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There Was a Crooked Man... (1970)

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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,303 users  
Reviews: 30 user | 17 critic

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

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Paris Pitman, Jr.
...
Woodward W. Lopeman
...
Dudley Whinner
...
Floyd Moon
...
The Missouri Kid
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Cyrus McNutt
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Mrs. Bullard
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Mr. Lomax
...
Warden LeGoff
...
Coy Cavendish
C.K. Yang ...
Ah-Ping
...
Tobaccy (as Alan Hale)
...
Whiskey
Claudia McNeil ...
Madam
...
Skinner
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Storyline

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

Plot Keywords:

arizona | prison | desert | escape | warden | See more »

Taglines:

Once upon a time, there was a crooked man. When he was good, he was very, very good. And when he was bad, it was murder...


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 December 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Zwei dreckige Halunken  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

A realistic 1880s territorial prison replica was constructed on four acres in the high-desert country of the Joshua Tree National Monument. Designed by Edward Carrere, Oscar-winning designer of such movies as The Wild Bunch (1969), it was one of the most massive location sets ever built. The prison's 20-foot-high, four-feet-thick walls enclosed 14 buildings, including a guards' barracks, warden's quarters, mess hall, kitchen, hospital, blacksmith shop, a mule shed, corral, seven guard towers, a solitary confinement cell and a gallows. Unlike a typical movie set, the buildings had to be roofed because aerial footage of the location would be filmed. Some 80 loads of rocks were trucked in (and later removed) to create the enormous hard-labor rock pile in the movie. Since no indigenous plants could be harmed, thousands of desert plants also had to be trucked to the location. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Woodward Lopeman: [as Paris is leaving the room] Why do you work at it so hard proving to yourself you're a sonuvabitch?
Paris Pittman Jr.: [Stopping and turning] Because I am. It's my profession , and I'm on top.
See more »

Connections

Edited into La classe américaine (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
The Bad In Every Man
25 May 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

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.


11 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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