Dripping with cynicism, There Was a Crooked Man is not to everyone's taste, but its black comedy has an ample share of rewards for those for whom "bitter" is not a bad word. David Newman and Robert Benton's screenplay is unrelenting, but its unflinching determination to go its own way gives it a flavor and flair that are unique. Unfortunately, allegedly due to cuts made to bring down the length of the film, the crucial character of Warden Lopeman is not fleshed out properly; rather than gradually changing over the course of the film, he undergoes an unacceptable about face that damages the story's credibility and dilutes its power. Henry Fonda does extremely well given this major flaw in the writing, but even an actor as gifted as he cannot make the change credible. Kirk Douglas is in excellent form, with evil and power exuding from every pore, and the supporting cast is equally good. Special praise is due Burgess Meredith, whose Missouri Kid is amazingly complex, but Hume Cronyn, John Randolph, and Warren Oates are all top notch as well. Imperfect it may be, but Crooked delivers a powerful punch.
by Craig Butler review