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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 March 2015
When Billy Wilder, the Director of this classic movie, was once asked why he thought the film had been a commercial flop he answered "The American public wanted sugar, I gave them vinegar". The American public's sweet tooth deprived them of the chance to see a true classic. This is just the kind of movie that those who criticise Hollywood think it is incapable of producing, and yet here is a movie directed by one of its top directors and starring one of its top stars that looks directly into the dark soul of the media, the American public and the American democratic system, no wonder America found it difficult to cope with this movie.

The plot involves Kirk Douglas as Chuck Tattum a journalist whose drinking and womanising has had him kicked off the country's top newspapers. He finds himself in Albuquerque working on the local paper, trying to convince everyone they are in the presence of greatness. One day, when sent out to cover a rattlesnake safari, he stumbles across a man trapped down some ancient mine workings. He quickly writes a story with a headline about a man trapped by an ancient curse and watches as it captures the public imagination and they start flooding in to see it for themselves. But when he becomes aware that the rescue will only take a day he uses the local sheriff, who he convinces he can get re-elected in the upcoming election, to convince the rescuers to go in the long way. It will take a week but will guarantee Tatum the story, and perhaps the Pulitzer, he feels he deserves. And here Wilders cynicism really kicks in. Everyone wants their bit of the action, Tatum wants his job back on one of the top newspapers, the sheriff wants his re-election, the trapped mans wife sees it as a way out of a mundane loveless marriage and a way to make money, and the American public, they want their drama with a nice happy ending.

There is no flab on this film, every scene moves at a pace. Douglas might be the only 'star' but everyone plays their part especially Jan Sterling as the want away wife and Ray Teal as the slimy crooked sheriff. But this of course is Douglas' film. He is at the centre of nearly every scene. Some people think his performance is bit over the top, and of course he was never the most subtle of actors, but the role requires that, Tatum is not the most subtle of characters, you find it hard to take your eyes of him, no matter how low he is prepared to go. Of course the film is littered with Wilders wonderful dialogue, the best line coming from the trapped mans wife after she has overheard the sheriff and Tatum convince the rescuer to take the long route. She follows Tatum to his room and says"I've met some hard boiled eggs in my time, but you, you're twenty minutes". Genius.

Perhaps it's failure at the time was due to people feeling it was all a bit far fetched. But now we know different,now we know how low the press can be prepared to go to get its stories, and it was probably so back in 1951. If you like cracking dialogue, if you like to be reminded that Hollywood has always produced great movies, if you like your movies to look into the dark places that many are unwilling to go, and you prefer a bit of vinegar to sugar, then this is the film for you.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 May 2017
1951 the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century. An Election in the air. A newspaper reporter facing destitution. A journey to a nothing story. A stop along the way. Ordinary folk, ripe for picking. Get me the Owner.

She’s not a woman, she’s a dame. He is hard boiled. The cooking of a story. Silent movie close-ups. Shifting sympathies. Vultures on the mountain. Everyone has lost their way. Led by written words on a windswept page.

2017 newspapers follow the lead. Strap lines made to order. Danger on one side. Safety the other. The cooking of a story. Make-up for the front page. The circus is in town. Ordinary folk, ripe for leading.

Not a classic movie but it is a great script. This edition has three discs. The blu ray of the movie and the dvd of the movie are almost indistinguishable from each other on big screen projection. Third disc is a dvd of extras including one hour documentary on Billy Wilder which opens with movie biog and into interviews with Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau and Wilder with accent. Very impressive listening and watching them talk about him. He tells his story. A story which made me watch The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes again. For the first time. Indeed it is this documentary that persuades me to give the presentation five not four stars.

Would also add that the enclosed booklet contains an excellent analysis of the film and Wilder's oeuvre called A Circulation Builder by Emmanuel Burdeau. The connection with Lubitsch takes it beyond my depth of film knowledge. The film I would compare Ace in the Hole to is Paul Newman's Hud. A far better piece of real cinema and real America. The moral bottom is also clearly in sight with Hud.

You catch me with yesterday’s story of a burger bar visit still part of me. It shook me up. It was only the young female walking away from behind the till but a young male came back. It really shook me up. I stuttered and fluttered my simple one drink order. Once received I found a corner and donned my earphones. Shortly a splash upon my foot. A mop beside me. I looked up, a female blank stare. I watched the world in the car park outside. No old cars these days I thought as I listened to Wishbone Ash, head nodding in sync.

The yellow cones went near me. The place was empty but I was sectioned. I never moved my foot. Not until I had finished my drink. I gathered my meagre things. I stood up. I walked beside the tables. A figure, a female figure stood beside my way. I never glanced at the face. My music still playing. The doors. It was her dime.

Vote how you like but do not be conned. Pain is on its way. If nobody represents you. Your story does not exist. Barred from places.
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on 18 July 2017
This is a Billy Wilder film which has little or no comic element. Rather it is a serious examination of 1950's newspaper journalism in all it's cynicism and holds up remarkably well 65 years later.Kirk Douglas gives a somewhat larger than life portrayal of the down on his luck reporter looking for a story that will be his ticket back to the big time, though his portrayal is not sympathetic thus it is hard for the audience to care about his character.

