With the recent events in Chile, I decided to watch this film again. Kirk Douglas plays a one time big journalist down on his luck and taking a job in Mexico on a small paper, whilst he waits for the next big story to get him out of here, he thinks he has found it in a man trapped in a mountain, he builds the story up day by day and takes the long way to get to the man to make the story bigger and then the man dies and so does the story and the big carnival that has gathered around it.
A forgotten classic, rarely seen on Television and never available on VHS or DVD in this country, however it is one of its director’s key works. Billy Wilder had arrived from Austria to Hollywood in the 1930s and with Charles Brackett wrote a host of comedy classics, with perhaps the best known being Ernst Lubitsch’s “Ninotchka” starring Greta Garbo, but in the 40’s, he turned to directing with his first outing being “The Major & The Minor” in 1942, throughout the 40’s he crafted many classics of American cinema including “Five Graves To Cairo”, “Double Indemnity”(Derek Malcolm’s choice and perhaps the finest ever “Film Noir”) and “The Lost Weekend” (An Oscar winner and the best film about alcoholism). He got a name as a director who took a harsh view of whatever subject he was given and his first film of the 50s “Sunset Boulevard” took a swipe at Hollywood, but I decided on his next film, in which he takes a swipe at the under side of newspaper journalism.
The film flopped on it’s initial release and it was re-released under the title “The Big Carnival”, but still did nothing, Wilder never again was as harsh as he was here, his next film was the POW film “Stalag 17” and then he concentrated on comedies, many of them milestones in cinema (including “The Apartment”, “Some Like It Hot”, “The Seven Year Itch”, “Sabrina” and “One, Two, Three”), but I perhaps talk and think about this more than any Wilder film, because of it’s unavailability. When Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” was shown at the cinema, a little short called “The Big Story” was shown before it, directly influenced by this and Alex Cox showed it in his early 90s popular “Moviedrome” slot on BBC-2, so maybe I’m not alone. I think the entire idea of Derek Malcolm’s 100 and this list is to make people aware of certain films, it would be easy to choose “Some Like It Hot” or “Sunset Boulevard”, but they are easily available and they may never see this and so it may never be available or shown again.
Release date 15/06/1951 (London, premiere) 29/06/1951 (USA)
DF viewing 26/01/1992 from BBC-2 screening