War of the Worlds

Millsworks has a good posting today on the 70th Anniversary of Orson Welles broadcast of 'War of the Worlds'.

Rob also mentions Elia Kazan's terrific picture, 'A Face in the Crowd'. This film is one of the prophetic movies that satirized the popular media and foreshadowed the modern media's love of spectacle (Joe the Plumber). Rob also points out another prophetic film, Network and I would like to add a third (always best to have a trilogy), Billy Wilder's "Ace in the Hole", also known as "The Big Carnival". Wilder's film is about a Chuck Tatum, a washed up newspaperman who exploits the story of a man trapped in a cave. Instead of helping the man out quickly, Tatum manipulates the situation and turns the site into a media circus. It foreshadows such news outlets like 'Fox News' which seeks to manufacture and manipulate the news it's covering as well as people's opinions of it.

'Ace in the Hole' didn't do well in it's day - it's dark and cynical and most audiences at the time felt it was over the top. Criterion released a great print of the film on dvd.

From IMDB:
When the film was released, it got bad reviews and lost money. The studio, without Billy Wilder's permission, changed the title to "The Big Carnival" to increase the box office take of the film. It didn't work. On top of that, Billy Wilder's next picture Stalag 17 (1953) was a hit and Billy Wilder expected a share of the Stalag 17 (1953)'s profits. Paramount accountants told him that since this picture lost money, the money it lost would be subtracted from the profits of Stalag 17 (1953).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten about "Ace In The Hole". I discovered it really late one night on TV and was amazed to find it was Wilder who had directed it. Yeah - Paramount screwed him on "Stalag 17" with this one - and they also tried some stupid marketing shit with Stalag so as not to offend the German market, something about making Otto Preminger Austrian or Lithuanian or something, and that being the final and insulting straw prompted Wilder to walk off the Paramount lot.

This has been such a resonant year for films like these which, I suppose, just goes to show how little we silly monkeys change regardless of how often or effectively our artists hold up their accurate and unflattering mirrors.

Doesn't mean we shouldn't keep on trying.


P.S. And thanks for the mention. :)