Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ace in the Hole (1951)

Today's film is Ace in the Hole.

Chuck Tatum (played by Kirk Douglas) is a big city news reporter that has managed to get himself fired from every job he's ever had.  His last chance is a podunk Albuquerque newspaper where nothing exciting happens.  He is assigned to cover a rattlesnake hunt, but on the way there, discovers something that could greatly help his career and put him back on the track to the big city.

Leo has been scouring the ancient Native American cliff dwellings for pottery and other artifacts to sell.  The area has long been abandoned and is falling apart.  Leo is trapped during a cave-in and cannot get out.  Unfortunately everyone uses this to their advantage.

Leo's rescue should be an easy one - all the engineers have to do is reinforce the walls so they can dig him out.  Chuck talks the sheriff into drilling from above, which is stupid, unnecessary and will take to long, and the sheriff forces the engineers to comply.  Now Chuck has enough time to milk this story as long as he can.

Equally unlikable is Leo's wife, Lorraine.  She sees Leo's entrapment as her chance to escape.  Chuck convinces her to stay because she can make money off him.  She listens, and soon the "tourists" are packing her tiny diner/gas station.  She's happy that's she's making money finally.  Chuck is really good at convincing people.  He convinced the Albuquerque newspaper to give him a job, convinced a sheriff over trained engineers how to do their job, and now convinced an unhappy wife not to leave.  Maybe Chuck should have been a lawyer.

Chuck brings the doctor to examine Leo a week later, who informs him that Leo will soon die if he's not rescued quickly.  Only then does Chuck realize what wrong he's inflicted on this man.  Leo could have been rescued already.  Chuck begs the engineers to go back to their original plan, but the constant pounding of the drill made it too unsafe.  He gets mad at the tourists and reporters who came to see where Leo was trapped, but it was he who brought them there in the first place.  He tries to make up for it but it is ultimately too late for both of them.  I have noticed that in every film noir, the male star dies.  I was wondering how it was going to happen if he's not the one trapped, but he dies alright.  This does not surprise me at all.

I think the reason why this film didn't do well is because all the characters are so unlikable.  But, it is a well told story.  I will give it a 7/10.

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