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aka - Big Carnival, The
USA 1951
Directed by
Billy Wilder
112 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Beranrd Hemingway
4 stars

Ace In The Hole

Written by Wilder with Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman and based on a true story, Billy Wilder's film was so caustically critical of the world of newspaper journalism, the realm of so many reassuringly upbeat films of the 1930s and '40s that its studio, Paramount, changed its original title from Ace In The Hole to The Big Carnival in the hope that name change would put a lighter spin on the subject matter. All to no avail for it bombed at the box office the near sociopathic alienation of its lead character being more than American audiences of the time could take.

Kirk Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, a one-time big-city reporter with a drinking problem who has been reduced to working for a backwater New Mexico newspaper. When the owner of an Indian tourist souvenir shop (Richard Benedict) gets trapped in a cave while scavenging for Indian relics Tatum bullies his floozie of a wife (Jan Sterling) and cooks up a deal with a crooked sheriff (Ray Teal) in order to milk the story for their mutual benefit. well truth be told, just his.

A literal application of the concept of the media circus, Ace In The Hole, along with The Sweet Smell Of Success (1957) is a classic indictment of media cynicism and features one of Kirk Douglas's most memorable performances. Impressive cinematography by Charles Lang and a well-judged score by Hugo Friedlander add considerably to the success of the film even as the rather unlikely scenario of drilling down to the trapped man immediately below is a little hard to swallow.




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