Major event upcoming on TCM

I’m sorry I didn’t warn about this sooner; I didn’t realize it was coming up so soon.

But in a little over 24 hours–2:30am EST on January 25*–Billy Wilder’s darkest film, Ace in the Hole (retitled The Big Carnival after bombing at the boxoffice), will be screened on TCM. (Here 's the capsule review I wrote for The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide.)

This film has never been released on DVD. It’s kind of an accepted fact among videophiles that it’s never been available on VHS either, but I see occasional evidence that makes me question that . . . although I’ve never actually seen a VHS of it. In any case, any legal VHS copy of this is holy-grail rare; almost as rare as Make Way for Tomorrow or A Time to Love and a Time to Die. The copy I have, which I got through trading with other enthusiasts, is about a grade D copy of a grade D copy. So of course I’m thrilled that I’m about to get for myself a first generation DVD-R right off the teevee. It’ll have an annoying little TCM logo in the corner, but hey, who cares about that?

I for one am amazed, and not a little perturbed, that this will be the first time TCM has ever shown this movie. The good news is that this bodes well for its imminent availability, if past patterns are anything to judge by.

In any case, any fan of dark satires of American media culture, as well as any fan of Billy Wilder or of the noirier type of film, should absolutely not miss this.

*TCM calls this Wednesday night, for scheduling purposes; and for me it’s on at 11.30pm PST, so it *is *Wednesday night. But it’s on at 2.30 Thursday morning on the East Coast. Hope that muddles it up enough for to set your TiVo by.

TCM will rip it to pieces, and will do so without regard to what makes sense. They treat motion pictures like sculptures made of Playdough. They’ll cut whole key scenes. They’ll alter dialog. And even on their hi-def channel, they’ll ruin the aspect ratio unless it just happens to be 16x9. I hate them for this, and hate the fact that I can’t watch any of the movies they show. Because if they didn’t mutilate them, there’d be a lot of great ones.

Um, I think you’re confused. Do you ever watch TCM?

I think he’s thinking of AMC…

Not sure what he’s thinking of, except it’s not TCM.

Are you sure you mean TCM?

They show movies in their entirety and in letter box. They show some great classics and when nothing else is on, they are always a safe fall-back.


TCM always shows its movies uncut, without commercials, and in their original aspect ratio, and often with a nice little introduction. No cable network has greater regard for the film.

Never heard of it, don’t know anything about it. I just set my DVR to record it just because of you.

I better like it. :mad:


Dammit. :smack: I was thinking of TNT. Shit. I apologize to all and sundry.

Abso-fuckin-lutely. Great, great movie. In a lot of ways, it feels like it was made about a week and a half ago.

Thanks for the heads up!

I’m so thankful. This sounds great, Lissener.


Almost any Billy Wilder movie is worth watching, and several are great. Even the comedies have an underlying edge; I’d love to see his darkest movie. Thanks for the info!

Yes. What makes it interesting is that for all intents and purposes, this movie has been suppressed since Wilder made it. I mean, come on, a pantheon director like Wilder should have all of his movies available, no? Especially one that’s very clearly meant to be serious social commentary. Unless . . . the commentary hits too close to home.

First off, the movie was originally titled Ace in the Hole–a cynical reference to the fact that the lead character, Douglas’s character Tatum, is scheming to keep a man trapped in a mine so that he can make a media splash out of his story. When it was a bomb–again, Wilder’s first–the studio re-titled it The Big Carnival. Still a reference to the media circus, but also easily misconstrued by the gullible moviegoing public to suggest a fun time at the movies. “Will there be jugglers and Doris Day?!?!”

Then, over the decades during which pretty much all of Wilder’s other titles have been readily and consistently available on VHS and DVD, this one title is conspicuous by its absence.

I think it’s pretty clear that the entertainment-industry PTB saw this movie as Wilder biting the hand that fed him. It’d be interesting for someone to come along and do a documentary on the history of this movie.

TCM showed Ace in the Hole in June 1997 and November 1999.

Thanks for confirming for me, Walloon, the monumental rarity of this occurrence.

I’ve had TCM since January of 2000, and due to this article in this paper, I’ve had Ace in the Hole on my holy-grail checklist the whole time. Since there have a been a good number of “TCM Premieres” lately, and most of them have been followed pretty shortly by those same movies coming out of inavailability, and since I’ve been scanning the TCM schedule every month for this movie for over seven years, it seemed a fair bet to assume that it was another TCM premiere.

Where on earth did you go to dig up that bit of fact checking, Walloon?

Damn. I’ve been hanging out at these boards too long. I saw the letters TCM, and immediately clicked the link thinking this was a LOST thread.

Ace in the Hole was shown on the big screen in New York in July 2000, November 2005, and July 2006.

It was also shown at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles in March 2004. Another L.A. showing was in August 2002.

Yes, it was screened at the Grand Illusion theater in Seattle a couple years ago, which is when I was finally able to see it. Thanks again, Walloon, for confirming how difficult it is to find a way to see this movie.

The Movie Channel also showed Ace in Hole in July 1999. It’s getting less monumentaly rare every minute.