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Old School: Ace In The Hole Unearthed

Sometimes, you gotta go old school.  That’s because director Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole hasn’t been seen by many for over 50 years.  In other words, you have to know the back-in-the-day history to understand the future of classic (which is what this blog is about).  There was never a VHS video of Ace in the Hole, and, until now, there hasn’t been a DVD.   But what a DVD this two-disk offering from the Criterion Collection is.  Spike Lee, who’s interviewed in the collection, loves it, too.

Beyond the DVD extras, beyond the cool interview with WIlder himself, here’s why the movie will rock you even in this day and age.

Ace In The Hole stars an aggressive, almost evil Kirk
as a guy who’s more of an operator and playa than a reporter. It’s a terrific (and well-written) look at the dark side of human nature
(as most of Wilder’s films were).  And you gotta love the scene in
which Douglas lights a match on a typewriter.

As the movie unfolds, I wonder, when will Douglas crack?  When will he at least feel guilty for being more exploitive than objective as a reporter?  Of this landmark film which failed at the box office, The New York Times in 1951 said, "A sordid and cynical drama of a corrupt newspaper man, set against a
grisly panorama of mob morbidity, is delivered with all the stinging
impact of an angry slap in the face by ‘Ace in the Hole.’"  Forget slap in the face.  It’s a punch in the gut that you won’t forget.

In 2007, critics love this movie more than ever.  Wrote Scott Eyman in the Palm Beach Post, "Wilder had been a journalist in Berlin, and knew all
the cheesy tricks of the disreputable trade, but the film isn’t really
about journalism per se. It’s about the innate human lunge for the main
chance, and how easily the herd can be led to indulge in emotional
identification and tears for someone they never knew and wouldn’t like
if they did."

So today, for a momentary couple of viewing hours, the future of classic is yesterday.

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