Ace in the Hole 1951 (1951) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: 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. Runtime: 111 mins Release Date: 04 Jul 1951
The Press as the Vehicle of Manipulation of a Nation (by claudio_carvalho)
The cynical, unethical and unscrupulous journalist Charles 'Chuck' Tatum Kirk Douglas arrives in a small New Mexico newspaper asking for a chance. He was fired from famous newspapers because of drinking problem, lying and even for having an affair with the wife of one of his bosses. His real intention is to use the small newspaper as a "swimming board" to a bigger one. After one year without a bang news and totally bored, Chuck travels with a younger reporter to make the coverage of a matter about rattlesnakes. When they arrive in an isolated gas station, he is informed <more>
that a man called Leo Minosa Richard Benedict is trapped alive in an old Indian mine in a nearby place called Mountain of the Seven Vultures. Chuck manipulates the local corrupt sheriff, the engineer responsible for the rescue operation and Leo's wife Lorraine Minosa Jan Sterling , and a rescue that could be made using a simple and common process in twelve hours, lasts six days using a sophisticated drilling system and creating a circus in the previously desert place. Everybody profits with the accident except the victim. Movies about manipulation of people are usually excellent. I remember Costa-Gravas' "Mad City 1997 , Barry Levinson's "Wag the Dog 1997 ", Howard Hawks' "His Girl Friday 1940 ", and even the recent real case of the chemical weapons. Yesterday I saw "Ace in the Hole" for the first time and I really was impressed how this film is amazingly real and updated. There are elements present in every modern society, such as: the powerful sheriff very corrupt, like most of the worldwide members of the governments; the press, interested in selling news only; the victim used for other interests greater than rescuing him; and the people, completely manipulated and with very short memory. Kirk Douglas is amazing in the role of a nasty reporter. I do not understand why this movie is not in the IMDb Top 250. My vote is ten.Title Brazil : "A Montanha dos Sete Abutres" "The Mountain of the Seven Vultures"
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 <more>
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.
The movie very closely parallels the real events of January 30 to February 16, 1925 in terms of the general story line. There are some significant differences concerning the actions of the characters.Floyd Collins, a cave explorer working alone not a real good idea , was trapped in Sand Cave KY, near Mammoth Cave. He was not looking for treasure, but for a new cave suitable for commercializing to produce income in an economically depressed region...and this was before the Depression occurred.He became trapped on the way out of the cave by a 27 lb. rock which rolled onto his leg in a narrow <more>
crawlway. The configuration was such that it could not be moved enough to get his foot past.When he failed to return home, the family went searching and quickly found him only 150' inside the cave.A huge rescue effort was mounted and a cub reporter, Skeets Miller, from Louisville KY showed up to cover the story. It became one of the three most widely broadcast events of the time. Besides the extensive newspaper coverage, the relatively new medium of commercial radio riveted listeners with hourly accounts. It quickly became the first media circus ever seen.Because of the print and radio coverage people began flocking to the site. A carnival atmosphere did indeed spring up around the cave. The state police and National Guard were called out by the governor to control the chaos and the more than 20,000 onlookers. The similarity between the real event and the movie on this account are likely nearly identical.As in the movie, a decision was made to drill a shaft and, also as in the movie, the rock was fairly unstable and prone to collapse from the pounding of the cable tool drilling rig. The longer the effort went on, the more unstable the cave passage became.Unlike Kirk Douglas' character in the movie, Skeets Miller served a most honorable role. Due to his small build he became one of very few persons able, and eventually the only one willing, to enter in an attempt to deliver food and water to Collins. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting. Also unlike the movie, there was no manipulation of the event to delay the rescue, but there was considerable disagreement over how to best do it. Area coal miners made the initial attempts and the event concluded with the above-mentioned shaft.Collins was presumed to have died 3 days before rescuers reached him. Because the conditions were so unstable, the body was left in the cave. The family was able to remove him about 80 days afterward for a proper burial. Later, his glass-topped casket was returned to the now-commercial cave as a tourist attraction. It was removed once again, and finally, in 1989.In 1982, a definitive account of the event was published in the book 'Trapped!'. A most informative read.In a take-off of the 'Free Tibet' bumper stickers, vehicles are occasionally seen with a 'Free Floyd Collins' sticker.
A Hard Hitting Tale Of Man's Inhumanity To Man (by seymourblack-1)
"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 <more>
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.
"I can handle big news and little news, and if there's no news, I'll go out and bite a dog." (by classicsoncall)
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 <more>
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.