The filming is in black and white but has a sharpness and vibrancy about it and all the supporting performances are excellent.

My dual edition copy come with a separate disc which features a 60 minute documentary on Mr Wilder and that is a great watch in itself.

All in all a great edition to my film library.
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on 15 April 2017
A Billy Wilder classic with Kirk Douglas at the height of his powers. Not popular at the time it came out,probably because it was too gritty and realistic in showing the seamier side of human nature.
Douglas, as a fading journalist, exploits the situation of a man trapped in a cave and keeps him there for his own selfish ends instead of trying to help others to get him out.
Wider was a Master of Cinema and this is one of his most important films.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 November 2011
I have just rewatched this film for the first time in around 20 years. I remember it as very good previously, but this recent viewing confirms for me that (along with Paths of Glory) this is Kirk Douglas' career highpoint. The film is also another outstanding piece of writing/direction from Billy Wilder.

The film provides as effective a depiction of 'popular press exploitation' as any in cinema history, as newspaper reporter Douglas looks to exploit the tragic situation of a store owner trapped in an underground cave in the remote New Mexico town of Albuquerque. Given the current News International controversy this is a particularly topical subject, and Wilder treats it in a scathing and brilliant manner, with very few redeeming features. Douglas' central performance pretty much carries the entire film. There is some able support from Porter Hall as his newspaper boss, but otherwise the supporting performances are relatively uninspiring e.g. from Jan Sterling as the wife of the trapped man and from Robert Arthur as Douglas' newspaper assistant. The slow build up from what is initially a handful of spectators to the unfolding tragedy, to ultimately a watching population of many hundreds of people from across the US is spectacular and brilliantly done.

The film also contains one of the most dramatic (and superbly shot) endings in Hollywood cinema.
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on 7 February 2017
The blu ray from Eureka! is ever so slightly disappointing. It's sharp in most places and yet not so much in others but that doesn't take away from one of the best films ever,with Kirk Douglas giving one of the great performances.
If you haven't seen it you've got a treat in store when you do.
There's a substantial booklet with the blu ray but unfortunately it's taken up with a preposterous,pretentious essay by a French film critic. Bull.... in other words.A wasted opportunity (and a waste of paper!).
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 April 2012
I believe I've seen all Billy Wilder films...except this one eluded me. Why in the name of Good Cinema is it not well known and available as a proper DVD release? Why does it take the Koreans to produce the only (as far as I'm aware) means of buying it? I've never, ever seen it on TV and could hardly have seen it when it came out as I'd have been minus 15 years old!

That's the rant over (justified!) and here's to a classic Kirk Douglas and Wilder collaboration. As with his 'The Fortune Cookie', Billy really lays on the spot-on satire about the greed of modern America. And how apt that still is today, with newspaper's hacking mobile phones etc.

Douglas is a not-so-young journalist of the thuggish kind who just keeps the wrong side of being a "louse". Having lost all credibility in big-time New York, he begs and weedles his way into getting a job on a small-time local rag in the desert. Soon, he has found his gold-digging honeypot of a story - a married man who's fallen down a crevice in some caves that are a shrine to Native Americans.

Instead of just getting the poor man out, he calculates and hatches a plan to elongate the man's agony by padding out the rescue but hyping up the story by any means possible. Enter the man's wife, played by a superbly calculating and common Jan Sterling. Soon, the diner that the couple hardly ever had a customer at is turning over big bucks, due to folks flocking in to see the rescue, after Chuck Tatum (Douglas) gets a picture and exclusive on the front page of his grateful paper.

Within days, there's a fairground and even a song written specially for the poor fellow still below ground. Entrance to the site has risen from 25c to a dollar. Lorraine (Sterling) sees her way out of a miserable life and it's obvious that she wants to be hooked up with and taken to NY by Tatum, with all that money they've dubiously earned.

You can probably see where this is going, though the result, maybe not. The film resonates of the Chilean miner incident not so long ago. There's powerful acting, specially from Douglas and Sterling and superb black & white photography. The original script earned an Oscar nomination for Wilder and his two co-scriptwriters.

The Korean DVD works OK but you need to turn off the Korean subtitles first.
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on 6 March 2013
I saw this film probably thrity years ago and just recently thought I must get a copy. Directed by the great Billy Wilder - one of his lesser known films but really worth a watch. Kirk Douglas brilliant. A must have for any DVD collection.
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on 5 January 2011
I fully agree with Barry M - the only other reviewer of this film which I haven't seen since it was first released and to my mind, is one of Kirk's top performances as a ruthless reporter delaying the rescue of a boy trapped in a mine in order to get prolonged news coverage. This film, together with, 'Detective Story', are my two favourite 'Kirks'. (But then, I'm a 'Fifties Buff').
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on 21 January 2013
I saw this film on the television over 40 years ago and I remembered it and it's name because it was so good. I was very pleased to be able to obtain a copy of it on DVD. Also it had a quick delivery time. It's still an excellent film.
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