A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
Charles Tatum, a down-on-his-luck reporter, takes a job with a small New Mexico newspaper. The job is pretty boring until he finds a man trapped in an old Indian dwelling. He jumps at the chance to make a name for himself by taking over and prolonging the rescue effort, and feeding stories to major newspapers. He creates a national media sensation and milks it for all it is worth - until things go terribly wrong. Written by
John Oswalt <email@example.com>
Residents of Gallup, New Mexico, were hired as extras. They were paid 75 cents an hour for a ten-hour day. Extras earned an additional three dollars if they could bring an automobile to the set. See more »
Rattlesnakes will not eat bubble gum, in or out of the wrapper. See more »
One of Billy Wilder's great movies, with a superb acting job by Kirk Douglas as the cynical, glory-seeking and even desperate reporter whose only goal is get back in the limelight by regaining his former big-city news desk job.
The idea of such a newspaper reporter manipulating events to stretch out a story at the expense of and disregard for the victim still seems nearly inhuman, but Douglas' performance makes it instantly believable. The story scenario in which locals, then passers-by and finally distant tourists gravitate to and then make a festival or circus out of the event (the film was also released under the title "The Big Carnival") is supported by the real events on which the story was most likely based: the West VA mine disaster in 1925 that trapped miner Floyd Collins and was reported for 17 days, much as in the film, by local newspaperman Skeets Miller, who crawled into the mineshaft for face-to-face interviews with the trapped and doomed Collins.
This movie fits nicely into the Film Noir genre, although it takes place largely under the hot, harsh glare of the Arizona sun, highlighting the sweat and grime visible on the characters' skin and creating a visual metaphor for the sorry state of their souls. I wonder if Henri-Georges Clouzot saw this film before he began filming "The Wages of Fear," because the visually pervasive atmosphere of sweat and filth and opportunism are equally present in both.
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