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There Was A Crooked Man… Blu-ray Review

“There Was A Crooked Man…” is an overlooked western.

1970’s “There Was A Crooked Man…” revolves around a group of criminals all headed to a remote prison. There’s the cocky and duplicitous thief Paris, a young murderer set to hang (Coy), 2 con men (Dudley and Cyrus), a man who shot a Sheriff (Floyd), and a Chinese immigrant (Ah-Ping). Upon arrival they all share a cell together with the legendary Missouri Kid. Paris immediately thinks about breaking out, but the Missouri Kid says it is impossible. Given that Paris has stashed away a large loot, he believes he has some leverage and hopes to rope others into a breakout plan. Standing in the way of this plan however is the Sheriff Floyd shot (Lopeman) who just happens to become the new prison Warden.

The 1970s were a very hit-and-miss era for westerns, but “There Was A Crooked Man…” is certainly a noteworthy one. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, ‘Crooked’ is an unusual western to say the least. It plays more “The Great Escape” than a traditional western and has a comedic edge to it. Yes, there’s some dopey 70’s humor and music (and the title track) and a few racist and sexist moments that hamper it a tad bit, but those moments never ruin the film as a whole. The script by David Newton and Robert Benton is light on plot, but you never care because it’s very much a character centric story. You become invested in their plight and wonder what their future holds. What really elevates the plot, however, is the last 20 or so minutes. Not only does it cleverly reshape the narrative, but it provides a thrilling, dark, surprising, and ultimately ironic set of events. 

Since this is a character centric western, you might be wondering about the cast. To say this is an all-star cast is an understatement as Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oates, Burgess Meredith, Alan Hale and John Randolph are all featured players. Douglas steals the movies as Paris. He’s both likable and unlikable at the same time. He’s charming but untrustworthy. His scenes opposite Henry Fonda (who is great as always) are nothing short of electric. Honestly, I would have been happy just watching the two act opposite one another the entire runtime. Cronyn, Oates, Meredith, Hale, and Randolph all deliver memorable performances in their own right as well.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? Warner Archive does it again. This is an absolute pristine print.

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? Viewers can expect a nice clean 2.0 track.

Extras include a theatrical trailer and a vintage 10 minute featurette titled “On Location With There Was A Crooked Man…” which includes a wealth of set footage.

January 5, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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