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Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival) (1951)



Average Rating: 5.8/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 2

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 5,631

My Rating

Movie Info

Billy Winder directed and co-wrote this bitterly satiric comedy-drama which turns a jaundiced eye towards both the news media and its consumers. Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is a talented but short-tempered reporter whose fondness for booze and unwillingness to bow to authority has cost him jobs at some of America's most prestigious newspapers. When Tatum's car breaks down in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Tatum persuades the editor of the local paper (Porter Hall) to give him a job until he can make


Drama, Comedy

Billy Wilder, Walter Newman, Lesser Samuels

Jul 17, 2007

Paramount Pictures

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All Critics (25) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (3) | DVD (10)

A lurid pulp indictment of exploitation, opportunism, doctored intelligence, torture for profit, insatiable greed, and shady journalism.

January 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

As a diatribe against all that is worst in human nature, it has moments dipped in pure vitriol.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

September 9, 2002 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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.

September 9, 2002 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

By no means a great -- or even a particularly good -- movie, but its sustained nastiness shows a stunning disregard for box-office niceties.

September 3, 2002 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A prophetic scald

August 28, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

Billy Wilder's take on human selfishness and callousness makes for one of the most angry and cynical films ever made.

October 7, 2008 Full Review

Quite possibly the most Billy Wilder-ey of all Wilder's films.

September 12, 2007 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

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.

July 5, 2007 Full Review Source:

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.

August 5, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

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.

September 28, 2005

Douglas delivers desperation and a cynical rejection of humanity that is repulsive as it is mesmerizing.

August 27, 2005 Full Review Source:

Cynical classic looks better (and truer) every year.

June 3, 2005
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Thoroughly cynical film noir.

October 20, 2004 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Douglas is wonderfully slimy as a scheming reporter in one of Wilder's most accomplished films.

June 23, 2004
Nitrate Online

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.

January 19, 2004 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Douglas puts a perfect spin of self-loathing on his character in what is certainly one of his better performances.

May 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Film4

The film is as grim and pitiless as the relentless drill that pounds away at the mountain top.

February 4, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

The Network of the newspaper age.

September 9, 2002 Full Review Source: Goatdog's Movies
Goatdog's Movies

Excessively overrated Billy Wilder bile-bath, with Kirk Douglas at his teeth-gnashing hammiest.

September 4, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

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)
October 17, 2011
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

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.
March 25, 2011

Super Reviewer

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.
February 22, 2011

Super Reviewer

This is my favourite Kirk Douglas movie and my favourite Billy Wilder movie. The story is highly dramatic, suspenseful, and exciting. And the ending is so perfect, I wouldn't have it any other way. I love this movie, it's one of my favourites.
October 29, 2010

Super Reviewer

Movies Like Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival)

    1. Lorraine: [to Charles Tatum] I've met some hard boiled eggs in my time, but you... you're twenty minutes.
    – Submitted by Andy C (23 months ago)
    1. Lorraine: Kneeling bags my nylons.
    – Submitted by Blake J (2 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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