Ace In The Hole (1951) Review

Happy 101st Birthday (tomorrow) to Kirk Douglas! Last year, I reviewed his film The Fury for his 100th birthday & said that I really should review Spartacus for birthday 101. And I’ve totally not watched it yet again! Maybe for birthday 102. 🙂

Instead, I noticed this obscure Billy Wilder film showing on TV & was intrigued by its synopsis. Here’s my review of the Kirk Douglas film Ace In The Hole

Ace In The Hole (1951) (aka The Big Carnival)

Directed by Billy Wilder

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival) is a 1951 American film noir starring Kirk Douglas as a cynical, disgraced reporter who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper.

My Opinion:

I’ve now seen more Billy Wilder films than I realized. He has an impressive resume (CV to the British)! Let’s see what I’ve seen… The Apartment (my favorite), Witness For The Prosecution, Sunset Boulevard, Double Idemnity, and Some Like It Hot (I just watched this over the weekend & thoroughly enjoyed it). So I really liked the sound of Ace In The Hole and was happy to watch it as I’ve been impressed with Wilder’s cleverly written & entertaining films so far.

I’d say that this movie certainly has his fantastic writing style and its themes make it feel far ahead of its time and just as relevant nowadays (maybe even more so now). But I can see why it’s not as well known as the others I’ve just listed. No, I lie – I can’t explain why it’s not as good as the others. It’s just not as memorable. The writing is just as clever but, compared to those others, it’s lacking the truly iconic imagery & quotable lines that I instantly think of from all of Wilder’s other movies.

It’s a good story, however. It’s very dark and shows the lengths the media will go to in order to sell newspapers. The medium may be different nowadays but things haven’t changed at all. I suppose the only difference is that nowadays we have people happily willing to exploit themselves thanks to the Internet. In Ace In The Hole, Kirk Douglas plays a shady reporter who happens upon a story involving a man who has become trapped in a collapsed cave. In order to prolong the story, Douglas helps convince those involved in the rescue effort to use a method that will take much longer to free the man. I won’t say much beyond that to avoid spoilers but the whole thing becomes a big story and lots of people travel to the site of this cave-in, which becomes a big spectacle (the movie was also known as The Big Carnival as they literally turn the place into a carnival while the man remains trapped).

Overall, Ace In The Hole isn’t Wilder’s best film but it’s worth watching if you’re a fan of his work. It’s much darker & more cynical than a lot of his other films, which seems to be a big reason why the film wasn’t that well received at the time. I liked it as I always enjoy films that show humanity in its worst (true) light. Douglas does well as the cocky reporter and I think he took his shirt off at least once if I remember correctly (seriously – that guy is always half naked in his movies. What’s up with that??). It probably deserves a slightly higher rating and it’s a well written film but it’s a bit disappointing compared to Wilder’s most famous movies.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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The Fury (1978) Review

Happy Birthday to Kirk Douglas, who turns 100 today! I recently did a list of My Top Ten Michael Douglas Movies & commented that I’d only seen one of his father’s films (Paths Of Glory, and that was also quite recently for my defunct IMDB Top 250 Project). I know – it’s shameful to be a movie blogger & to have seen so few movies from someone who has been around as long as Douglas! So I vowed to watch Spartacus & review it on his birthday. Well, Spartacus isn’t very “me” and I shamefully still haven’t watched it. However, I did watch one of his films. Brian De Palma is more my speed so let’s have a look at The Fury, my second Kirk Douglas movie! Maybe I’ll do Spartacus for birthday 101… 🙂

The Fury (1978)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Based on The Fury by John Farris

Starring: Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Amy Irving, Andrew Stevens, Rutanya Alda, William Finley

Music by John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A government agent is determined to come to his son’s rescue when a sinister official kidnaps him to harbor his extremely powerful psychic abilities.

My Opinion:

Well, damn, I guess I should’ve watched SpartacusThe Fury is honestly not very good. 😉 How disappointing! I’ve wanted to see this for years, ever since a scene from it was shown as part of an art installation I saw at the Tate Modern. I don’t remember the artist now but it was a series of scenes from movies involving psychic powers and I’d never heard of The Fury before then. I know De Palma’s filmography is a bit all over the place but I’m a fan of quite a few of his films, especially his Seventies ones such as Carrie & Phantom Of The Paradise. Even Sisters (1972) was better than this. Considering that The Fury is dealing with the similar supernatural/horror themes that I enjoy, I guess I was hoping for something better. Heck, even Firestarter was a better look at telekinesis & the secret government study of individuals who possess these powers. But I do love Stephen King (and Drew Barrymore!). Unfortunately, The Fury pales even further in comparison to De Palma’s adaptation of King’s telekinetic masterpiece Carrie.

