Blu-ray Review Ace in the Hole Blu-ray Review

Matt Hough

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XenForo Template Ace in the Hole Blu-ray Review

Billy Wilder’s über-cynical exposé on the scavenger-like press and its manipulative hold on a sensation-craving, gullible, and avaricious public gets the ultimate of brutal workouts in Ace in the Hole, one of the writer-director’s greatest achievements and probably the one film in his oeuvre from his three decade glory years that is the least well known to the general public.

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Studio: Criterion

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)

Subtitles: English SDH

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray

book-like pasteboard case in cardboard slipcase

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 05/06/2014

MSRP: $39.95




The Production Rating: 5/5

Kirk Douglas stars as down-on-his-luck journalist Chuck Tatum who takes a $60 a week job on an Albuquerque newspaper in order to work his way back to the top of the newspaper rackets. He and his staff photographer Herbie (Bob Arthur) stumble on a man (Richard Benedict) trapped in a cave-in while he was digging for some Indian burial ground pottery. What should have been an 18-hour rescue job turns into an almost week-long affair with Tatum manipulating the situation from every angle while he files exclusive stories from the site of the accident as the media goes into a frenzy covering the rescue operation and while a circus-like atmosphere changes a dire situation into a party crashed by thousands of curious sightseers.Wilder’s distaste for everyone and everything knows no bounds as he skewers the press (both print, radio, and TV journalists all come in for a fair share of invective), the public, the wife (Jan Sterling who is getting rich selling rights to the spectacle though the pious mother and father seem to be apart from the circus and only want their son back safe and sound), law enforcement (the sheriff played by Ray Teal is running for reelection), even the rescue company (who chooses to drill with expensive equipment for a week instead of bracing the walls and getting the man out in less than a day). Little wonder that the film bombed stateside on its initial release. There’s ugliness everywhere, and the one or two redeeming voices are quickly shouted down and banished from sight. Even after the movie was withdrawn, a new ad campaign conceived, and the film retitled The Big Carnival, Paramount still couldn’t give away tickets. The film’s dire view of man’s grasping for the brass ring at the expense of everyone and everything else was not an idea folks wanted to think about then. Today, of course, this film, even more than the cynical Chicago which shares similar themes but with a more lightly sarcastic tone, seems way ahead of its time. Wilder’s script, co-written with Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman, seems positively prescient when we think of the media circuses and feeding frenzies that spring up like clockwork around any current celebrities who make a misstep. Things haven’t changed at all, but Wilder was among the first to point fingers and to do it so unblinkingly. He’s also made the film much more cinematic than was his norm at the time. There are bracing overhead shots of the multitudes coming from far and wide to gawk at the spectacle, and the interior sets of the cave really seem like the real thing.Kirk Douglas came into this film after his sensational Oscar-nominated turn as the embittered middleweight boxer in Champion, and while his Midge Kelly in that film spouted bile by the bucketful, he’s not in the same acidic league with Chuck Tatum. Douglas holds the screen with that dynamic magnetism that he seemed at the time to exude effortlessly, and even if he isn’t front and center through the entire movie, you still find it hard to take your eyes off him. Jan Sterling as the glum wife of the trapped man is reminiscent in some ways of Lana Turner’s unhappy, conniving wife in The Postman Always Rings Twice, all selfish posturing and calculating coldness. Richard Benedict is heartbreaking as the trapped man, blindly trusting Chuck to save him, and Ray Teal as the unctuous sheriff who has a pet rattlesnake couldn’t be more distasteful. Bob Arthur is most appealing as the wide-eyed innocent who gets dragged into Chuck’s orbit, and a host of terrific character actors like Frank Cady, Porter Hall, and Frank Jaquet add lots of color to the proceedings.


Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

The film’s theatrical 1.37:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The focus is as sharp as can be apart from a few brief scenes which look as if they were taken from some other source (not a mistake with the video encoding), and there isn’t an artifact in sight. The grayscale is crisp with vivid blacks and controlled whites and contrast that’s close to perfection. Shadow detail in the caves couldn’t be richer allowing us to see lots of expressions in the low light levels without an increase in the grain structure. The film has been divided into 26 chapters.



Audio Rating: 3.5/5

The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix is generally fine with only intermittent low level hiss and some occasional tinniness in the upper registers during some dialogue exchanges to distract. Hugo Friedhofer’s score and the effective sound effects never impair the listener’s ability to discern every word.


Special Features Rating: 5/5

Audio Commentary: film historian Neil Sinyard offers a scene-by-scene analysis which is fairly dry for much of its length, but he does occasionally offer tangential information about the actors in a scene or compare shots or themes to other Billy Wilder pictures.Portrait of a 60% Perfect Man: Billy Wilder (58:30, HD): a video interview documentary conducted by Michel Ciment in 1980 and directed by Annie Tresgot. It gives us a tour of Wilder’s home and his office (where we see six Oscars and awards from Cannes among other prizes) all the time talking about a few of his more notable films. There are no film clips in this interview, only stills from the films under discussion.American Film Institute Appearance (23:39, HD): an audience participation session with Billy Wilder at the American Film Institute in 1986, led by George Stevens, Jr. There is information here that was not mentioned in the previous documentary.Kirk Douglas Interview (14:18, HD): excerpts from a 1984 interview that referred to Billy Wilder and his working on this one film are shown.Walter Newman Audio Interview (10:09): co-writer Walter Newman talks about working with Billy Wilder prior to the final script preparations on the movie and then their working relationship during the formation of the screenplay. This 1970 audio interview was conducted by Rui Nogulira whose very thick accent makes understanding some of his questions very difficult.Spike Lee Afterward (5:40, HD): Director Spike Lee offers an appreciation of the film and admits to some borrowings from Wilder’s masterwork for his film Malcolm X.Stills Gallery: a step-through gallery of behind-the-scenes shots as well as staged moments from the movie and scenes from the film’s premiere in Hollywood.Theatrical Trailer (2:22, HD)DVDs: two discs featuring the film and its extras included in this dual format release.Four-Page Newspaper: Rather than a booklet in the set, Criterion has published a four page mini-newspaper with a celebration of the film by critic Molly Haskell and a profile on Kirk Douglas by Guy Maddin. There are also a few stills in the newspaper, some of which were also in the stills section. Cast and crew lists are also included.Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.


Overall Rating: 4.5/5

It’s bitter; it’s angry; it’s nasty for most of its length. It won’t be for all tastes, but Ace in the Hole most assuredly ranks as one of the best Billy Wilder movies that you’ve probably never seen. Make it a point to watch this terrific new Blu-ray release. Highly recommended!


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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Thanks, Matt! This is a movie that has escaped me all these years (I've never seen it). I will definitely keep this on the list for the next B&N 50% sale. Kirk Douglas is such a talented actor but for some reason I've never sought out many of his films although I keep hoping that "20,000 Leagues" makes it to BD soon.
 
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Matt Hough

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Steve...O said:
Thanks, Matt! This is a movie that has escaped me all these years (I've never seen it). I will definitely keep this on the list for the next B&N 50% sale. Kirk Douglas is such a talented actor but for some reason I've never sought out many of his films although I keep hoping that "20,000 Leagues" makes it to BD soon.
Don't we all!! :D
 
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bujaki

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I saw both Ace in the Hole and Sweet Smell of Success in pristine 35mm prints. Both are so brilliant and brutally misanthropic that I rushed home for a cleansing shower.
Neither one is to be missed if you care about great films.
 
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Mike Boone

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Don't we all!! :D
Yes Matt, along with you and Steve...O, I've long wondered why "20 Thousand Leagues", one of Walt Disney's very biggest live action movie hits of the 1950's, has never had a Blu-ray release, though I understand that there's been a pretty good looking digital HD version, released of that film.

