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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Much of the filming was done in the Joshua Tree National Monument, 50 miles northeast of Indio, California. This was the first time a movie was allowed to be filmed in the 500,000-acre National Park. The location was so remote that a wagon-rutted road had to be bulldozed and widened for a distance of three miles to provide vehicular access. See more »
One of the escaping prisoners is shot from behind and falls on his stomach. Although there is an exit wound in his right abdomen, when he falls, there's apparently no entrance wound. 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 »
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 »
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.
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