Ace in the Hole
By Christopher Null
What follows is genius, as Tatum engineers the story to be far bigger than it really is: He colludes with a rescue engineer, a smarmy sheriff, and the wife (Jan Sterling) of the trapped caver to ensure that he's kept in the earth as long as possible. Rather than simply shore up some of the cave passages (Tatum can actually crawl to within a few feet of the guy), he convinces everyone to dig a new tunnel all the way to our poor trapped victim. This gives Tatum time to write more stories, sell them at top dollar to other newspapers, become a major celebrity in his own right, and land piles of cash.
Naturally, he's going to lose his soul in the process. The only question is how soon, and how badly.
By Ed Gonzalez
Ace in the Hole (film)
I ruled this out because 1) I figured Indian ruins were protected even in 1951, and 2) the ruin was sitting out in the open, at ground level. Most ancestral Puebloan ("Anasazi") ruins are in hidden alcoves or halfway up cliffs.
The rest of the premise--that ancestral Puebloans dug tunnels into mountains and hid treasure there--is phony. So is the claim that the peak, called the "Mountain of the Seven Vultures," is cursed. But no one in a position of authority confirms these claims. We can believe the white man invented them after the Indians were gone.
Tatum certainly doesn't believe there's a treasure or curse. He exploits the legends to write his ticket out of Albuquerque and back to the big leagues.
Other Indian bits:
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The Hollywood Reporter called it "ruthless and cynical...a distorted study of corruption and mob psychology that...is nothing more than a brazen, uncalled-for slap in the face of two respected and frequently effective American institutions--democratic government and the free press."
Time Out London wrote, "As a diatribe against all that is worst in human nature, it has moments dipped in pure vitriol." TV Guide called it "a searing example of writer-director Billy Wilder at his most brilliantly misanthropic" and adds, "An uncompromising portrait of human nature at its worst, the film . . . stands as one of the great American films of the 1950s."
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.