But since I'm only interested in watching movies on disc, I'm wondering Matt, if your wide breadth of knowledge about films, may include you recently having learned why the Disney studio still hasn't produced a Blu-ray of "20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea." Because it sure seems to me, that the studio is gradually losing an opportunity to make money on such a Blu-ray release, since most of the people old enough to have fond memories of that film, are gradually passing away. I myself was 4 years old when the film was made, & never would have seen it, if not for a theatrical re-release of it, when I was in my teens.
 

dpippel

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Yes Matt, along with you and Steve...O, I've long wondered why "20 Thousand Leagues", one of Walt Disney's very biggest live action movie hits of the 1950's, has never had a Blu-ray release, though I understand that there's been a pretty good looking digital HD version, released of that film.

But since I'm only interested in watching movies on disc, I'm wondering Matt, if your wide breadth of knowledge about films, may include you recently having learned why the Disney studio still hasn't produced a Blu-ray of "20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea." Because it sure seems to me, that the studio is gradually losing an opportunity to make money on such a Blu-ray release, since most of the people old enough to have fond memories of that film, are gradually passing away. I myself was 4 years old when the film was made, & never would have seen it, if not for a theatrical re-release of it, when I was in my teens.
Disney released 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on Blu-ray last year, but it's a Disney Movie Club exclusive. It looks great too. Either join up to get it, or pay scalpers prices on eBay.

