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Ace in the Hole
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Reviews & Ratings for
Ace in the Hole More at IMDbPro »

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22 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

A Billy Wilder Movie

7/10
Author: giorgiosurbani from Italy
26 August 2007

The excitement to finally see the only movie of Billy Wilder's greatest period I hadn't seen, verged on childishness. I love Wilder and I felt frustrated not to be able to find anywhere "Ace In The Hole" Well, all that's over now. I've seen it, in its crispy DVD release. The theme is Wilderesque, bitter sweet. Some of the lines belong, unquestionably, to the best Wilder sharp, unsentimental wit but, and unfortunately there is a big couple of buts here. Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels (his co-writers) are not Diamond or Brackett and Kirk Douglas is relentless in his on your face, loud son of a bitch. His "redemption" is literary but not cinematic. His performance starts way up high and stays there. I was longing for the laconic delivery of a Fred McMurray in "Double Indemnity" Here, one could see through his character way to easy and far too fast. Jan Sterling is lovely as the woman on the verge. Tough cookie. Delivering a couple of the best lines in the film. All in all, maybe my expectations were too high and the film deserves to be seen again. I will.

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11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Great piece of filmmaking

8/10
Author: diogoal-2 from Recife, Brazil
3 November 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In my opinion, Billy Wilder is one of the five best filmmakers that ever set foot in America; his ability to transform a beat-up formula to an entertaining, intelligent and classic old-time Hollywood flick is uncanny. He´s probably the BEST screenwriter of all time, too. His magic touch hits "The Big Carnival" like fire. The characters, in particular Chuck Tatum, one of Kirk Douglas´ greatest roles, are highly developed and interesting; there are no heroes here, and no evildoers either, just a bunch of working men who happen to have the easiest opportunity of their lives to gain a fortune over a fatal tragedy. The analysis of journalism contained in the movie is simple and clear; newspapers are meant to wrap up fish. Whats the matter if you can make some money in the process? It is the murder of the truth, if there is any. A brilliant film, one of Wilder´s best. See it.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Overly bombastic performance by Kurk Douglas!

7/10
Author: superrfly from United States
22 December 2007

I still have to give this film a 7 out of 10 for the subject is a very important and timeless one, that of media manipulation. But the film is anything but subtle. I grant that this acting style of which I complain is very much of the period, but the declamatory nature of Tatum's character comes on way too strong, and makes what could have been a complex character into a very one dimensional one. The overall effect of this and the rest of the writing leaves one with the feeling of being bludgeoned, rather than being exposed to a very disturbing and pervasive phenomena. Could have been handled with more subtlety and delivered greater impact.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A human meal ticket

10/10
Author: Mike Diamond from Surbtion, London, England
14 February 2005

Billy Wilder at his very best again. Punchy, hard and brutal. You don't like anyone in the film - your're not meant to and it's all the better for it. Kirk Douglas is a loud-mouthed, down at heel has-been reporter who seizes on an opportunity of a man trapped in a mine as his meal ticket back to the big time. He has his town hangers on and nearing the end of the film the whole town and beyond is feverish with the publicity, all making a tidy little profit (hamburger stalls circus's fairgrounds etc..) Kirk's relationship with the waitress, herself wanting a meal ticket passage out of town, is fantastically well read. She's tough, she's always had the bad hand in life but compared to kirk, she's a pussycat. In one scene she retorts to Kirk "I've met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my time, but you--you're twenty minutes" A must see-film and certainly in the top 100 of all time.

