52 user 34 critic

There Was a Crooked Man... (1970)

3:00 | Trailer
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.





Cast overview, first billed only:
Kirk Douglas ... Paris Pitman, Jr.
Henry Fonda ... Woodward W. Lopeman
Hume Cronyn ... Dudley Whinner
Warren Oates ... Floyd Moon
Burgess Meredith ... The Missouri Kid
John Randolph ... Cyrus McNutt
Lee Grant ... Mrs. Bullard
Arthur O'Connell ... Mr. Lomax
Martin Gabel ... Warden LeGoff
Michael Blodgett ... Coy Cavendish
C.K. Yang C.K. Yang ... Ah-Ping
Alan Hale Jr. ... Tobaccy (as Alan Hale)
Victor French ... Whiskey
Claudia McNeil ... Madam
Bert Freed ... Skinner


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


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... See more »


Comedy | Western


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Final film of James Seay. 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 in the neck by the snake and dying, the warden takes his body back to the prison on the mule. The widow's ranch is on the way back and Lopeman must have returned her horse and recovered the prison mule. See more »


Woodward Lopeman: [looking at the oft-used barrel bathtubs] Which one of these is the freshest?
Paris Pittman Jr.: [sardonically] I wouldn't let a cow drink out of any of them.
See more »

Alternate Versions

A scene was shot where Miss Jessie Brundidge runs away from the prison completely naked, after having had her clothes torn off piece by piece over the course of the prison riot. Although two images from the shooting of this scene exist, proving that it was indeed shot, it was never a part of the final, finished film for U.S. release, and nor was it ever reinstated for either the VHS or, later, DVD release of the film. Whether the scene was ever added to any of the international releases of the film, however, is unknown. See more »


Referenced in Micmacs (2009) See more »


Sweet Betsy from Pike
Traditional American ballad
lyrics written by John A. Stone prior to 1858
version sung by Alan Hale
See more »

User Reviews

very good... but could have been great
17 January 2011 | by Marco_TrevisiolSee all my reviews

There is so much to like and appreciate about this film that while it's an enjoyable experience, it isn't the great film it should have been.

Firstly, the script is largely excellent. It has a good plot and characters backed up by interesting dialogue. It has a top-notch cast delivering almost universally quality performances. As well, it has some interesting themes and issues to explore, especially in the central battle between Fonda's warden and Douglas' prisoner. The scene where Douglas confronts Fonda in the just built eating hall and exposes his self-serving interests and hypocrisy, is a great example of top-class screen writing.

All the elements are there for a classic (or at least semi-classic) Western, but it doesn't quite reach that. Why? I think a big problem for this is Joseph L. Mankiewicz's direction. As other users have commented, the tone of the film is jerky and erratic and he has to take prime blame for that. But even in pure cinematic terms, it isn't well directed. Scenes that should have been highlights (such as the robbery that opens the film) lack punch because they're ineptly handled.

I think another major problem is the cinematography. The glossy, bright and flashy look of TWACM seems more in tune for a jovial, knockabout, straightforward Western. For a film full of cynicism, complexity (as well as its share of humour) and some rather depressing elements, it's a distracting and misjudged look. The much more realistic style that was to become much more common in films as the 1970s progressed (e.g. 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller') would have been much more apt.

Overall, an under-appreciated and underrated film worth seeking out. But also a bit of a missed opportunity.

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

19 September 1970 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

There Was a Crooked Man... See more »

Filming Locations:

Mojave Desert, Arizona, USA See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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