 
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Mike Boone

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<body><strong class='bbc'><font size="6"><font color="1a466a">Ace in the Hole Blu-ray Review</font></font></strong><p>Billy Wilder’s über-cynical exposé on the scavenger-like press and its manipulative hold on a sensation-craving, gullible, and avaricious public gets the ultimate of brutal workouts in <em class='bbc'>Ace in the Hole</em>, one of the writer-director’s greatest achievements and probably the one film in his oeuvre from his three decade glory years that is the least well known to the general public.</p>
<img src='http://www.hometheaterforum.com/uploads/0b2a99fcfb66fb8b40a58d46388d3a9d.jpg' alt='Posted Image' class='bbc_img' /><p><br />
<strong class='bbc'>Studio:</strong> Criterion</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Distributed By:</strong> N/A</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Video Resolution and Encode:</strong> 1080P/AVC</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Aspect Ratio:</strong> 1.33:1</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Audio:</strong> English PCM 1.0 (Mono)</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Subtitles:</strong> English SDH</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Rating:</strong> Not Rated</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Run Time:</strong> 1 Hr. 51 Min.</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Package Includes:</strong> Blu-ray</p>book-like pasteboard case in cardboard slipcase<p><strong class='bbc'>Disc Type:</strong> BD50 (dual layer)</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Region:</strong> A</p><p><strong class='bbc'>Release Date:</strong> 05/06/2014</p><p><strong class='bbc'>MSRP:</strong> &#036;39.95</p><p><strong class='bbc'><br />
<br />
<br />
<font size=4>The Production Rating:<font color="006699"> 5/5</strong></font></font></p> Kirk Douglas stars as down-on-his-luck journalist Chuck Tatum who takes a $60 a week job on an Albuquerque newspaper in order to work his way back to the top of the newspaper rackets. He and his staff photographer Herbie (Bob Arthur) stumble on a man (Richard Benedict) trapped in a cave-in while he was digging for some Indian burial ground pottery. What should have been an 18-hour rescue job turns into an almost week-long affair with Tatum manipulating the situation from every angle while he files exclusive stories from the site of the accident as the media goes into a frenzy covering the rescue operation and while a circus-like atmosphere changes a dire situation into a party crashed by thousands of curious sightseers.Wilder’s distaste for everyone and everything knows no bounds as he skewers the press (both print, radio, and TV journalists all come in for a fair share of invective), the public, the wife (Jan Sterling who is getting rich selling rights to the spectacle though the pious mother and father seem to be apart from the circus and only want their son back safe and sound), law enforcement (the sheriff played by Ray Teal is running for reelection), even the rescue company (who chooses to drill with expensive equipment for a week instead of bracing the walls and getting the man out in less than a day). Little wonder that the film bombed stateside on its initial release. There’s ugliness everywhere, and the one or two redeeming voices are quickly shouted down and banished from sight. Even after the movie was withdrawn, a new ad campaign conceived, and the film retitled <em class='bbc'>The Big Carnival</em>, Paramount still couldn’t give away tickets. The film’s dire view of man’s grasping for the brass ring at the expense of everyone and everything else was not an idea folks wanted to think about then. Today, of course, this film, even more than the cynical <em class='bbc'>Chicago</em> which shares similar themes but with a more lightly sarcastic tone, seems way ahead of its time. Wilder’s script, co-written with Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman, seems positively prescient when we think of the media circuses and feeding frenzies that spring up like clockwork around any current celebrities who make a misstep. Things haven’t changed at all, but Wilder was among the first to point fingers and to do it so unblinkingly. He’s also made the film much more cinematic than was his norm at the time. There are bracing overhead shots of the multitudes coming from far and wide to gawk at the spectacle, and the interior sets of the cave really seem like the real thing.Kirk Douglas came into this film after his sensational Oscar-nominated turn as the embittered middleweight boxer in <em class='bbc'>Champion</em>, and while his Midge Kelly in that film spouted bile by the bucketful, he’s not in the same acidic league with Chuck Tatum. Douglas holds the screen with that dynamic magnetism that he seemed at the time to exude effortlessly, and even if he isn’t front and center through the entire movie, you still find it hard to take your eyes off him. Jan Sterling as the glum wife of the trapped man is reminiscent in some ways of Lana Turner’s unhappy, conniving wife in <em class='bbc'>The Postman Always Rings Twice</em>, all selfish posturing and calculating coldness. Richard Benedict is heartbreaking as the trapped man, blindly trusting Chuck to save him, and Ray Teal as the unctuous sheriff who has a pet rattlesnake couldn’t be more distasteful. Bob Arthur is most appealing as the wide-eyed innocent who gets dragged into Chuck’s orbit, and a host of terrific character actors like Frank Cady, Porter Hall, and Frank Jaquet add lots of color to the proceedings.<p><strong class='bbc'></strong></p><p></p><p><strong class='bbc'></strong></p><p></p><p><br />
<strong class='bbc'><font size=4>Video Rating:<font color="006699"> 4.5/5</strong></font></font> <strong class='bbc'><font size=4>3D Rating:<font color="006699"> NA</strong></font></font></p> The film’s theatrical 1.37:1 aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The focus is as sharp as can be apart from a few brief scenes which look as if they were taken from some other source (not a mistake with the video encoding), and there isn’t an artifact in sight. The grayscale is crisp with vivid blacks and controlled whites and contrast that’s close to perfection. Shadow detail in the caves couldn’t be richer allowing us to see lots of expressions in the low light levels without an increase in the grain structure. The film has been divided into 26 chapters.<p><br />
