Search DVDBeaver

S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r


(aka 'The Big Carnival' or 'The Human Interest Story')

Directed by Billy Wilder
USA 19
51

One of the most scathing indictments of American culture ever produced by a Hollywood filmmaker, Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole is legendary for both its cutting social critique and its status as a hard-to-find cult classic. Kirk Douglas gives the fiercest performance of his career as Chuck Tatum, an amoral newspaper reporter caught in dead-end Albuquerque who happens upon the story of a lifetime—and will do anything to ensure he gets the scoop. Wilder’s follow-up to Sunset Boulevard is an even darker vision, a no-holds-barred exposť that anticipated the rise of the American media circus.

****

Kirk Douglas is magnificent as the self-serving reporter who, in order to milk it to fame and boost newspaper sales, prolongs the rescue of a man trapped in a mine. This was director Wilder's biggest commercial flop, but the film he regarded as his best. It's a cynical piece of work, but is prophetic in realizing how tabloid values can lead a journalist to create rather than report a story. Douglas is a self-serving reporter who has been fired from his last 11 jobs and washes up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


When he comes across a man trapped in a mine, he persuades the rescuers to delay freeing the victim until he has interviewed him and whipped up a nationwide media feeding frenzy. This journalist badly wants to win the Pulitzer Prize and nothing will stand in his way. Douglas puts a perfect spin of self-loathing on his character in what is certainly one of his better performances.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: June 15th, 1951

Reviews                                                          More Reviews                                                       DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for Paramount DVD captures!

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT

 

Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #396 - Region 1 - NTSC

Paramount

Region 2,4 - PAL

Masters of Cinema - Spine 86 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion Collection, spine #396 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:51:08  1:46:28 (4% PAL speedup) 1:51:02.781 1:51:14.918
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.72 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 
1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 9.7 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,091,655,351 bytes

Feature: 32,598,748,800 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.03 Mbps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,140,459,872 bytes

Feature: 31,099,815,936 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 32.99 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate: Criterion

Bitrate: Paramount

Bitrate: Masters of Cinema Blu-ray

Bitrate:  Criterion Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  English (Dolby Digital 2.0) , Spanish dub (Dolby Digital 2.0) LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, None English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, Finnish, None English (SDH), None English (SDH), None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by film scholar Neil Sinyard

• Theatrical trailer

Disc 2
• Portrait of a "60% Perfect Man": Billy Wilder, a 1980 documentary featuring in-depth interviews with Wilder by film critic Michel Ciment (58:24)
• A 1984 interview with Kirk Douglas by filmmaker and film scholar Michael Thomas (14:17)
• Excerpts from a 1986 appearance by Wilder at the American Film Institute (23:36)
• Excerpts from an audio interview with coscreenwriter Walter Newman
• New video afterword by filmmaker Spike Lee (5:39)
• Stills gallery
• Liner notes booklet featuring new essays by film critic Molly Haskell and filmmaker Guy Maddin  

DVD Release Date: July 17th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 27

Release Information:
Studio: Paramount

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• None

DVD Release Date: January 8, 2008
Keep Case

Chapters

 

Release Information:
Studio: Masters of Cinema

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 49,091,655,351 bytes

Feature: 32,598,748,800 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 35.03 Mbps

 

Edition Details:

• New and exclusive video interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard (33:51)
• Portrait of a “60% Perfect” Man: Billy Wilder, a film by Annie Tresgot and Michel Ciment (direction: Annie Tresgot – interview: Michel Ciment), a 59-minute 1980 documentary discussion with Billy Wilder (58:30)
• Original theatrical trailer (2:22)
• 32-PAGE FULL-COLOUR BOOKLET featuring a new and exclusive essay on the film by critic Emmanuel Burdeau, and rare archival imagery

Blu-ray Release Date: April 28th, 2014
Transparent
Blu-ray Case  
Chapters: 10

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,140,459,872 bytes

Feature: 31,099,815,936 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 32.99 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary by film scholar Neil Sinyard
• Portrait of a "60% Perfect Man": Billy Wilder, a 1980 documentary featuring in-depth interviews with Wilder by film critic Michel Ciment (58:30)
• A 1984 interview with Kirk Douglas by filmmaker and film scholar Michael Thomas (14:18)
• Excerpts from a 1986 appearance by Wilder at the American Film Institute (23:39)
• Excerpts from an audio interview with coscreenwriter Walter Newman (10:09)
• New video afterword by filmmaker Spike Lee (5:40)
• Stills gallery
• Liner notes booklet featuring new essays by film critic Molly Haskell and filmmaker Guy Maddin

• Theatrical trailer (2:22)

2 DVDs with all the features of the Blu-ray
 

Blu-ray Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 26

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were obtained directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - April 2014': I believe I have the exact matched frame on all of the Blu-ray captures. Oddly, the Criterion 1080P shows more information in the frame than its UK counterpart - notable on the side edges. Quality has a lot of parity - with a similarly robust transfer and bitrate - however, I might give a very small edge to the MoC in sharpness, but it can vary from scene-to-scene. There were occasions that the Criterion looked marginally crisper. The Criterion is, generally, darker but overall I have no strong preference of one over the other in regards to the video.

