There Was a Crooked Man...

1970

Comedy / Western

118
IMDb Rating 7 10 3,733

Synopsis


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February 1, 2020

Cast

Burgess Meredith as Commander Egan Powell
Henry Fonda as Lt. j.g. Douglas A. Roberts
John Randolph as Cyrus McNutt
Kirk Douglas as Det. James McLeod
720p.WEB 1080p.WEB
1.11 GB
1280*720
English
NR
23.976 fps
126 min
P/S N/A / N/A
2.06 GB
1920×1080
English
NR
23.976 fps
126 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Nazi_Fighter_David 8 / 10 / 10

The unredeemable quality of Douglas' bandit undermines the humor of the film…

In making "There Was a Crooked Man" Joseph L. Mankiewicz set out with the intention of creating a cynical Western, based on the view that there is a little bit of badness even in the best of men… What emerges in this long and expert exercise is a film so thorough1y cynical, so negative in its view of the human species that the viewer is allowed no point of view of his own… For Kirk Douglas, the very crooked man of the title, the film gave scope for bravura playing but the characterization is black and utterly ruthless… Mankiewicz would have done well to consider the view that there is a little bit of goodness even in the worst of men… but the film remains admirable in its staging and in the performances of an exemplary cast… Douglas, wearing steel-rimmed spectacles and with his hair dyed red, appears at the beginning of the picture as a somewhat cultured bandit; he raids the home of a wealthy rancher and escapes with half a million dollars in cash... In making his escape, several of his men are shot to death and Douglas himself kills his surviving companion… Thus the swag is entirely his… He hides it in a rattlesnake pit in the desert but he is later spotted in a brothel by the rancher and we next see Douglas on his way to jail… In the prison wagon are five fellow felons: Hume Cronyn and John Randolph, a pair of con-men, religious fakers and implicitly homosexual; a huge homicidal Chinaman, played by Olympic athlete C. K. Yang in a screen debut; Michael Blodgett, a young man who accidentally killed his girl friend's father when suddenly interrupted in an act of love-making; and Warren Oates, a stupid gunman who shoots sheriff Henry Fonda in the leg when the peaceful, unarmed lawman tries to persuade him to surrender… These endearing rascals are then incarcerated in a cell with a dirty old fellow called 'The Missouri Kid,' played like a ferret by Burgess Meredith… The theme, like that of all prison pictures, is escape, and with Douglas openly proud of his hidden half-million, escape becomes inevitable and the wily bandit, a born leader of men, can take his pick not only of his accomplices but of the prison warden (Martin Gabel), a degenerate gentleman, as eager to leave, his post as any prisoner… However, a noisy fight breaks out among the prisoners and in trying to stop it the warden is killed… One irony leads to another and the new warden turns out to be Henry Fonda, a solidly honest, humane man who dedicates himself to penal reform… He quickly spots the officer-like qualities of Douglas and assigns him to supervising the building of a new dining hall… It is during the inauguration of the building, attended by the state governor and his guests, that Douglas elects to spark a revolt—his cover for escape… The motion picture is graphic in depicting the sweat and stench of life in a desert prison, and the frustration and despair of its inmates… The spirit of decency, exemplified by Fonda's warden, is almost a stimulating note in an atmosphere swirling with resentment and spite… Mankiewicz' film has some memorable moments: Douglas, in his opening robbery, commenting on the excellence of the fried chicken being served at the rancher's table; Hume Cronyn, passing himself off as a deaf mute at a church gathering, backing into a hot stove and yelling a profane curse; a pretty schoolteacher reciting Henley's 'Invictus' at the dining room ceremony, watched by hundreds of hungry eyes; and in the long chaos of the revolt, a furious montage of incidents, particularly the old Missouri Kid sitting, weeping because he has been in prison too long and hasn't the courage to leave "home," and Cronyn, like a firm-minded old wife, leading his companion back into their cell and telling him they will serve out their sentence…

