Ace in the Hole (1951)

USA, Billy Wilder

A great film by Billy Wilder, one of his lesser knowns, probably since it’s not available on video or DVD. Kirk Douglas stars as an overly ambitious reporter stuck in the middle-of-nowhere New Mexico who stumbles upon an accident and exploits it to the fullest. When a treasure seeker becomes trapped in an Indian burial cave, Chuck Tatum (Douglas) sees his ticket back to the big time and quickly takes control of the rescue operation, feeding exclusives to his paper and an eager public. Controlling media access to the victim, orchestrating all the players (wife, sheriff, rescue team) and drawing out the rescue effort for maximum effect, Tatum is the puppet master at the center of a media circus as people, including radio and newspaper reporters, come from far-and-wide to witness the spectacle.

A critical and financial failure upon its release, Ace in the Hole has since gone on to be hailed by critics. Time has been kind to Wilder’s film, which is as biting and relevant today as it was fifty years ago.

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