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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $19.97
RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes
· Vintage Featurette
· Theatrical Trailer

The Pitch

Cool Hand Luke by way of The Great Escape, without any sense of urgency, good filmmaking, or charm.

The Humans

Alan Hale, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Burgess Meredith, Warren Oates, John Randolph, Hume Cronyn

The Nutshell

Kirk Douglas plays the titular crooked man, Paris Pitman Jr. who starts the film off by robbing a wealthy family of $500,000. He hides the money in a snake den, is quickly apprehended, and thrown in the slammer. In jail he meets an assortment of low lives, he tells them of his hidden stash, and quickly assembles a team and a plan to get the hell out of there. Henry Fonda is the warden of the jail, he’s taken it upon himself to turn these crooks around for the better, and he plans on using Paris Pitman to do it.

"No, the chicken’s good…seriously."

The Lowdown

Imagine if at the end of Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, that the Ocean gang had busted into Terry Benedict’s casino armed with rifles, had each taken a turn shooting Terry Benedict, and then Danny Ocean himself performed the coup de grace with a rock…suddenly it’s just not fun anymore.

Well that’s the exact problem that There Was a Crooken Man has. It has no idea what kind of film it wants to be. Through most of its running time it tries to be a fun, comedy distraction. Whether it’s actually fun or not (it’s not) can be left up to the viewer. On the other hand, it wants to be a violent, subversive western in the vain of a Sam Peckinpah film. The film gets surprisingly violent towards the end, and while I have no problem with violence in film, the violence in this just seems unwarranted and tacked on, trying to send the movie out “with a bang.”

Kirk Douglas, not the master of hide and seek.

After Alan Hale, the two big names of the film are Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda. Douglas gets to work some smarmy charm on everybody in the film, and gets to play a few good scenes against Mr. Fonda. Henry Fonda seems like perhaps this was a paycheck film for him. Burgess Meredith is part of the team as well, playing The Missouri Kid, a famous train robber. He’s the best part of the movie, and he’s sadly wasted, forgotten about 15 minutes before the movie is even finished. Hume Cronyn and John Randolph play well off each other as a traveling conman team, they’re the Abbot and Costello of the film.

If anything, the film reinforces the notion of how important it is to have a main character who cares for more then just himself, or is even remotely likeable in the first place. And while I know that there are films that have done exactly that, and done it well, this is not one of those films. There’s just something “off” about the film, which is surprising considering the pedigree of the cast and filmmakers behind it. So unless you have always desperately wanted to see Burgess Meredith shoot Alan Hale in the stomach, this is a film you can be okay with skipping out on.

The Gaze of Fonda was too much for some of the cast to take.

The Package

This is pretty barebones. An old, original featurette of the film, and a few trailers are contained within.

4 out of 10