Kirk Douglas has often expressed his theory of acting: find the good in the bad and the bad in the good. In no role of his career do we see this at work more than his performance as Chuck Tatum in Billy Wilder's classic "Ace in the Hole". Tatum is a relentlessly ambitious and overtly cynical reporter exploiting a man's misfortune in being trapped in a cave for his own ends. But if that's all he was, he'd be driving away with a smile on his face at the end. But that's not all he is.He's not the worst character in this gallery of rogues. Jan Sterling's <more>
non-suffering wife of the victim is a very cold fish and Ray Teal's sheriff is more of a cold-blooded reptile, like his pet snake. They don't give a damn if Leo lives or dies. It might be better if he's out of the way. But Tatum, even if he's the instigator of the drama, can't go that far. He's merely a rat, dangerous but warm-blooded. And that destroys him. Sterling and Teal move on, better off than they were. Tatum falls dead into the camera. You can have him for nothing.Tatum's problem is that he isn't quite as bad as he wants to be. He's been treated ruthlessly by life some time in the past and he's in a competitive profession where compassion seems a weakness and the victor gets the spoils- and all the excitement. He put himself on overdrive to compete and show the world he can be as tough on it as it is on him. But he's not quite bad enough to not care about what he's doing to Leo. He's disgusted when he looks at the wife and sheriff and thinks that he's put himself on their level. He punches the sheriff and almost strangles the wife, but finds that doesn't liberate him form his own actions. Those actions have deprived him of the respect of anyone with any goodness left in them, including himself. You can have him for nothing because there's nothing left.
Media of 1951 acting like media of 2001 (by smatysia)
A powerful toasting of the media of the day. Imagine what this would have been like in the age of television. Kirk Douglas plays a self-centered heel, and does so very well. I also liked Jan Sterling as Lorraine. It's true that there is no really sympathetic character in this film, except maybe Leo, the man trapped in the cave. Someone wrote that he too, wasn't a sympathetic character, because he was trapped while collecting Indian artifacts for sale, but I don't think that would have bothered anyone in 1951. The tone of the film throughout was one of total cynicism, that seems a <more>
bit out of place for the times. Maybe that's why this movie was not a commercial success. It fits much better now, though, since everyone has seen the media behaving in such disgraceful fashion. However, that may rob it of some of its probably intended shock value. Grade: A
The Good & The Bad Of 'Ace In The Hole' (by ccthemovieman-1)
This hard-to-see film finally came to TCM recently so I was anxious to check it out. To my knowledge it has never been issued on VHS or DVD .I found the fist hour to be riveting with crisp dialog, interesting characters, and some nice camera shots by director Billy Wilder and photographer Charles Lang. Kirk Douglas was intense as "Chuck Tatum" and Jan Sterling "Lorraine Minosa" was pure film-noir platinum blonde with attitude.Then, the next 40-45 minutes disappointed me, to be frank. Tatum slowly softens to the point where the film loses its edge, going from an <more>
adventure story-film noir to more of a melodrama. Sterling's character almost disappears from the screen, which doesn't help. However, with 10 minutes left in the film, a shocking scene with her jolted me back to full attention.Going back to Sterling for a minute, if you are a film noir fan and rank Marie Windsor high on your list of actresses, you'll love Jan in here. It just wish she had a bigger part. My other "wish" was that this script would have been a little tighter. I drags too much in the second half. About 10-15 minutes cut out of here would have made this easier to watch and keep the suspense tighter.The story is not an unusual one. I've seen it on film a number of times, the from the classic era to now: an overzealous newspaperman going past the bounds of good taste and ethics to get or "keep" in this case a good story going, just for the welfare of himself or his paper. Yet, this "yellow journalism" or "tabloid mentality" story has some different twists to it, such as being set in a mountainous desert, not in a big city.The acting is superb, not just with the two leads but with all the supporting actors, led by Porter Hall, who played the newspaper editor "Jacob Boot." I also appreciated the sarcastic comedy in here as Wilder and the screenwriters parody the "carnival" atmosphere which develops when a tragedy occurs and people make a financial profit out of it. As the days linger on and the man in this story clings to his life trapped deep in a mine, the circus atmosphere grows. Hence, the second title of this film: "The Big Carnival."That latter title was used when the film bombed at the box office in America the first time it was shown. Later, it was reissued under that second title. It still bombed. However, today it seems to be getting cult status, I would believe a DVD of this will be forthcoming because my guess is that it would sell.
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 <more>
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.