A fiercely independent cowboy gets himself locked up in prison to escape with an old friend.A fiercely independent cowboy gets himself locked up in prison to escape with an old friend.A fiercely independent cowboy gets himself locked up in prison to escape with an old friend.
Like the film's Jack Burns Kirk Douglas has charted his own way through life in Hollywood the way Jack Burns does. Burns's problem is that he's a man born a century too late.
Run another of Kirk Douglas's classic westerns Man Without A Star side by side. Dempsey Rae in that film isn't too much different from Jack Burns, in fact they have opinions on certain subjects almost identical.
But the frontier that Dempsey dealt with in that film has changed, it just doesn't exist any more. But Burns won't recognize it. I'm also not so sure how much film and television have influenced 1962's Jack Burns in the way a cowboy should behave.
Kirk is returning to his home town from God knows what and meets up with Gena Rowlands who is married to his best friend Michael Kane. Kane's in jail for helping illegal immigrants cross the US/Mexican border. What to do but be a cowboy hero and bust him from jail. So Kirk gets himself in a nasty bar fight with one armed Bill Raisch and gets tossed in sheriff Walter Matthau's jail. While there Deputy George Kennedy works him over.
So when Kirk's ready to bust jail, Kane refuses to go to his surprise. But that doesn't stop Kirk who breaks loose and the chase is on.
The non-conformist part of Jack Burns certainly must have appealed to Kirk Douglas. He invests so much of himself in Burns it's hard to tell where Kirk leaves off and Burns begins. And he's one of the most appealing of all the roles Kirk Douglas has. You root for this law breaking maverick every step of the way.
Mention must also go to Walter Matthau as the wise and laconic sheriff who really does understand Douglas's mentality as no one else really does. In a lot of ways it's like the Charles Bronson classic Death Hunt where Mountie Lee Marvin truly is sorry he's on this particular job. Of course if Douglas had actually killed someone in eluding the law, Matthau's duty would have been clear.
The ending is truly an ironic one as the cowboy loses that part of him that makes him a unique American icon.
Absolutely don't miss Lonely Are The Brave when it is broadcast, especially fans of Kirk Douglas.
- Apr 13, 2008