Friday, February 1, 2013

232. The Big Carnival (1951)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Billy Wilder
Written By: Walter Newman, Lesser Samuels, Billy Wilder
Main Cast: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Richard Benedict, Porter Hall
Click here to view the trailer


"I can handle big news and little news. And if there's no news, I'll go out and bite a dog."

When I first bought THE BOOK, I went through it to see what I could find and what I wasn't going to be able to find and I made a list of all the movies that eluded me. For a while, "The Big Carnival" graced that list, because unknown to me, "The Big Carnival" is better known as "Ace in the Hole", a film that I'd actually seen prior to my 1001 journey.

Kirk Douglas is Charles "Chuck" Tatum, a big shot newspaper man, who may just be a legend in his own booze induced mind. When the film opens, we find Tatum in Albuquerque, swaggering into the office of Mr. Boot (Hall), editor of the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin, promising Mr. Boot a sure fire way to make $200 a week.

"You see Mr. Boot, I'm a $250 a week newspaper man. You can have me for $50."

Mr. Boot ultimately takes the plunge on Tatum, a newspaper man that has been bagged by every other major paper in the U.S. Fast forward one year and Tatum is miserable. He misses the big city buzz of New York and longs to be a big time newspaper man again, instead of jockeying the typewriter in Albuquerque. On their way to cover a rattlesnake hunt, Tatum and photographer Herbie (Arthur), happen upon a gas station/restaurant/trading post and come upon a woman inside praying. It turns out that the woman's son, Leo Minosa (Benedict), owner of the trading post, is trapped inside a cave collapse, just past the business. Tatum immediately sees the big story that's going to free him from Albuquerque. Tatum manipulates the whole affair, gets the sheriff in his back pocket and even convinces the rescue team to take a longer route to get to Leo, so that he can have more time with the story.

I have really mixed feelings on Kirk Douglas. For some reason, I like the guy. When he's on the screen, I can't help but take notice, fixated on his every move. But, the reason I'm baffled by all this, there's yet to be a Kirk Douglas movie that's really "WOWED" me. "The Big Sky" was tripe, "Spartacus" wasn't much better, "Paths of Glory" was really good, but fell short of great and "Out of the Past" was great because of Mitchum, not Douglas. Then you have this movie, which isn't that great either, yet here's Douglas again, spitting out quotable lines with every other sentence he delivers and commanding attention on the screen. Now is it just me, or does Douglas have this air of cockiness about him, the kind of attitude that maybe he thinks he's all that and a bag of chips, when he's really not THAT good. I just don't know about the guy and until I see something that really blows me away, starring Kirk, I think we're bound to have a love/hate relationship.

The movie itself just wasn't that interesting. I don't know what it is about newspaper movies, but I can never get into them. Sure "Citizen Kane" was good, but it wasn't the GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL-TIME. I guess maybe it's because I can't understand the time period when newspapers were a bigger business - I just don't get it. In fact, there are only three good things about this movie, as far as I can surmise:

1) The fact that the only "good guy" in the whole picture is Leo Minosa and he's buried in a mountain. It's kind of a neat idea to have this really inspirational story on the surface, yet when you get closer, you realize that everyone close to the situation is corrupt and only looking out for their interests.

2) Kirk Douglas and his dozens of quotable lines, including, but not limited to:

Bad news sells best. 'Cause good news is no news.

I've done a lot of lying in my time. I've lied to men who wear belts. I've lied to men who wear suspenders. But I'd never be so stupid as to lie to a man who wears both belt and suspenders.

It's a good story today. Tomorrow, it'll be yesterday's news and they'll wrap a fish in it.

3) The Hut-Sut Song!

Everything else is easily passable and certainly not "must see", at least in this blogger's opinion.

RATING: 4.5/10  Kind of a different style review, but we'll go with it. I'm going to try and watch "The Bad and the Beautiful" soon, so I can maybe settle this relationship conflict with Kirk Douglas and make a decision once and for all: love or hate. Next up in "Wilder Week": "Sunset Blvd.".


February 1, 2013  3:12pm

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