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New York Screen: The Worst of the Worst

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Bad guys like Bela Lugosi and James Cagney are currently stomping around Brooklyn as part of BAM’s “Great Villains in Cinema”—but for the scariest New Yorker of all, head to Film Forum to see Kirk Douglas in Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole. The film is unavailable on DVD, which makes the new 35-mm. print screening on July 14 and 15 the most essential feature in its “Essential Wilder” series. Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, a crass New York reporter who drank so much he was “fired from eleven papers with a total circulation of eight million.” Banished to the illiterate desert of Albuquerque, Douglas is forced to beg for a job at a hick paper. “I can do big news, small news, and if there’s no news,” he brags to the editor, “I’ll go out and bite a dog.” Glowering like he’s rabid, Douglas seems as if he just might do it. Instead, he does worse. When he finds a man trapped in a mine, he leaves him there so he can spin his little human-interest story into a whopping exclusive. As the days pass, Douglas hardens—the corrupt ringleader of a media circus so ferocious it would make modern-day Tatums like Geraldo blush, perhaps with pride.


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