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15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Indian Giver or No

Author: brewhop from Prague, Czech Republic
30 November 2001



With the pairing of Wilder and Douglas we get best of both world's.Best director of his day {or arguably any other} and best actor for that decade and beyond{somewhat arguable}In this drama {not Film Noir enough} because there is no dark urban setting or real femme fatale,exist's a very fine vehicle for Kirk Douglas.As the proragonist who is relentlessly absorbed in his work as hard-boiled reporter looking in earnest for big breaking story,he packs more than the usual Kirk true grit.And any actor worth his salt knows Kirk rules on that domain.His facial countenance of clenched jaw and wild-eyed demeanor was his stock in trade,and made for this type of movie.And we,as audience are privvy too and enveloped by sheer ease at which it is demonstrated. The storyline revolves around less than big city newspaper and Kirk's rather new undertaking as somewhat jaded journalist who has trouble dealing with authority and anyone incapable of seeing things his way.Therefore getting the boot from many a newspaper due to intranisigence and lack of good manners.Which makes for really good drama about his new plight and overall character flaws and strenghts. With a good backdrop of out of the way desert to establish the plot and suspence and plenty of foil to go around,the movie is rive with possible deals and double crosses and film noir aspects of storyline.And again who better than Kirk{one of his absolute best roles}to play the lead character and establish all action around.At the pinnacle of his carreer and it shows,he has more than enough grit and sassiness,and tough-guy bravura to go around.In fact,maybe too much.He is so utterly central to overall plot and story as to render other's in scene to be much less important.Nevertheless a very compelling and outstanding display of character depth and emotion,with a quite dramatic flair for ending.An absolute must see for any fans of Kirk,or great character drama,or journalist's-who seem to be getting a raw deal of late.After watching Mr.Douglas play a hard-edged journalist,then journalism will never be the same.Or will it?? 5 out of 5 star or 10/10 for a very complicated character brought to life,with all the gusto and spirit that makes great movies worth watching.Dig Daddio's.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A Hard Hitting Tale Of Man's Inhumanity To Man

9/10
Author: seymourblack-1 from United Kingdom
19 March 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Ace In The Hole" provides a brilliant and blistering account of how a media circus is cynically created, extended and manipulated purely to capitalise on the public's seemingly insatiable appetite for human interest stories. The main characters are motivated by greed and ambition and ruthlessly exploit the gross misfortune of another human being for their own dubious ends. Billy Wilder who produced, directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels, paints a grim picture of human nature in this story which is both fast moving and uncompromising.

Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is a newspaper reporter who finds himself out of luck and out of money when he arrives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a broken down car and no job. He's a man who'd previously worked for a number of prestigious newspapers where his employment had been cut short due to a variety of problems including alcoholism, adultery and libel but his undoubted talent and his ability to sell himself, quickly gain him a job at the "Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin".

A year later, Tatum is assigned to cover a rattlesnake hunt but on his way he stops at a desert trading post where he discovers that the proprietor, Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) has become trapped in a cave where he'd been searching for Indian artifacts. Tatum quickly recognises the story's potential and wastes no time in getting into the cave where he sees Minosa trapped under some timber beams. He talks to him, photographs him and assures him that he'll be rescued as soon as possible.

Tatum promptly calls his editor Jacob C Boot (Porter Hall) to tell him about the story which is a real scoop. To serve the purposes of the story, Tatum wants Minosa's wife Lorraine (Jan Sterling) to appear to be a devoted spouse who's distressed about Leo's predicament. She's completely uncaring, however, and wants to use the opportunity to leave Leo and their isolated home without delay. Tatum tries to make her feel guilty about her intentions and persuades her to change her mind.

Tatum makes a deal with corrupt local sheriff Gus Kretzer (Ray Teal) to ensure that he's the only reporter who's allowed access to Minosa and then the two men pressurise engineer Sam Smollett (Frank Jacquet) into carrying out the rescue operation by drilling a shaft through the rock rather than by simply shoring up the walls of the cave. The drilling operation is favoured because it would take about a week to complete and this would allow the story to be fully exploited. The shoring up option, by contrast, would result in the rescue being completed in less than a day.

Vast numbers of people soon arrive at the trading post and the grounds adjacent to the cave quickly fill up with tourists, reporters, hot dog stands and even a Ferris wheel. Lorraine makes spectacular profits, the sheriff receives flattering publicity to help his re-election campaign and Tatum uses his control of the whole event to be handsomely paid by a New York newspaper for them to be given the exclusive story. Later developments, however, derail Tatum's plans and the carnival atmosphere is soon brought to an end.

