WET ASPHALT (Frank Wisbar, 1958)

Written by Will Tremper, immersed in gorgeous gloom by Helmut Ashley’s black-and-white cinematography and electrified by Horst Buchholz’s lead performance, Nasser Asphalt is a superficial film, set in 1951 Berlin, about honest versus dishonest print journalism in relation to the gathering “history” referencing the recent world war that ended in Germany’s defeat. It is about lingering German immorality, at least on the Western side of the divided city, but the crusading journalist that Buchholz plays offers hope for the future.
     Himself jailed for attempting to “get at the truth” by interviewing convicted war criminals at Spandau Prison, young Greg Bachman finds himself released early because of established journalist Cesar Boyd, who hires him as an assistant and publishes Bachman’s articles under his own, that is, Boyd’s, byline. Pressed for time in which to deliver a “hot” story to a Paris news agency, Boyd makes one up with his chauffeur’s help, with the story becoming an international sensation: for six years, five German soldiers have been trapped in an exploded bunker in Poland. As it develops, the story strokes Cold War paranoia. When he finally realizes that the story comprises an expanding series of lies (the initial clue, rather too blatant, turns on an impossible phone conversation owing to the nonexistence of the public telephone supposedly involved!), Bachman seeks to expose Boyd publicly, while Boyd tries to make Bachman seem the guilty party. Both men seek support in their conflict from Bettina, whom Bachman presumably loves and Boyd lusts after.
     With Die Halbstarken (Georg Tressler, 1956), also written by Tremper, and the hilarious Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull (Kurt Hoffmann, 1957) under his belt, Buchholz extended his marvelous versatility. However, Greg’s feelings for Bettina constitute the least convincing aspect of Buchholz’s performance.
     Frank Wisbar inconsequentially directed.

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