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Ace in the Hole - Criterion Collection
Ace in the Hole - Criterion Collection
Actor: Kirk Douglas
Director: Billy Wilder
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Comedy, Drama
UR     2007     1hr 51min

One of the most scathing indictments of American culture ever produced by a Hollywood filmmaker, Academy Award-winner Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole is legendary for both its cutting social critique and its status as a har...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Kirk Douglas
Director: Billy Wilder
Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Classics, Satire, Black Comedy, Drama
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 07/17/2007
Original Release Date: 06/29/1951
Theatrical Release Date: 06/29/1951
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 51min
Screens: Black and White,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 34
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English, Latin

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Movie Reviews

"Bad news sells best because good news is no news."
Dave | Tennessee United States | 11/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Charles Tatum (Kirk Douglas), once an ace journalist, is now desperate for a job after being fired from the best newspapers in the East. He gets a job at a small Albuquerque, New Mexico newspaper with the intention of serving his "prison sentence" only until he can find a great story that will land him back where he belongs, at the big newspapers back East. While heading to a remote location to cover a rattlesnake hunt, Tatum stumbles by accident onto the biggest story of his life: Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict), a married man, is trapped by a cave-in while looking for Native American artifacts.

Remembering the national sensation caused by the Floyd Collins story in 1925, Tatum has big plans for Leo. In no time at all, Tatum takes charge of the rescue attempt and assumes almost god-like status as thousands of gawking spectators from around the country gather around the mountain where Leo is trapped. Shoring up the cave's weakened tunnels would get Leo out in a matter of hours, but instead Tatum (to prolong the biggest story of his career) orders a huge drill be brought to the top of the mountain and slowly work it's way to Leo. Tatum is in the spotlight like never before, and he loves every minute of it.

Leo's uncaring wife Lorraine (Jan Sterling) begins charging admission to spectators in order to cash in on the misery and suffering of her husband. Once Lorraine sets her eyes on Tatum it's only a matter of time before she seduces him. Tatum is in control of everything and everyone, even the crooked sheriff, who is also using this sensational story to furthur his career. Everything is going great until Leo becomes sick with pneumonia and word gets out that unless he's rescued within 12 hours it'll be too late. Tatum then agrees to use the quick method of shoring up the cave's walls, but at this point it might be too late to save Leo.

Ace in the Hole's grim and cynical nature made it a flop in 1951, even after it was renamed "The Big Carnival." Only now has Billy Wilder's underated masterpiece finally been acknowledged as one of Wilder's best movies (and that's saying a lot). It is one of the darkest movies of film noir, with superb performances by Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling. Douglas frequently played cold-hearted characters driven by ruthless, egotistical greed, but never did he play this type of character better than in "The Big Carnival." Jan Sterling played the cold and calculating femme fatale to perfection, cooly dishing out lines like "I don't pray. Kneeling bags my nylons."

Wilder brilliantly portrayed a world where misery and human suffering is exploited to the extreme, yet somehow this classic film noir is still unavailable on dvd or vhs. The movie can at least be seen on cable now and then, and "bootleg" copies on dvd and vhs are available, but how much longer do we have to wait for this movie to get an official dvd release?!? Few directors captured the style, mood, and atmosphere of film noir better than Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd.), and Ace in the Hole/The Big Carnival deserves at least the same kind of recognition that his other films have recieved."
One of Billy Wilder's Masterpieces
R. Sohi | 05/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This 1951 film seems as relevant today as it ever did. Kirk Douglas is perfectly cast as an unethical newspaper reporter who, through his influence over the town's sheriff, keeps a dying man trapped in a mine for several days longer than necessary in order to milk the story for all it's worth - a strategy he hopes will help him claw his way back to the top of the journalistic world. Billy Wilder's incredibly vitriolic film tells many truths about how reality is manipulated by the media to serve personal and political ends without regard to the suffering caused by this agenda. His film spares nobody in its critique: those who perpetuate the lies, those who directly benefit from them, even those who uncritically consume the stories are all complicit in the wrongdoing. Wilder made many great films, most of which are far better known than this one, but "Ace in the Hole" is up there with the best of them.

