**** out of 5
"I met a lot of hard boiled eggs in day, but you- you're about 20 minutes!"
One of Billy Wilder's darkest films, this isn't a typical noir. It has none of the standard superficial elements that most folks think of with noir cinema- Kirk Douglas as the lead plays a character who is far too twisted to be considered an anti-hero, and the dislike he has for Jan Sterling's character makes her something less than a femme fatale, and more of just a Femme Despicable, just one more tool for Billy Wilder's biting satirical indictment of the media-hungry, self-serving, callousness so present in the culture of both that time, and our own. But as dark and unlikeable as he makes Douglas's greed-driven reporter, it only makes the rest of the people in the film look worse by comparison, from the crooked sheriff and contractor who agree to his plan to delay the rescue of the man trapped in a 400-year-old Indian cliff dwellings, to the newspaper owners clamoring for exclusive rights to Douglas's story, to the crowds of spectators and profiteers greedily lapping up the story and the money it brings them. By the climax of the film the tragedy has grown into a literal media circus, complete with ferris wheels and all!
But the essential central tenet of noir is very much in force- wrong choices lead to certain judgment. By the time Douglas realizes the error of his ways, it is too late, not only for the man in the hole, but for his greedy wife, and particularly for Douglas himself.