Audio is the same, but the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray is more robust and I could tell in a few scenes via Friedhofer's score. Like the video, this will be unnoticeable to most. Both offer optional English subtitles. The Criterion is Region 'A'-locked.

Criterion, predictably, vault ahead with their supplements that duplicate the 2007 2-DVD set (which is included in the dual-format Blu-ray package.)

I'm thrilled with both Blu-ray sets. The film continues to grow in stature with each subsequent viewing. The Criterion commentary helps build that appreciation. An absolute must-own no matter what side of the pond you reside. Don't miss-out on this one.  

***

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' Blu-ray - April 2014 - The new Masters of Cinema 1080P looks exceptional. I look forward to comparing it to the upcoming Criterion Blu-ray release due out in May, 2014. The image is a bit lighter, contrast improves with significant layering, there may be a smidgeon of more information the frame. This is a dual-layered transfer with a high bitrate. The visuals carry a pleasing texture - and there is no distracting damage. It looks very appealing.

The audio is a robust linear PCM stereo at 2304 kbps. Hugo Friedhofer (Man in the Attic, Ace in the Hole, Body and Soul, Gilda, The Bishop's Wife) did the score which add significantly to the film, augmenting emotions, playing crisply in the background. Effects have some depth and overall it sounds flawless. There are optional English subtitles 9see sample) on the region 'B'-locked Blu-ray.

Masters of Cinema have some great extras including a new and exclusive 1/2 hour video interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard (author of Directors: The All Time Greats.) He adds a fascinating look at Ace in the Hole. Portrait of a “60% Perfect” Man: Billy Wilder, is an hour-long, 1980, documentary film by Annie Tresgot and Michel Ciment narrating discussion about and with Billy Wilder including such performers as Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. It is an excellent take on the man showing clips of many of his films. There is also an original theatrical trailer and the package contains a wonderful 32-page full color booklet featuring a new and exclusive essay on the film by critic Emmanuel Burdeau, and rare archival imagery.

This is another super Blu-ray release from the UK producers. As we know the Criterion Blu-ray will be region 'A'-locked - this package is a slam-dunk purchase for those in region 'B'. A very strong recommendation!

***

ADDITION: Paramount - PAL - February 2010: There isn't a lot to choose from visually. Both have the same degree of detail and show a smattering of grain - those more sensitive to the picture-boxing may lean to the Paramount. There doesn't seem to be any heavy cropping by either release. The Paramount has PAL speed-up but the biggest factor for most will be the extensive Criterion supplements. The Paramount, from 2008, offers none at all. 

As far as I am concerned this is in the top 10% of all Criterion releases and we, of course, give a strong endorsement.

***

ON THE CRITERION DVD:  Criterion brings this intense, cynical masterpiece to a wonderful progressive, yet still pictureboxed, transfer to DVD (see our description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). Contrast and detail are at levels that other production companies can only dream of aspiring. This 56 year-old film looks very strong, clean and relatively damage free. Artifacts at are a bare minimum and I have no strong complaints except some very minor, and infrequent, flickering and one damaged scene at around the 42 minute mark. Audio is original mono - clear and consistent - and optional English subtitles are offered.  

The package is stacked with extras - first a sterling commentary by scholar Neil Sinyard. A lot of valuable information is imparted in a timely and professional manner (with a comforting accent). Sharing disc 1 is a 2:21 theatrical trailer.  On disc 2 we have a 1980 documentary (hour long) called Portrait of a "60% Perfect Man": Billy Wilder. It features in-depth interviews with Wilder by film critic Michel Ciment. It is quite revealing about the director - worth watching for sure. There is an excerpt from a 1986 American Film Institute sidebar - it lasts about 24 minutes. I quite enjoyed the 1984 interview with Kirk Douglas by a filmmaker and film scholar by the name of Michael Thomas - Kirk is always so larger than life. It was probably just my system but I couldn't get the audio interview with co-screenwriter Walter Newman to work, but I did enjoy the brief afterword by filmmaker Spike Lee about the film. Also included is a stills gallery and a newspaper-style liner notes (4 large pages) with plenty of photos and 2 essays by film critic Molly Haskell and one by filmmaker Guy Maddin.

A superlative package - fabulous, under spoken film looking magnificent and filled with relevant and viable supplements. Strongly recommended!   

Gary W. Tooze


Menus

 

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL RIGHT


 

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC disc 2


Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample (we still cannot obtain Criterion subtitle captures on English language films!)

 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 


1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC TOP

2) Paramount - Region 2,4 - PAL SECOND

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 


Box Covers

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #396 - Region 1 - NTSC

Paramount

Region 2,4 - PAL

Masters of Cinema - Spine 86 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray Criterion Collection, spine #396 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray




 

Hit Counter

 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

 CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!