Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival) (1951)
Paramount's ace screenwriting team of Billy Wilder, Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels came up with their bitterest, most trenchant screenplay to date with 1951's The Big Carnival--which, perhaps significantly, was one of the team's few flops. Kirk Douglas stars as a hotshot big-city reporter who has drunk himself out of every job he's ever held. Reduced to working for a backwater New Mexico daily, Douglas smells an opportunity to return to the Big Time when a miner (Richard Benedict) is trapped in a cave-in. Thanks to Douglas' promotional savvy, the miner's plight turns into a national news event, attracting thousands of onlookers, newsreel cameramen, radio commentators and sideshow hucksters. He even prolongs the rescue to try to build up suspense - with predictably dire results. Test-marketed under the title Ace in the Hole, The Big Carnival turned out to be too bitter a pill for audiences to swallow. As a result, Billy Wilder would never write or direct so uncompromising a project again. … More
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Critic Reviews for Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival)
A lurid pulp indictment of exploitation, opportunism, doctored intelligence, torture for profit, insatiable greed, and shady journalism.
As a diatribe against all that is worst in human nature, it has moments dipped in pure vitriol.
This 1951 film, about a cynical reporter who seizes on the plight of a man trapped in a mine shaft to promote his career, is cold, lurid, and fascinating, propelled by the same combination of moral outrage and sneaky admiration.
Ace in the Hole is badly weakened by a poorly constructed plot, which depends for its strength upon assumptions that are not only naive but absurd.
By no means a great -- or even a particularly good -- movie, but its sustained nastiness shows a stunning disregard for box-office niceties.
Billy Wilder followed up Sunset Boulevard with this biting tale which cast a skeptical eye on the media and feels just as apropos in our age of 24-hour news.
It's the most scabrous, uncompromised work from Billy Wilder, who never made a movie that wasn't kind of an asshole.
Over 60 years later, Ace in the Hole has lost none of its sharpness. The only thing that's hard to believe about the movie is that Wilder and his co-screenwriters could have been this far ahead of the curve in their criticism of the media.
One year after scandalizing Hollywood with his bilious classic Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder was up to his old tricks with Ace in the Hole, which did to journalism -- and to the average American -- what his previous picture had done to Tinseltown.
Billy Wilder's take on human selfishness and callousness makes for one of the most angry and cynical films ever made.
Not only did Wilder pillory the media in Ace in the Hole, he made monkeys out of everyone. Look at you, he said, you eat this drivel with both hands.
Wilder's cynical film of fame-seeking journalists, corrupt politicians, media circus, and the masses' appetite for live tragedy (a man trapped in a cave)was ahead of its times.
As dark and cynical as Wilder gets, Ace also features one of Douglas' very best performance. Nobody is sympathetic and nobody is likeable. That's why it's so great.
Douglas delivers desperation and a cynical rejection of humanity that is repulsive as it is mesmerizing.
Cynical classic looks better (and truer) every year.
Douglas is wonderfully slimy as a scheming reporter in one of Wilder's most accomplished films.
Not unlike Fritz Lang's equally misanthropic Scarlet Street, Ace in the Hole plays the squashing of one man's human spirit for societal-weary gravitas.
Douglas puts a perfect spin of self-loathing on his character in what is certainly one of his better performances.
Audience Reviews for Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival)
A Criterion Collection Film, Spime Number #396. Its one of the best I've seen from the collection.. Kirk Douglas plays a excellent part and though filmed in 1951, it shows how people are today. Out for one thing the big green dollar. Worth the rent or the purchase, in one word excellent. 5 Stars ( Revised 10-17-11)More
An amazing central performance by Douglas in probably his douche-baggiest role ever. Like most Billy Wilder fair it's totally watchable from beginning to end.More
I reckon with those who claim this to be one of the great classical movies of all time. It shows how low can certain people stoop just for the sake of fame, mostly followed by money.
Having covered nothing interesting for almost a year, Charles Tatum begins to get bored by his job as a reporter in a small town. But when he comes to know that a man is trapped in a cave, he decides to take full advantage of the situation. He even turns the Sheriff to his side by manipulation and telling him that we've got an ace in the hole. What could have been done in hours takes almost a week. Instead of adopting the simple way to get the man out, Charles suggests drilling from the top. The man trapped could have been rescued within less than a day, but Charles greed for getting exclusive rights to cover the story extends the rescue operation to a week. Others also try to exploit this situation as much as possible. People are more interested in the 'story' as against getting the man out alive ASAP. Even the trapped man's wife hardly cares for him. She even makes a pass at Charles, but Charles slaps her. This disappoints her and sadness is apparent by her appearance. Charles said that this was necessary since he's going to portray her as a dedicated wife and people would expect her to be mourning for the unfortunate event. Charles leaves his job when he's offered a good position in his pre-employed newspaper. He asks for a permanent position for providing the exclusive details of the story. But what follows wasn't anticipated by him.
This movie was real fun and Kirk Douglas gives an outstanding performance. What happened in those times stay true even to this day. The media has its own share of pros and cons. Some people even invent events (as depicted in 'Shattered Glass' which was based on real events) that haven't actually occurred so as to retain or raise the profits by offering a spicy story to its readers/viewers. Their greed knows no bounds and they hardly have any conscience.
I'd have given the movie 5/5 had they ended it in a different way. I've no problems with the tragic endings, but it ought to be done in an effective manner. So, except for this glitch towards the ending, the movie is an absolute entertainer, and is surely worth your time. Don't miss it.
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