Manipulating The Message

Ace in The Hole PG

Ace in The Hole

A biting examination of the ethical relationship between the press, the news it reports and the manner in which it reports it, Billy Wilder's tale of a former national journalist (Kirk Douglas) who milks a small town disaster for his own ends is one of the most scathing indictments of American culture ever produced by a Hollywood filmmaker.

Chuck Tatum (Douglas) is a fiercely ambitious, self-centered, wisecracking, down-on-his-luck reporter who has worked his way down the ladder. Washed up and broke in dead-end Albuquerque he talks his way into a job for a small local newspaper. But after stumbling upon a scoop of a lifetime when a local man becomes trapped in a cave, he finds he'll do anything to prolong the drama in order to keep getting the lurid headlines. Involving himself with everyone from local law enforcement, the rescue party, to the victim's family Chuck tries to protract the rescue so he can transform the incident into a national news story that will both attract sightseers and catapult him back into the big time.

As cynical as movies get and all the better for it, Wilder’s fierce satire of the media circus is a no-holds-barred exposé of the American media’s appetite for sensation. Its relevance 66 years on only continues to grow.

With an introduction by Pamela Hutchinson, freelance writer, film critic and contributer to Sight & Sound, The Guardian and Radio 4.