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Film: ACE IN THE HOLE - Discussion Thread (Showing on TCM 8/26/07) (1 Viewer)

rich_d

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Note: For those of you who haven't seen this film (or not in a long time) it's showing on TCM this Sunday (8/26/07).

I thought that there might be some interest in discussing this film as Criterion recently had a DVD release of the film.

I'll definitely share some of my own thoughts later, but I wanted to get this out, particularly so that people get alerted to the TCM showing.
 

Paul_Scott

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One of my favorite films of all time.
I originally came to it via AMC broadcasts in the early 90s...right around the time I was starting to develop a big appreciation of Douglas. I saw this, Paths Of Glory, A Letter To Three Wives, and Spartacus, all for the first time right around the same time- and all continue to be among my absolute favorites.

This was also the same point in time I became familiar with, and a fan of, Billy Wilder. It was this film, The Apartment, Midnight (which he co-scripted), Hold Back the Dawn (another one he co-scripted), and Stalag 17.

Finally seeing it again after all these years, hasn't diminished my appreciation one bit- it's still as biting, caustic, funny, and engrossing as I remembered it.
 

rich_d

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Billy Wilder is one of my favorite directors of all time. Hitchcock once commented that the problem of many foreign speaking filmmakers that came to Hollywood was the language barrier and their ability to truly work with dialogue effectively. Well, that may be, but you wouldn't be able to tell that with Billy Wilder. A director and a terrific script writer and perhaps one of the best dialogue writers of all-time. Some of my personal favorites where dialogue really shines are Stalag 17, One, Two, Three, Sunset Blvd and Some Like It Hot.

He also has had some of the most interesting characters in a protagonist role to ever be shown on screen including Sefton (Stalag 17), Joe Gillis (Sunset Blvd.) and Chuck Tatum (Ace in the Hole).

All these men are importantly flawed which, to my view, makes them interesting. Chuck Tatum is sharp as a whip, with an aura that takes over any room he's in. He also makes the same mistakes over again ... all on his own.

By his own admission the things that got the welcome mat taken away at the big city papers was lying, sleeping with a married woman and booze. All these problems will be revisited when his big story breaks.

Ace in the Hole is a very interesting picture. Like Sunset Blvd., there is no doubt that it will end badly for him, it's just how it happens that is the story. In that, yes, I would have preferred a film that you don't know what's going to happen, but like Sunset Blvd. it succeeds in presenting a darn fine story.

I also like the little things that Wilder throws at the audience. When he arrives at the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin we not only get a great intro into the film but the little touches. In this case, Tatum mocks an Indian-American who is cutting out newspaper clippings with a pair of scissors. At the end of the film a pair of scissors help in Tatum's demise. So, was it fate, Indian Spirits or karma? What ever it is, that's the sort of film moment that I flat out love.

Leo Minosa (the man trapped in the cave) is perhaps given a clue too. He sees a lizard in the area that Tatum appears to him. Is that a clue as to Tatum's character that goes unrealized?

Other little but great touches is Tatum tossing Leo a newspaper like a paperboy. Or even better, at the end of the film, newsman Tatum tells his cub reporter Leo that they are under a 'deadline.' Just beautiful. Tatum writes his own byline for his obituary.

I also noticed that Wilder borrows from Hitchcock's film Rope by having a suit work to a fade to black, in this case to show the passage of time (one year). Likewise, Hitchcock borrows from Ace in the Hole by borrowing the idea of a woman using a pair of scissor lying around to stab the man who is trying to choke her (Dial M For Murder). Fairly, both directors make it quite obvious which is a good approach. If your going to 'borrow' do it broadly. When I say Hitchcock is intentionally obvious I mean just that. In Dial M For Murder, Margot (Grace Kelly) is asked to cut out her husband's newspaper clippings, the same use we see for the scissors in Ace in the Hole.

I also love the heartbreak of Papa Minosa wandering around the grounds where the carnival and tourists were. Great tragic moment.

Lorraine Minosa is quite the femme fatale. Back in 1951, a woman like that must have been even more shocking than I found her. I mean walking out while your husband is trapped in a cave-in ... I mean how cold is her blood? Yet, how great is that scene? Lorraine is also pretty honest about herself, much more so than Chuck Tatum is. One could even make a case that her leaving as more to do with Leo's inability to wake up and smell the coffee than anything else. So I guess I see her as a poisonous snake that is at least honest about what kind of creature she really is.

The rest of the cast is top rate, particularly Porter Hall as publisher of the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin.

The end was a bit melodramatic for me. But a positive is Tatum sprawled within inches of the camera that is floor level. Very, very effective. Tatum tries to do right by Herbie at the end. When Tatum puts his arm around Herbie's neck when they go through the door to the newspaper, I felt that was Tatum at his most tender and most vulnerable.

Please share your own thoughts.
 

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