In an effort to spend some time acknowledging the reformed side of Reformed SHEology, our chosen Film of the Month is Ace in the Hole, starring Kirk Douglas. This is a tale of human depravity like no other!
Kirk Douglas stars as Chuck Tatum, an overly ambitious journalist who will do anything to get the big story - including manufacturing details that would turn an ordinary story into a news sensation. Chuck's "ace in the hole" brings out the worst in everyone . . . with tragic consequences.
Year: 1951 (Not Rated)
Directed by Billy Wilder
Starring Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling
Setting: Albequerque, New Mexico, 1951.
Content warning: None, other than the fact that this film is considered to be an example of "Film Noir." (That basically means it is a dark story that will probably not leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling in the end.) If you are anything like me, you will be sick to your stomach about halfway through this story and feel incredibly saddened when it is over. Yet, this is a stunningly accurate illustration of the human inclination to center the universe around our own needs, desires, and comforts.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The growth of lies. When we lie, we often need to manufacture more lies in an effort to protect the original lies we told. From the beginning of this film, we are met with a stern warning: "Tell the Truth." We will see in this film that lying to get ahead has its consequences.
2. The god of self. We see selfish ambition manifest itself in Chuck Tatum, but pay special attention to Lorraine Mimosa (Jan Sterling), the ungrateful, disrespectful wife of Leo Minosa. As her husband's life hangs in the balance, all she can think about is how much better off she will be without him.
3. Everyone is infected by sin. One of the greatest spectacles in this film is the masses of people being dropped off by the trains, rushing to the mountain site where Leo Minosa is trapped. As he gasps for air and struggles to stay alive, we see literally thousands of people enjoy cotton candy and carousel rides as they wait for news of Leo's rescue. The insensitivity to the needs of another human being in this film is off the charts.
4. The power of the conscience. Guilt sets in finally for Chuck Tatum as he realizes that his depraved desire to worship self has resulted in tragedy. The conscience is the only thing that sets a standard for Chuck and alerts him to the fact that his actions are sinful.
5. The bias in the media. Even in 1951, we see a scathing indictment of the media: that their real agenda is not to tell the truth, but to align themselves with successful corporate giants for personal and professional gain.
The film was originally titled, The Big Carnival.
"Ace in the Hole" is a slang expression meaning a secret or extra asset to assure success, referring to the ace playing card a player has as a hole card (or face down card) in a game of stud poker. It is also a play on words, as in this film, the "ace" -- the thing that is going to give Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) his big break as a journalist -- is a man who is literally trapped in a hole.
Thank God there is hope for the human race through Jesus Christ our Lord!