"Even for Albuquerque, this is pretty Albuquerque"

A great line uttered in a dark but entertaining movie, “Ace in the Hole” set in New Mexico.

Kirk Douglas utters it with convincing New York callousness to the editor of the fictional Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin. (I’m certain it doesn’t apply to the reining king, the ABQjournal….right?)

And I laughed. I think he just called out the rasquache-ness that is my hometown!

I decided I might incorporate it into my lexicon. Expect to see it here, soon, in this blog.

“Ace in the Hole” is a “lost” Billy Wilder film, recently released on DVD. I heard about it in an article in the Albuquerque Tribune. The movie originally opened in 1951 to unfavorable reviews and box office. I can see why, this isn’t a happy Hollywood film. It was nominated for an Academy Award for screenplay, and though it didn’t win, it is a really well written story.

I’m surprised at how prophetic the movie is, a commentary on the circus nature of the media. The story, a man is trapped in a collapsed mine that is part of Native American sacred land. Kirk Douglas, a drunkard reporter fired from a variety of big town newspapers is looking for the big story to earn him back his New York job. He senses the story of the man trapped, convinced he’s being punished by Native American spirits, is the kind of human interest story that will earn him his way back.

His scheme is successful. The news story catches fire and soon people are coming in droves to hang outside the mineshaft, waiting for the trapped man to emerge alive. It literally becomes a circus, complete with Ferris Wheel.

Kirk Douglas plays a truly unlikable character to perfection. And even in black and white, our beauty of a state looks great. The film is shot near Gallup and it has big skies and beautiful hills.

I enjoyed this lost gem of a film, liking it even better for its locale. If you like old films, this is worth the time. Don’t expect to emerge happy, it’s got a lot of bitter lines and hateful dialogue. But it’s well made and enjoyable. And available from Netflix.

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