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Burt Lancaster's last attempt at directing was in this sadly neglected film, The Midnight Man. I was lucky enough to catch it theaters back in the day and a few times on television. Why it was panned by so many critics is as big a mystery as the one Burt Lancaster has to solve.
In The Midnight Man Lancaster plays a former police detective who did a stretch for homicide himself, he killed his wife's lover. Now released from prison and on parole, he gets a job courtesy of an old police buddy Cameron Mitchell as a campus security guard at a small southern college. No sooner does he arrive there than the murder of a pretty and popular coed occur and an incriminating diary she kept goes missing.
Of course this is the job of the local sheriff Harris Yulin, but Lancaster's instincts just take over and before long three other murders occur. Of course they all arise out of the initial incident.
The Midnight Man is a good and complex tale of murder and blackmail and was shot on Clemson College campus on location for a good ring of authenticity. Lancaster and co-director/writer Roland Kibbee put together a very good cast. Note the following roles besides those I've already mentioned: Morgan Woodward as a southern senator and father of the first victim, Susan Clark as a faculty member who takes a romantic interest in Lancaster, and Ed Lauter and Mills Watson as a pair of Deliverance type inbreds who are working for someone who really wants Burt out of the way. Burt's son Bill Lancaster is in the cast as another college student who also winds up a murder victim.
Some of the results will surprise you and what I like about the film is that Lancaster probably could have covered for a couple of the perpetrators, but his own sense of integrity wouldn't let him do that. Best scene in the film for action fans is his escape from those Deliverance types who capture him and are awaiting instructions. At least we know they're no good. Who else winds up on the wrong side of the law will surprise you and you will keep guessing until the end.
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