Criterion's release of this film is definitely cause for celebration.

A neglected masterpiece! Available at last!
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 07/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"ACE IN THE HOLE (the studio renamed THE BIG CARNIVAL when it bombed upon rerelease) is Billy Wilder's forgotten masterpiece. Along with Ernst Lubitsch's ONE HOUR WITH YOU and the films of British comic Will Hay, this has long topped my own personal wish list of films that have never been available either on DVD or VHS in the United States (Hay's films are at least available on DVD in Great Britain). To have it appear at last not only on DVD but in a two-disc Criterion edition is truly a wish come true. This will easily go down as one of the most important DVD releases of 2007.

This is among Billy Wilder's greatest films, though this has been long forgotten because the film bombed so badly at the box office (financially it was by far Wilder's worst film, lossing a great deal of money). Anyone who has seen many Billy Wilder films knows that he had a dark side and that while he would turn out many of the greatest comedies in the history of film, he could also turn out some of the bleakest films ever made. Moreover, even some of his comedies contain many cynical elements. ACE IN THE HOLE is the most despairing film Bill Wilder ever made.

The plot is simple. A former ace reporter is so far down on his luck that he has taken a job on a tiny New Mexico newspaper. When a man gets trapped in a mine collapse, he sees an opportunity to resurrect his career. On the inside, he crawls through the collapsed mine to the spot where the miner is trapped, interviewing him, bringing him food and water, befriending him, and giving him hope and comfort. On the outside, he has an affair with the miner's wife, writes a series of stories about the miner that creates a national media frenzy, and manipulates rescue operations to delay the man's release by a few days so that he will have more time to milk the story. The great tension in the story arrives from his cold-blooded manipulation of the man's situation on the one hand, and the enormous guilt he suffers from the expressions of friendship and appreciation from the man who is trapped. Meanwhile, outside the mine, thousands and thousands of onlookers collect, to the point where it has become a virtual city, complete with souvenir sellers and even carnival rides (hence part of the meaning of the original title).

Kirk Douglas has made very, very man great movies in his great career, but I am not sure he was ever better than in this one. Although the movie has a cast of thousands, there are only three truly crucial characters: Douglas's reporter, the man trapped in the mine, and the miner's wife. But of the three, it is Douglas who has to carry the film on his back. And he does so magnificently.

In every way, a very great movie. My hope is that it will come to be recognized as the great film it is along with other box office failures that have since come to be recognized as classics such as BRINGING UP BABY and THE GENERAL. This is a film that simply must be seen by every fan of the movies."
Wilder's "Ace" is a hole of a good movie!
micritt | NYC | 05/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Billy Wilder made this film after Sunset Blvd(1950) and before Stalag 17(1953), two of his most popular works. He once referred to "Ace" as "the runt of my litter". It is one of the most brilliant films to come out of Hollywood in the early 1950's.The idea of a newspaper man covering the story of a trapped miner, exploiting and managing the "rescue" in order to sell the story to the media, was way ahead of it's time, which is why the picture flopped at the box office.The people at Paramount don't seem to value the artistry inherent in this masterpiece. They probably only look at the numbers and figure, "well, it didn't make any money in 1951, so it won't make any now if we release it on DVD"
But they are wrong. This is a cult classic and on every film buff's must-have list.Besides the acting and direction and the bitterly pungent screenplay, the arid b&w cinematography of Charles Lang and the moody, impressionist, noir music score by Hugo Friedhofer are absolutely perfect for this story.By all means, write a letter to Paramount Home Video and demand that this film is given a DVD release. You can get their address from their website. I wrote them last year and they said there were no plans to release it. So that means waiting for it to show up on Turner Classic Movies, where I last saw it about 3 years ago.
But if they get enough letters, well, you never know..............."