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There Was a Crooked Man... (1970)

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A charming but totally ruthless criminal is sent to a remote Arizona prison. He enlists the help of his cellmates in an escape attempt with the promise of sharing his hidden loot.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Woodward W. Lopeman
Dudley Whinner
Floyd Moon
The Missouri Kid
Cyrus McNutt
Mrs. Bullard
Mr. Lomax
Warden LeGoff
Coy Cavendish
C.K. Yang ...
Tobaccy (as Alan Hale)
Claudia McNeil ...


Charm, intelligence and success in criminal career doesn't prevent Paris Pitman Jr. to start doing ten years in prison, in the middle of the Arizona desert. However, those years should pass quickly because of a $500,000 loot previously stashed away. New idealistic warden would only make Pitman think of getting his fortune even sooner. He starts to manipulate everyone to achieve his goal. Written by Dragan Antulov <dragan.antulov@altbbs.fido.hr>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


THE CROOKED BUNCH...locked in a living hell-hole! See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 September 1970 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Zwei dreckige Halunken  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Warner Brothers' front office was very worried about this film. It was shot over a five-month period in the first half of 1969, but it was well over a year before it was given any commercial showings. Like Joseph L. Mankiewicz's previous film, The Honey Pot (1967), it opened in Britain some two months before the US, in late 1970. According to Mankiewicz's biographer, Kenneth Geist, his preferred version of the film ran to 165 minutes; however, Warners objected to this and re-cut the film, to his great irritation, to a more manageable 126 minutes. One notable casualty of this re-cutting was the prominently-billed Lee Grant, a very well-known actress at the time, whose appearance is now barely a couple of minutes in length. See more »


After escaping from prison, Pitman visits the widow Bullard and leaves the prison mule in her corral and takes a horse. After being bitten by the snake and dying, the warden takes his body back on the horse he rode, which now is a mule again. See more »


Paris Pittman Jr.: [after discussing his hidden loot and escape plans] I'm putting my trust in all of you. Keep quiet.
The Missouri Kid: Like asking a pack of coyotes to keep quiet about a dead horse!
See more »


Edited into La classe américaine (1993) See more »


There Was A Crooked Man...
By Charles Strouse and Lee Adams
Sung by Trini López
See more »

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User Reviews

Outlandish Western black comedy about a hugely sympathetic master thief making plans to getaway from a prison
12 September 2016 | by (Santander Spain) – See all my reviews

A charming but totally roguish and ruthless criminal called Paris Pitman Jr. (Kirk Douglas) is detained for robbing and condemned for a long time in a remote , impregnable territorial prison . There Pitman to start doing ten years in an isolated jail but being supported by a motley group of inmates (Burguess Meredith , Warren Oates , John Randolph , Hume Cronyn) . All of them are surveyed by an assorted team of stiff wardens (Victor French , Gene Evans , Alan Hale Jr.) . However , those years should pass quickly because of a $500,000 loot previously stashed away . But then , an innovative and incorruptible warden chief (Henry Fonda) takes over the Arizona town's prison and he has some new ideas about law and order . Scurrilous Pitman enlists the help of his cellmates in an escape attempt with the promise of sharing his hidden loot . At the end one of them lived happily ever after .

Offbeat Western black comedy displays an excellent plethora of actors , as main as secondary cast and with fine acting all around . This is a richly amusing tale , including hilarious touches , tongue-in-cheek , twists and turns . Interesting and fun script written by two prestigious screenwriters : David Newman and Robert Benton . Overlong Western ; however, Warners objected Mankiewicz's preferred version of the film (it ran to 165 minutes) and re-cut the film , to his great irritation , to a more manageable 126 minutes . One notable casualty of this re-cutting was the prominently-billed Lee Grant , a very well-known actress at the time, whose appearance is now barely a couple of minutes in length . Enjoyable performance by Kirk Douglas as a charming , intelligent and successful criminal who eventually imprisoned is sent in the middle of the Arizona desert ; here Douglas steals the show playing one of the smiling rogues that he did so well . Henry Fonda is perfect as a new idealistic warden who starts to manipulate everyone to achieve his goal , to take the stash . Douglas and Fonda dominate this western comedy as two immensely likable roguish men making plans to collect the buried loot . And brief nudism by today's standards, what remains is fairly tame : a couple glimpses of the bare backside of Kirk Douglas, a glimpse of a bare breast here and there and some mildly risqué drawings . Impressive production design , in fact a realistic 1880s territorial prison replica was constructed on four acres in the high-desert country of the Joshua Tree National Monument , being designed by Edward Carrere , Oscar-winning designer of such movies as Wind Bunch (1969) , it was one of the most massive location sets ever built . As the prison set took seven weeks to build , when construction began , it was snowing , when it ended, the temperature was 100 degrees . Furthermore , it contains a colorful cinematography in Panavision by Harry Stradling Jr . Lively and vivid musical score by Charles Strouse , adding some catching songs sung by Trini López .

The motion picture was compellingly made by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909-1993) , it was promoted as a "cynical western" , the film was released on Christmas Day 1970 and it did poorly at the holiday box office . Mankiewicz is considered to be one of the best directors of film history . He directed excellent pictures in all kinds of genres , such as intriguing dramas : ¨All about Eva¨ (50) , ¨Five Fingers¨ (51) , ¨The barefoot Contessa¨ (54) , ¨Suddenly , Last summer¨ (59) , ¨The honey pot¨ (67) ; Noir Film : ¨House of strangers¨ (49) , ¨No way out¨(50) ; Musical : ¨Guys and dolls¨ (55) , Fantasy : ¨The ghost and Mrs. Muir¨ (47) , and Historical : ¨Julius Caesar¨ (53) and ¨Cleopatra¨(63) .

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