I guess I’ll start with Kirk Douglas since I watched this in honor of his birthday. He plays the man whose powerfully telekinetic son is kidnapped by government baddies who want to harness this power. The movie starts out well with the action-packed kidnapping but later turns silly as a half-naked Douglas humorously steals some clothes from a couple & friendly elderly mother and then hitches a ride with Dennis Franz going against character & playing a cop. By the way – Douglas is half naked a lot in this. Is this a Douglas thing? I assume he’s half-naked in Spartacus a lot too. Anyway, the movie has such an uneven tone for a while there with some almost comic relief going on. It was bizarre as there’s none of this whatsoever in the rest of the movie, which has a serious & more horrific tone than I was expecting. Because, you see, using your telekinetic powers on people makes them bleed profusely out of every motherf*%#ing orifice! It was super gross. Well, until the end… The special effects for the big climactic moment were so hilariously bad that I genuinely laughed out loud (I’m not a “LOL”er). And I’m not a special effects snob! I grew up on dodgy old effects. DAMN the end of this was funny as shit, though.

Oops – I went off topic. I was talking about Douglas! Well, he does what he can with a dodgy script, I guess. I’ll give a more “worthy” film of his a go at some point. I was excited to see Amy Irving in another De Palma/psychic ability film after Carrie & it’s cool that she has the ability this time. She’s probably the best thing about the movie, actually, along with the love interest of Douglas (played by Carrie Snodgress). It probably helped that their roles didn’t contain any weird-ass humor while the male roles in this film were lame (especially the son of Douglas – I’m surprised that the kidnappers didn’t want to give that moody, whiny fucker back to him).

My review is as off-the-rails as this film’s plot. I admit my mind wandered & I fucked around on my phone instead of paying much attention to the movie after it got silly. No wonder it had all that orifice bleeding! That’s the only time it got interesting & distracted you from the meandering plot and the fact that you didn’t really care about Douglas finding his asshole son or not. I’m trying to remember what I did on my phone while this movie was on… I think I wrote my review for Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes (Good book. Hey – King connection!). I’m pretty sure I added a bunch of pointless shit to my Amazon Wish List as well. I currently have a variety of those Japanese good luck cats knocking about in my wish list. Why do I do that? It’s not like I’ll ever BUY myself that kind of stuff. I also have an insane amount of Studio Ghibli toys & Kokeshi dolls in there. Someone buy me this stuff for Christmas so I can take them off my Wish List!

Speaking of Dennis Franz above (honestly – I did mention him in my rambling), my favorite thing about watching old movies like this is spotting celebrities that I grew up watching. At least I got something out of The Fury – there were some great obscure actors! I’m pretty sure I saw that chick who was on ER for years (Dr. Weaver) and freaking Nikki Newman from The Young & The Restless!!! HA! I miss that stupid fucking soap opera since moving to the UK. Is Nikki still married to Victor? God those two were annoying. Oh! And when I looked up The Fury at IMDb I saw that I missed Daryl Hannah in this as well as Large Marge from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure! Now THAT’S a good movie.

Um. Screw it – this “review” is going nowhere. Happy 100th Birthday, Kirk Douglas! I’m sorry I’ve not watched more of your films as I’m sure most of them were better than The Fury. But, hey – I still think De Palma is cool & like even some of his “bad” films (other than Mission To Mars – that truly sucked). No shame in being in a De Palma film! I have no doubt that The Fury has a cult following & feel bad that it didn’t work for me. I’m now going to give this a halfway decent rating since, hell, I guess I did get some fun out of it. And a good laugh at that ending!

My Rating: 6/10


Nikki Newman!


Daryl Hannah & the ER chick!


Brad Pitt!


The No Face figure from Spirited Away which has been in my wish list for years! Years! He’s lonely. He needs someone to buy him for me.

Paths Of Glory & On The Waterfront IMDB Top 250 Reviews

These are my final two IMDB Top 250 Project movies I’ve watched but not yet reviewed (not counting the Clint Eastwood or the Akira Kurosawa films, which I plan to review all together). So from now on I’ll only be reviewing movies for this project on the occasional Tuesday as I happen watch more of them. My Tuesdays are now free! What the heck am I going to post weekly instead of these Top 250 reviews?!? Hmm. Most likely, nothing. I like the idea of a blog-free weekday!

I’ve put off “reviewing” these two as I don’t have much to say about them. They didn’t connect with me like so many of the films that I’ve watched for this project have. I understand why they’re classics & agree that they do deserve to be in the Top 250, though, despite them not working for me. Hey – we can’t all love the same movies! What a boring world this would be if that was the case.

So I’m going to say a very small bit about each film now just to get them off my list. Here you go: Two short paragraphs each for two all-time classics I’m clearly not cultured enough to have fully appreciated! 😉

Paths Of Glory (1957)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Based on Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson

Plot Synopsis:
Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack. Dax attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court-martial.

