the twenties: the downfall of those who do not obey authority and the law, the ability of women to destroy externally powerful men, the stereotyped image of destroyed men on their knees before women as if they were boys (This almost never happens in American films but it is always happening in German films), the need for law and order, etc. This is a very good print with most of the film in pristine condition. A wonderful morality tale handled with tenderness, intelligence, and silent film master craftsmanship.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Asphalt is a treasure! November 2, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in Film Noir and German Expressionist film should find a lot to treasure in ASPHALT. The visual style is stunning and the smoldering beauty of Betty Amann as Else the thief is memorable. This film is an experience that many would appreciated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars silent romantic drama March 29, 2009
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Very good silent German expressionism film of the late 1920s. Traffic policeman falls for a beautiful diamond thief he has to escort to the police station, and is torn between duty and love (guess which wins). Throw in another really bad guy, a bank heist, a father who is even more duty-bound than his son, and a murder. The opening drags a little, but the action eventually picks up. Musical score is great, better than most. If you like classic silent films or German expressionism films, you'll probably like this one.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific German "film noir"... September 4, 2006
By E.
This is a terrific piece of German "film noir", which was cut off by the Nazis in 1933, when it should have begun to flourish... this DVD uses a very good set of prints, and has a fine soundtrack... the story line is intact, and the directing and acting is superb... a very good film, of which there would have been more but for Hitler.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Asphalt February 14, 2007
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B/W German film, 1929. Outstanding acting with story developing very slowly. Scenes reflecting realistically situations of that time using symple details captivating getting deeper and deeper emotions. Having personal experience of that time I see more and more the differences of cultures and times of today! Reflectilng I appriciate the high rating of the film at the time of original showing!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The allure of gorgeous darkness July 2, 2014
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In this stark, silent melodrama from 1929, we see the darkly compelling template for hundreds of films noir that came later. The story is simplicity itself: a young, earnest police officer who lives at home with his parents is summoned to arrest a beautiful would-be jewel thief & take her to the local police station. Needless to say, he never gets her there, being completely won over by her seductive act. Yet it becomes more than that, as she's actually drawn to the innocent young man, who is guilt-ridden but unable to let go of her. And then her criminal boyfriend reappears on the scene ...

What makes this film so intense & dazzling is the cinematography, which captures the shadowed energy of the city at night -- but even more than that, it's the astonishing performance by Betty Amann as the leading lady/femme fatale. She's a vision of dark-eyed, silken slinkiness who reveals an almost feral lust in her attempts to seduce the young police officer. She not only literally throws herself at him, she throws herself ON him, clawing at his hair & grinding her body into his with stunning ferocity. Yet she also shows a remarkable tenderness in later scenes, often with almost imperceptible expressiveness. Her eyes are absolutely incredible!

There are only a handful of title cards, but the acting & direction tell you everything you have to know. The score is often jaunty, even jolly, providing a mocking counterpoint to the increasingly corrupt goings-on. It's melodrama boiled down to its essence, a thick, black, sickly-sweet syrup that draws flies to the moral decay of the players. Highly recommended!
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