Ace in the Hole
One of the extras on the Criterion Blu-ray release of Billy Wilder’s "Ace in the Hole" is an afterword delivered by Spike Lee. It’s the perfect extra. "Ace in the Hole" watches a disgraced newspaper reporter (Kirk Douglas) turn a mine cave-in into a sensationalist media epic, just to earn his old salary back. As a movie, it predates and predicts cable news, clickbait and all their bretheran. It’s also got an acidic, mad-at-society tone - one that’s at peace with Lee’s work.
It would almost make as much sense placed alongside Lee’s work as it would next to Wilder’s other classics. This one is hard to place within his canon. It’s as black-hearted as "Sunset Blvd.," but not quite as satirical. It’s as shadowy and downbeat as "Double Indemnity," but it’s not a crime thriller. It’s as uproarious as "The Apartment," but it’s not any fun. As a satire that rings all too true, it feels caught between broad comedy and faux-documentary. "Ace in the Hole" feels like a sick joke, but it’s all too honest.
The disc is packed full of other extras, though potential buyers should know that they were all already available via the previously-released DVD. Those extras include: an hourlong documentary framed around a long Wilder interview conducted by Michel Ciment, another half-hour set of Wilder interview clips taken from an event at the American Film Institute, a 15-minute interview with Kirk Douglas (from the 80s,) and a ten-minute interview with screenwriter Walter Newman (audio only.) Some stills and the original theatrical trailer for the film complete the package.
That brings us around to that Lee afterword - he speaks about his great appreciation for the film. You can truly see the same anger here in "Ace" that’s present in "He Got Game." Wilder’s picture fits into a long, storied tradition - of artists putting on screen everything that’s worst about the culture they live in.
"Ace in the Hole"
Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Release