Reviewed by theowinthrop 9 / 10 / 10

The Judgment of Paris

This is an interesting black comedy, from Joseph Mankiewicz, about the gullibility of man, and how greed can corrupt anyone. Henry Fonda is a lawman, in typical Fonda-style (before WARLOCK and the spaghetti westerns changed his image). He is a firm support for law and order. However, he has been shot and left lame by Warren Oates, a drunken outlaw. He may have to retire as a result sooner than he expected. At the start of the film we watch how Kirk Douglas (Paris Pitman) has robbed the home of Arthur O'Connor with his gang. They are killed off in one way or another. Pitman escapes with the money, and hides it in a hole full of rattlesnakes. But later he is captured. Pitman is sent to territorial prison, where he meets Oates, Burgess Meredith (as the legendary Missouri Kid), Hume Cronym and John Randolph (a pair of swindlers who are also a gay couple), and others. The warden is Martin Gabel, who soon makes it clear that if Douglas wants to be out sooner he needs the warden as a partner. But in a riot Gabel is killed, and Fonda is appointed the new warden. Fonda tries to reform the prison, improving facilities and setting up an honor system. Douglas, the total cynic, sneers at all this, and makes his own plans. He is not going to rot for two decades or so in prison while a fortune awaits for him. So he starts plotting to get out, and Fonda keeps watching to counter his plotting. I won't add anything else, but in the end one wonders if Paris Pitman's view of mankind is the truth of us all or not. The film has wonderful sharp comedy, including the comic put-downs of Cronyn when undercutting the pompous Randolph, and when one sees scenes like Burgess Meredith taking his first bath. I strongly recommend this film to fans of unusual westerns.

Reviewed by bkoganbing 9 / 10 / 10

The Bad In Every Man

For his next to last film Joseph Mankiewicz did his only western and it ain't the west of John Ford or Howard Hawks. There Was A Crooked Man starts with the proposition that every man if given sufficient reason will turn dishonest. Kirk Douglas has never been afraid to appear as evil, but next to his performance in The List of Adrian Messenger, the screen's never seen him as diabolically evil as Paris Pittman, Jr. in There Was A Crooked Man. And it's clear from the start just how bad he is when he shoots the only other gang member after robbing miserly Arthur O'Connell of his half a million dollar fortune that he keeps in the house because of distrust of banks. So nothing that he does after this should surprise us. But Kirk Douglas is a player of incredible charm, never more so when used for evil intentions. Eventually he's caught and sent to Territorial prison from where he collects a gang of sorts and plots an escape. A year after the Stonewall Riots homosexuality finally comes to the west and its depicted in two ways. First John Randolph and Hume Cronyn are a pair of aging gay con men who've pulled one con too many and are in the prison with Douglas in the same cell. Randolph's the flighty one, but Cronyn as it turns out has more talent and more common sense than just about everyone else in the film. That fact saves their lives. And that's quite a look of lust that repressed prison guard Bert Freed has for young Michael Blodgett who admittedly is quite something to lust after. Blodgett is scheduled to hang at an undetermined date, but Freed's willing to give him some special consideration for special favors. Which Blodgett is unwilling to give him. Blodgett's story is the most tragic one of the lot. He's a 17 year old kid who's caught by a most flirtatious girl's father who cries rape. As the father aims his shotgun, Blodgett throws a billiard ball and the blow is a fatal one. I've always thought if the kid had a good lawyer he could have gotten off, it was self defense. He's really the only innocent in this film. The great moral figure in this is Henry Fonda, who's a lawman shot in the performance of his duty and now given the job of prison warden. He's another repressed individual, doesn't smoke or drink, and looks with particular disdain on sexual promiscuity. Without giving away exactly what Fonda does in the end, it seems he has no other choice. Douglas in pulling off the jail break has made a total fool of him. They'll be all kinds of inquiries so for Fonda the self righteous his duty is clear unless he wants to kill himself. Which in some cultures would have been the answer. But There Was A Crooked Man should be seen for what happens to Kirk Douglas. It is one of the most priceless comeuppances ever delivered on screen. Besides Douglas, Fonda, and others I've mentioned look also for good performances from Warren Oates and Burgess Meredith as another two convicts that Douglas takes into his confidence. Just as man can rise to noble heights on some occasions, with a little temptation he can fall. That's the unvarnished message of There Was A Crooked Man.

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