Friday, March 30, 2007

Ace in the Hole (1951).

The Scoop:
In this underrated gem (which you may also find under the title "The Big Carnival"), Kirk Douglas is excellent as ambitious big city reporter Charles Tatum who is stuck in a small town newspaper office in New Mexico. Just when he can't stand the slow pace anymore, a local man becomes trapped in a mine, so Tatum takes charge of the situation and even hinders the rescue effort in an attempt to fan the incident into a major national story and further his own career. Billy Wilder (who directed and co-scripted with Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels) creates a scathing satire of journalistic ambition that plays just as well today as it did more than half a century ago.

Great acting all around, and a prescient look at the dark side of human nature. Unfortunately it was a flop when it was initially released -- so much so that Paramount decided to recoup their losses by taking a bigger slice of Wilder's share of the profits for his next film, the hit "Stalag 17" (1953). But over the years, "Ace in the Hole" has finally earned its reputation as one of Wilder's masterpieces and its long-awaited DVD release will be finally coming later this year.

Best Line:
"I've met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my time, but you - you're twenty minutes."

Side Note:
This is based on an actual 1925 incident in Kentucky, which was also the basis of the novel "The Cave" by Robert Penn Warren.

Companion Viewing:
"Mad City" (1997), which is a very loose remake.


Take a Look:
Tatum lands himself a job:

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