Customer Reviews: Asphalt
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4.4 out of 5 stars24
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VINE VOICEon 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. Though it should have been only a ploy for the worldly Else, May shows little moments which give us an inkling that Else may have a heart after all. When she affectionately runs her fingers over his papers then mails them back to Gustav with a gift, he storms back to 11 Kirchstass in anger. Once she sees how much she has hurt young Holk, that part of her heart which has remained untouched by her jaded morality comes to life again.

But danger is moving closer, as her tawdry entanglements include a partner. It will bring about a violent confrontation and a moment of decision for Else, who must decide if it is too late for redemption. Amann is truly wonderful in those final moments, wondering whether love will be lost forever. Tenderness rises above melodrama in this beautifully produced and directed silent from Germany. A must see for silent film buffs.
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on November 7, 2007
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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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 throws herself at him, she literally 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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on November 2, 2006
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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on May 14, 2013
I was searching for a silent movie to watch and i came by it quite by accident.
So happy i found this gem. Really liked the acting, story and lighting. Film was
beautifully restored. I watched it again a few days later and liked it more.
I ordered the dvd to send to a friend in California. Her name is Betty Ammon and
the star of asphalt is Betty Amann. Some coincidence?
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on September 4, 2006
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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on June 10, 2013
I don't think I can sum up the academic reasons to watch this film as well as the other reviews here. And frankly, I'm only writing a review to bump the ratings, because this film is every bit a five star film to me. Gorgeous visuals, superb acting (I don't care that I couldn't read the German lips, or that the title cards were few and sparse, I could follow this just watching the emotions) and a superb score lead to a great visual treat. If you want follow some of the academic threads because they are very interesting. But enjoy the film with your creative streak, because you will love it.
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on October 22, 2014
sleek, simple, stylish, and sexy. asphalt subtly lures you in and drags you down to the bottom of the lake. the lead actress will toy with you until she has you tangled in her web, where she will ravish you, drain your blood and leave you an other lifeless victim of her guile. none can resist the seduction of those giant doe eyes. all the tension and drama of a tumultuous love affair. the push and pull of passion and desire. she knows just how to play these suckers. one minute the hapless victim, the next a shameless she-vixen. you are sure to fall for her charms. there is a sense of empowerment in the way she manipulates these men. you can't help but see her as a modern heroine. . . and as such deserves all just rewards.

the simplicity of the film reminds us that it was shot during the height of the depression, though it lacks none of the style or elegance of the era. her flat is simply furnished with the exotic contemporary luxuries of the day. a decadent oriental décor replete with Chinese vas and lion statue, Turkish sofa and pillows, silk velvet drapery, satin sheets, furs, and diamonds all adorn her boudoir. contrast this opulence with the stern, simple, stoic character of her young lover, and we are reminded that the film was also produced as the third Reich was coming into power. the visual imagery alone will hold you captive, let alone the powerful political message that frames the backdrop.
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on March 22, 2015
Slow-building tale of a young traffic cop that arrests a beautiful jewel thief. Silent film with such great acting that few title cards are needed or used. Although elements of the plot are difficult to swallow the emotions portrayed come across as genuine, especially the characterizations of the policeman's parents by Albert Steinrück and Else Heller. Plus, Amann is gorgeous and sexy in her "Roaring 20s" outfits.
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on March 29, 2009
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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