Drama Thriller Film Noir
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Wet Asphalt (1958)
8th Nov 05
Famous newspaper writer Cesar Boyd fabricates a sensational news story of a blind soldier who emerges from a bunker after having being accidentally trapped there for six years.
Review Extra! Extra! Film about newspapers in "Unexpectedly Good" scandal! If you’ve ever wandered about what happens when newspaper journalists make up stories to sell more copies, then Wet Asphalt should quench your curiosity. Lost for many years and only recently released on DVD (courtesy of Dark Sky Films) for the first time, this taut and unusual German thriller from 1958 is a fascinating window into post WWII Germany.
When young journalist Greg Bachman is released after a prison term for using unethical methods for interviewing prisoners of war, he is met by Jupp - driver to Cesar Boyd, a famous newspaper writer. Boyd takes the hungry young journalist under his expansive wing, giving him a chance to travel as a correspondent all over the world for the next three years, reporting the news back to Boyd. Bachman however gets no recognition for his writing, while Boyd claims all the glory. When they are about to miss a Friday deadline with no big news to submit (the weekend newspapers needing something sensational), Boyd invents a story about a soldier who emerges blind from a bunker after being accidentally trapped there for six years, having been able to sustain life from the infantry food supplies stored in the bunker.
The story is sensational. The circulation of the newspapers increases because of the story, and Europe is gripped by the story. Competing reporters create more lies and a fake photograph of the man is printed on the front pages. The public want to know more, and scores of bereaved relatives gather at the Red Cross, claiming that the man is their brother / father / son. Mass hysteria turns into a full-scale riot and Bachman discovers that Boyd fabricated the entire thing. But who is this mysterious ill, blind man who presents at Boyd’s house, if the story is a lie?
Although described on the DVD cover as a ‘Lost Noir’, Wet Asphalt is more of a thriller drama, and a pretty good one too. It’s all the more curious because of its German origin - the DVD is dubbed into English and while the syncing isn’t perfect, it’s actually pretty darn good, so don’t expect the comedy value of Shaw Brothers first edition video releases. It feels German only in that it’s a post WWII tale relating to a German soldier emerging from a bunker, but the very human repercussions could just as easily occur anywhere else in the world.
Nicely shot in glorious B&W, Wisbar's film doesn't let itself become dull at any point. The acting and characterisation are robust – Cesar’s persona almost spills off the screen with charisma, he’s easy to accept as a powerful, influential figure, while Bachman, his bright young protégé, displays endearing determination and hunger for his goals, never losing a grip on his inherently virtuous approach to journalism. It’s in this context that Wet Asphalt succeeds as a critique of the sometime destructive power of the (printed) media and, more importantly, its portrayal as a lying machine capable of initiating worldwide hysteria in an instant.
James Bond fans will be happy to see Gert Frobe (Mr. Goldfinger) playing Boyd's own Oddjob, whose wartime anecdote inspires Boyd's dramatic story.
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