<br />
<strong class='bbc'><font size=4>Audio Rating:<font color="006699"> 3.5/5</strong></font></font></p> The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix is generally fine with only intermittent low level hiss and some occasional tinniness in the upper registers during some dialogue exchanges to distract. Hugo Friedhofer’s score and the effective sound effects never impair the listener’s ability to discern every word.<p><br />
<strong class='bbc'><font size=4>Special Features Rating:<font color="006699"> 5/5</strong></font></font></p> <strong class='bbc'>Audio Commentary</strong>: film historian Neil Sinyard offers a scene-by-scene analysis which is fairly dry for much of its length, but he does occasionally offer tangential information about the actors in a scene or compare shots or themes to other Billy Wilder pictures.<strong class='bbc'><em class='bbc'>Portrait of a 60% Perfect Man: Billy Wilder </em></strong>(58:30, HD): a video interview documentary conducted by Michel Ciment in 1980 and directed by Annie Tresgot. It gives us a tour of Wilder’s home and his office (where we see six Oscars and awards from Cannes among other prizes) all the time talking about a few of his more notable films. There are no film clips in this interview, only stills from the films under discussion.<strong class='bbc'>American Film Institute Appearance</strong> (23:39, HD): an audience participation session with Billy Wilder at the American Film Institute in 1986, led by George Stevens, Jr. There is information here that was not mentioned in the previous documentary.<strong class='bbc'>Kirk Douglas Interview</strong> (14:18, HD): excerpts from a 1984 interview that referred to Billy Wilder and his working on this one film are shown.<strong class='bbc'>Walter Newman Audio Interview </strong>(10:09): co-writer Walter Newman talks about working with Billy Wilder prior to the final script preparations on the movie and then their working relationship during the formation of the screenplay. This 1970 audio interview was conducted by Rui Nogulira whose very thick accent makes understanding some of his questions very difficult.<strong class='bbc'>Spike Lee Afterward </strong>(5:40, HD): Director Spike Lee offers an appreciation of the film and admits to some borrowings from Wilder’s masterwork for his film <em class='bbc'>Malcolm X.</em><strong class='bbc'>Stills Gallery</strong>: a step-through gallery of behind-the-scenes shots as well as staged moments from the movie and scenes from the film’s premiere in Hollywood.<strong class='bbc'>Theatrical Trailer </strong>(2:22, HD)<strong class='bbc'>DVDs</strong>: two discs featuring the film and its extras included in this dual format release.<strong class='bbc'>Four-Page Newspaper</strong>: Rather than a booklet in the set, Criterion has published a four page mini-newspaper with a celebration of the film by critic Molly Haskell and a profile on Kirk Douglas by Guy Maddin. There are also a few stills in the newspaper, some of which were also in the stills section. Cast and crew lists are also included.<strong class='bbc'>Timeline</strong>: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentary that goes along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.<p><strong class='bbc'></strong></p><p></p><p><strong class='bbc'></strong></p><p></p><p><br />
<strong class='bbc'><font size=4>Overall Rating:<font color="006699"> 4.5/5</strong></font></font></p> It’s bitter; it’s angry; it’s nasty for most of its length. It won’t be for all tastes, but <em class='bbc'>Ace in the Hole</em> most assuredly ranks as one of the best Billy Wilder movies that you’ve probably never seen. Make it a point to watch this terrific new Blu-ray release. Highly recommended!<p><br />
<strong class='bbc'>Reviewed By:</strong> Matt Hough</p> <p><br />
<strong class='bbc'>Support HTF when you buy this title:</strong> <br />
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Matt, I'm quite late in finally reading your excellent review of a movie that's right at the top of my list of favorite Kirk Douglas films. But even in reading this review so late, I'm most grateful for it! Thanks for pointing me to your review.
 
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Mike Boone

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Disney released 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on Blu-ray last year, but it's a Disney Movie Club exclusive. It looks great too. Either join up to get it, or pay scalpers prices on eBay.


Thanks dpippel, I greatly appreciate that heads up!
 
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Mike Boone

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I saw both Ace in the Hole and Sweet Smell of Success in pristine 35mm prints. Both are so brilliant and brutally misanthropic that I rushed home for a cleansing shower.
Neither one is to be missed if you care about great films.
I'm fortunate enough to have used part of my retirement nest egg, to have obtained both of those powerful films in their Criterion Collection Blu-ray editions. And those 2 films, IMO, can easily demonstrate to people that both Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, 2 actors who were often underrated, and known more to some people from impressions that comedians did of them, than from their own work, were nevertheless, a couple of highly talented actors, who could certainly "deliver the goods", when given good roles to play.
 
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Matt Hough

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I wasn't willing to play the exorbitant Ebay prices for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, so I got the streaming version during a sale and was more than satisfied with it. I kept my Disney Vault DVD for its extras and am now content with my coverage of that particular title.
 

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