The Big Carnival


Generally favorable reviews - based on 6 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 6
  2. Negative: 0 out of 6

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Critic Reviews

  1. It's dark, funny, ferocious, and vintage Wilder all the way.
  2. A searing example of writer-director Billy Wilder at his most brilliantly misanthropic. An uncompromising portrait of human nature at its worst, the film was so far ahead of its time in its depiction of a media circus and the public's appetite for tragedy that it was a commercial disaster when first released, but now stands as one of the great American films of the 1950s.
  3. 80
    Ace in the Hole is an acquired taste -- and an unforgettable one.
  4. 50
    Ace in the Hole is a movie about the fascination of disaster that is itself a fascinating disaster.
  5. Reviewed by: Phil Hall
    So ham-handed and relentlessly overbaked that it is easy to see why audiences initially stayed away from it. Just when and how did anyone come to see this as a classic?
  6. 80
    Billy Wilder's direction captures the feel of morbid expectancy that always comes out in the curious that flock to scenes of tragedy.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 12 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Jul 5, 2015
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. The Bogus Truths of a Dazzling Show

    Society turned into a show has Kirk Douglas’ penetrating lineaments: a society ready to do everything just to gain that famous Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame. A society become paradigm of a world gazing at success’ mirror. Billy Wilder was so predictive as he didn’t run into critics favors because of his brazen exhibition of a herald falsification realm: that is journalism.

    It’s journalist Charles Tatum’s arrogant face that fills up black-and-white scenes of this sublime tableau Billy Wilder sketched out in 1951. He puts in the foreground the black soul of a reporter dumped from all the American biggest newspapers, expelled for his deviances (he’s a conman, a drinker, and a playboy), and forced to beg for a job in a suburban newspaper in Albuquerque.

    A proud man who has known footlights and now doesn’t accept to remain in the backstage; a man longing for a payback that takes on revenge’s violent connotations and it makes Wilder’s Chuck Tatum one of the meanest characters of the cinema history: an overbearing, selfish, ruthless man. He is a journalist who knows how to profit by chance – e.g. Indians’ graves looter Leo Mimosa trapped inside the cave – and how to turn it into his personal opportunity to come back in the Press circle, under spotlights of the whole world.

    As a handy poker player, Tatum pulls out the ace in the hole: the case becomes a story, the story becomes a scoop, the scoop becomes a hit. And he is the factotum of the game, the fire-eater calling the shots of the show he sets up with an arriviste sheriff and a dissatisfied woman (Leo’s wife) in the arid dusty Escudero. So, where there was nothing but a wretched lodging in the center of nothing now there is a crowded carnival, and from every quarter it comes people to attend Leo Mimosa’s rescue; Tatum surreptitiously protracts this intervention in order to boost a story on which he had imprinted his brand name.

    Hugo Friedhofer’s grave soundtrack sharpens the echo of overwhelming oppression used upon everybody by the reporter till to crush Leo’s wife (Jan Starling) not to run away and to trap her in his bogus gimmick (but she will injure him not far from the tragic epilogue). In fact, his plan screws up because Leo (Richard Benedict) starts suffering from pneumonia under the landslide. The hole puncher try to get to him while time flies out (and his life does the same). The man who had to be saved is dead: “Leo Mimosa is dead”, Chuck Tatum shouts out from the top of the mountain: he cries out to the public gathered down in the dusty plains and to the journalists arrived from all over the Nation to take notes on the story. And he also makes the cry roaring inside himself as though he can atone for his petty plan.

    But it’s too late: tragedy’s completed. And Tatum’s alcohol-deformed face fills up the last shot: he lies down on the Albuquerque newspaper’s newsroom pavement becoming the dark side of the show. He stands for the emotional desert of a show created at all costs. He stands for a society dazzled by evanescent things, a society eager to chase the twinkling excess and unable to recognize the goodness of truth.
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