Kirk Douglas gives an incredibly powerful performance as the unscrupulous Chuck Tatum and Jan Sterling is very believable as the cold, callous and coarse Lorraine who is totally devoid of any redeeming qualities.

Commercially, "Ace In The Hole" was a spectacular failure and this was probably down to the fact that most of the people featured in the story are unsympathetic characters. Tatum, Kretzer and Lorraine are all despicable, unethical and opportunistic and don't have an ounce of sympathy between them for the unfortunate Minosa. The people who gather at the scene of the accident and turn it into a carnival are voyeuristic and grossly insensitive and the various business people on site simply regard Minosa's plight as an opportunity to make a quick profit. It's encouraging that in the years since its initial release, the merits of this movie have become more clearly recognised and it's appreciated as being even more relevant today than it was when it was made.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Not as Good as Its Reputation Suggests

6/10
Author: TheExpatriate700 from United States
30 July 2010

I rented Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival) upon reading glowing reviews of it by such critics as Roger Ebert. They claimed it was a neglected classic and possibly the best film of Billy Wilder's career. Although it is definitely a good film and ahead of its time, it does not quite live up to the hype.

The film, in short, is a condemnation of media circuses and the exploitation of tragedy by reporters. It focuses on the efforts of Kirk Douglas's character, who uses unscrupulous methods to generate a media circus around a man trapped in a collapsed cave. A corrupt sheriff, the trapped man's discontented wife, and a gullible public aid his efforts.

The film's main problem is Kirk Douglas's performance. Even though he is a good actor, his over-the-top approach detracts from the believability of his character. One would expect such a deft manipulator to be far more subtle than the arrogant, raging character he plays.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Far Ahead Of Its Time

8/10
Author: David (Handlinghandel) from NY, NY
24 January 2005

"Ace In the Hole," which used to turn up on local TV as "The Big carnival," was far head of its time. It wasn't very successful and its cynicism shocked people.

Along comes Andy Warhol almost two decades later with his notion of "fifteen minutes of fame" and everyone buys that concept. It's not quite the same as the concept of this. Nor is that of the very popular "Network," which came even later. But the premise here is that reporter Kirk Douglas will literally jeopardize a man's life in order to get a series of big newspaper stories. And does anyone today doubt that such things happen? Wilder was often cynical, though here it is to the most meaningful end. "the Fortune Cookie" and "Kiss Me, Stupid" are cynical also and they are both fun but this one makes a very trenchant point and they do not.

The acting is superb. Kirk Douglas gave many brilliant performances. This is one of them. The trailer included in the DVD I just saw crows that with this Jan Sterling will be immediately elevated to the top rank of female stars. That never happened but she is excellent here, as generally elsewhere.

The interviews of Wilder by Cameron Crowe tell a funny story about the genesis of one of her lines. I'd better not quote it; so get that book. It's very entertaining, informative, and touching.

Wilder was one of =this country's great directors. This will probably never be one of his most popular movies but I'd certainly rank it as one of his best.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"I can handle big news and little news, and if there's no news, I'll go out and bite a dog."

9/10
Author: classicsoncall from United States
30 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Perhaps Billy Wilder would feel vindicated today after putting this film down as one of his lesser achievements. His own background as a reporter in Vienna and Berlin most likely influenced this story of a cynical newspaper reporter who insinuates himself into his byline to influence events instead of merely reporting them. See, and I thought this was only a modern day inconvenient truth.

