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There Was a Crooked Man...
There Was a Crooked Man
Actors: Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Comedy, Drama
R     2006     2hr 6min

Arizona Territorial Prison inmate Paris Pittman is a schemer, a charmer and quite popular among his fellow convicts - especially with $500,000 in stolen loot hidden away and a plan to escape and recover it. New Warden Wood...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Creators: Harry Stradling Jr., Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Gene Milford, C.O. Erickson, David Newman, Robert Benton
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Kirk Douglas, Westerns, Comedy, Drama
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 12/19/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1970
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1970
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 2hr 6min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Just fun...dang it
g. edward weitl | 10/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Look, if you're looking for a film that'll move mountains, forget it. You cannot take There Was a Crooked Man seriously. That said, if you're looking for a fun film, with a screenplay that departs just enough from the standard conventions of the Western genre to be interesting, then check this out. Think meatloaf and crinkle fries as opposed to steak and taters. The storyline is imaginative, the central characters are likeable albeit, mostly irredeemable, and the dialogue is humorous...even the awkward and slightly bad late sixties baroque pop score somehow works, even though you might cringe the first time you hear it open the film. There is enough entertainment value here to merit a DVD release. Take it easy...don't be a'll have fun with it if you allow yourself."
What exactly is it? Answer: Incredible | Austin,TX | 02/05/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I sat down to watch this movie, I expected to see a movie much in the tradition of, say, The Wild Bunch or The Searchers. You know, tough guys on horses being tough. What I ended up watching was a western-comedy that I honestly saw as the grandfather of Blazing Saddles. Honestly, to me, this movie is that funny. Douglas, Fonda, Burgess Meredith, and the always awesome Warren Oates all give performances worthy of all the praise you can give them. Prison movie? It just happens to be set there, and serves as the backdrop for the hilarious posturing going on between Douglas and Fonda. Right from the start, you'll be hooked."
Western Comedy with a few surprises
Rob | Phoenix, AZ | 09/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I first saw this movie on an Amtrak train. Although I was only 7 at the time it made a lasting impression on me. I couldn't remember the name of this movie or the stars, just the story line.I finally caught this movie on the Western channel and it is just as good as I remembered it. Not your typical Western, it's a comedy with a lot of star power behind it and just enough twists to keep it fresh.Chances are you have seen this film before if you are looking this far since this film never received the notoriety that it deserves. If by chance, you have stumbled upon this title, check it out you'll be pleasantly surprised."
Cynical, witty and murderous...a fine, jaundiced view of hum
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"How could someone not like a western full of genial and persuasive cynicism, full of improbable piety and stuffed with vivid characters, from the two leads, Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda, down to just about everyone else. And look at the pedigree: Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, who gave us All About Eve, Letter to Three Wives and that most elegant of cynical films, Five Fingers, and with a screenplay by David Newman and Robert Benton, just after their first effort, Bonnie and Clyde, made their bones for them in Hollywood. Well, the answer is, an awful lot of people didn't like it and even more ignored it...including the studio executives. There Was a Crooked Man was buried after it finally was released, with almost no marketing dollars devoted to it.

I think the studio had no idea what to do with the film. Not only is it a witty and cynical western, it has a climax which is mordantly violent and unexpectedly ruthless (especially if you weren't paying attention to a brief scene at the start of the film). Not just that, we wind up with one of the leads dead (snake bite to the throat, guaranteed to make you flinch) and the other...well, you may find yourself pondering just who is the crooked man all the fuss was about.

Me, I like the movie a lot. It's not perfect; it's too long; there are a couple of sub-themes that could have been established faster. Still, for an amusing, sardonic look at human nature, There Was a Crooked Man is hard to beat.

Paris Pitman, and don't forget the Jr., please (Kirk Douglas), is a charming, eye-glass wearing rogue. He could talk a coyote out of a chicken, one character says. He's a natural leader, smart and calculating. He's also a robber and a killer. He stole a whole lot of money and, we begin to notice, his gang one by one doesn't make it far. Paris does, but eventually is caught because of his fondness for easy women. Woodward Lopeman (Henry Fonda) is an upright lawman who doesn't drink, take bribes or, as far as we can tell, consort with easy women. The two meet at a desolate territorial prison set in the middle of nothing but desert scrub and blistering heat. Pitman is doing time for the robbery. However, he hid his loot before he was captured and he plans to find a way to escape. Lopeman is the new warden, determined to rehabilitate the prisoners when he can, and at least be fair to them when he can't. Before long Pitman has recruited his cellmates on a carefully organized breakout. They're an odd bunch, but Pitman has a role for each one. The Missouri Kid (Burgess Meredith) is an aged coot who a long time ago was a skilled bank robber. Dudley Whinner (Hume Cronyn) and Cyrus McNutt (John Randolph) are failed con artists, just a bickering old married couple with Whinner the shrewd one. Floyd Moon (Warren Oates) is a backstabber from way back who has never had a friend. He begins to think Paris is one. Coy Cavendish (Michael Blodgett) is a dumb but eager teen-ager who is scheduled to hang for inadvertently killing the father of the girl he was about to know too well. Ah-Ping (C. K. Yang) is a big, tough, silent Chinese who decides to follow Pitman.

We spend a lot of time in that sweltering prison observing how Lopeman tries to improve things and how Pitman step by step organizes the breakout. There will be explosions, misdirection, food fights with fried chicken and mashed potatoes, stolen dynamite...and deliberate killings, cold-blooded and murderous set-ups, and sacrifices those doing the sacrificing hadn't planned on. You can't help grinning at the cynicism or being a little revolted at some of the cold-blooded murders.

Pitman, of course, escapes and heads for the place he hid his loot, a natural cave with an opening just small enough to reach down and snag the bags stuffed with cash. Did I mentioned, Pitman chose the place because it was a nesting ground for rattlers. After we have experienced the cold-blooded cynicism of one of the two leads, it's nice to report that the movie ends with a satisfyingly bit of good-natured cynicism on the part of the other.

The DVD transfer looks just fine. There are a couple of extras with little interest. One is a featurette named On Location With There Was a Crooked Man. It seems to have been made at the time of the movie as a puff-piece promoting Michael Blodgett.

If you're a jaundiced observer of human nature, I think you'll enjoy this movie."