My Two Paragraph Opinion:

Wow – I, um, believe this is the only Kirk Douglas movie I’ve ever seen. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t watching Michael Douglas as they’re so similar (I suck). At least I’ve added another Stanley Kubrick to my list of movies seen (I’ve ranked his films HERE – I need to add in Full Metal Jacket at five while Paths Of Glory would be at six).

I preferred Paths Of Glory to On The Waterfront. The pacing was pretty slow so I’ll fully admit that my uncultured, non-war-movie-loving mind wandered quite often but it did have an overall story that I found far more compelling than that in On The Waterfront. I won’t give away the full story for those who know nothing about this but it’s something that should have moved me a bit more than it did. I think that, perhaps, they didn’t spend enough time developing a few characters who really deserved to have more time spent on them. I’ll say that Douglas was great in this so, yes, I really should watch at least one other movie he’s been in. The novel was based on a true story & this practice (what happens in the film) was done during World War I from what I can tell of the very little I read of this movie at Wikipedia (war experts can feel free to chime in on this). I don’t know how often this tactic was used but it’s truly appalling & the movie did finally have my full attention at the end. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what the outcome would be – I don’t know how I managed to avoid such a huge movie spoiler for all these years. Paths Of Glory is a film deserving of all its praise with great performances & a very important topic that needed to be brought to light (apparently this movie was fairly controversial at the time as it’s a pretty anti-war film). It’s just not my type of thing but I’d certainly not disagree with anyone who says they love it as I can see it being a favorite film for some people. For all lovers of war movies, it’s a must-see.

My Rating: 7/10

On The Waterfront (1954)

Directed by Elia Kazan

Starring: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J Cobb, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint

Music by Leonard BernsteinIt’s the end of the world as we know it! (And I feel fine)

Running time: 108 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.

My Two Paragraph Opinion:

I watched this movie on September 9th, 2014. It’s taken me almost two years to muster up the (strength? courage??) to do a little write-up for it. I remember sticking this movie on & kind of half-watching it while doing some housework then finishing it later while in bed. This is when we were working on painting a wall in the bedroom so a big cabinet was in the middle of the room & partially blocking my view of the TV from the bed. So, yeah… this is how I watched On The Waterfront – a huge Oscar-winning, beloved classic. What can I say? I have no class. I’m a bum!

Umm. Unions? Mobs? I think I remember some pigeons. Marlon Brando! He’s in this. I haven’t watched a lot of Brando’s films (but at least I’ve watched more Brando films than Kirk Douglas films). Let’s see: I’ve seen this, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and Superman. That’s it. I’m not a fan. Should I delete my blog? Will some big Brando fan come along to yell at me & tell me that my blog should be “taken down” like the Western-loving guy who commented on my review of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? As much as I’ve moaned about having to watch all the war movies & Westerns in the Top 250, I’ve ended up really liking the ones I’ve watched so far (some are even favorites now, like The Bridge On The River Kwai & The Good, The Bad And The Ugly). So maybe I can’t keep saying they’re “not my type of thing”? The story in On The Waterfront, however, is what I think really isn’t my type of thing. It didn’t connect. I’ve never really gone for movies involving the mob in some way or for this type of drama. When it comes to older films, I prefer the “grand epics” to the types of films involving true-to-life human conflict with Oscar-worthy performances and lots of talking & drama. I find something like a Morricone score coupled with beautiful cinematography far more moving than an intense performance from an actor/actress. That’s just me – we’re all moved by different things & I’m not one to care too much about the “acting” in a movie (as long as the performances don’t totally suck). Brando is great in this, yeah. I didn’t follow the story very well or really find myself caring about any of the characters. I don’t remember it much now but that’s to be expected, I suppose, when you are only partially paying attention to a movie while it’s on. On The Waterfront won loads of Oscars (best picture, director, actor, supporting actress, screenplay, cinematography, art direction & film editing). Oh shit… That’s really a lot of Oscars. I’m going to delete my blog. I coulda had class! I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it! *blog deleted* (Let’s go ahead & give this the same rating as Paths Of Glory, although I preferred that one. I’m sorry! Don’t hurt my pigeons!)

My Rating: 7/10

**If you can’t bear to see nothing posted on this blog on a Tuesday, here are the remaining films available for guest reviews:

Cool Hand Luke 1967
The Wrestler 2008
The Graduate 1967
The Lives of Others 2006
The Sting 1973
Die Hard 1988
Léon 1994
The Hobbit 2012
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Rain Man 1988
Taxi Driver 1976
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
Before Sunrise 1995
Before Sunset 2004
Life Is Beautiful 1997

**Selected for now**
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels 1998 (Tom)
To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 (Tom)
Gone with the Wind 1939 (dbmoviesblog)
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 (Drew)