I didn't expect "Ace in the Hole" to be the gripping movie it turned out to be. Kirk Douglas is masterful in presenting a character so out of touch with basic human decency that he never considers that sometimes the law of unintended consequences can intrude on one's best laid plans. Down and out reporter Chuck Tatum (Douglas) happens upon a story in the making in the middle of a New Mexico desert, and his overblown ego takes command of the situation. A master manipulator, Tatum convinces a local corrupt sheriff (Ray Teal) to milk an underground rescue attempt to pile up votes for the next election, and together they bully a contractor (Frank Jaquet) to use a rescue method that will take six days instead of eighteen hours. Tatum also latches on to a local legend, the 'Mountain of the Seven Vultures' to add a tense note of mystery and foreboding to his copy, all in an effort to secure a prized position back at his former New York City newspaper.

It's hard not to become angry watching this picture because one instinctively knows that this type of stuff occurs on a daily basis in newsrooms across the country. It's gotten to the point where one can't really trust what appears in print or on the TV screen half the time today, a sorry state of affairs if one relies on accuracy in reporting for any reason at all. The carnival atmosphere that develops around the Leo Mimosa story must have seemed oddly unbelievable, even impossible back when the picture was made, but today it seems about par for the course.

One can figure out where this story is going after a certain point; all that's left is for the finger pointing to start. Admirably, for a creepy character like Tatum, he decides to blow the whistle on his own complicity in causing a man's death, but it's too little too late. The gawkers pack up and leave and those who profited from the spectacle are left to their own seamy existence, including the wife of the trapped miner (Jan Sterling), revealed as callous and hypocritical as the sheriff. In a nod to both true noir sensibility and demands of the Production Code, Chuck Tatum goes down for the final count as the picture closes, knowing just before he drops that the circus is finally over.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Trapped

10/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
20 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A journalist from New York, Chuck Tatum, ends up in Albuquerque working for a local newspaper. He is a defeated man who has failed miserably because of his hard drinking, among other things. But his luck is about to change. After being sent to report on a rattle snake contest, he stumbles on a tragic situation where a miner has been trapped in an abandoned silver mine. Tatum recognizes the value of the situation as a news item that will, not only sell papers, but will, perhaps, give him the chance to make it big in the field he knows well. He risks his own life in going into the mine to interview Leo Minosa.

In order to do that, he joins forces with the corrupt local sheriff Kretzer, who is game for what the deal will mean to his status in the community. In exchange for his efforts, he wants to be the exclusive rights to the situation. Tatum meets the miner's wife, a one time saloon girl, Lorraine, who Leo rescued from an uncertain life and brought her to the family's restaurant in the dusty desert area. Lorraine sees an opportunity to flee the scene, something that she has done before, but Chuck Tatum wants her as part of the scheme he has plotted in his mind.

When the human story hits the airwaves, it finds a captive audience. Soon, all curiosity seekers descend on the area next to the mine to witness whatever happens. Instead of using conventional methods, Chuck decides to "milk" the situation by not doing what reason dictates must be done. He decides to direct the drilling from the top, a process that will delay the rescue operation, but will give Tatum a chance to gain the notoriety he seeks, at the expense of the man pinned down in the mine.

This film, directed by the great Billy Wilder, is one of his finest efforts in Hollywood. Yet, the film didn't find an audience, unlike the one attracted within the film. Written in collaboration by Mr. Wilder, Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman, the screenplay is one of the most ambitious in the director's distinguished career. He knew exactly where he wanted to know, using as a theme the manipulation of the news by people that only want to show sensationalism, at the expense of a human suffering.

Kirk Douglas had one of his finest moments in the movies with his Chuck Tatum. He knew exactly what the public wanted and he gives it to them. In a way, he was a great impresario, setting the scene for the curious to come to the show to be on the front row to witness the suffering and pain Leo Minosa was experiencing. Jan Sterling, who plays Lorraine, matches Mr. Douglas all the way. She could see inside the man who didn't care about a husband that she was going to abandon, anyway. The rest of the cast does a fine job.

Charles Lang's cinematography captures in vivid detail the carnival atmosphere that is at the center of the film. His camera angles enhance the film tremendously. Hugo Friedhofer provided the musical score that blended perfectly with the action. Arthur Schmidt editing works well. Ultimately this was a Billy Wilder film that will stay in the viewer's memory for quite a long time.

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