Although it never quite escapes the pitfalls of pretension, this film was Kirk Douglas's bid for the affections of the art house crowd, and it remains one of his best efforts. The star plays unreconstructed "rugged individual" Jack Burns, who rides throughout the modern west knocking down man-made fences. Visiting his equally rebellious friend Paul Bondi (Michael Kane), Burns deliberately gets himself thrown in jail to be nearer his pal. Frustrated that Bondi doesn't want to join Burns on the road, Burns breaks out of jail, thereby becoming a fugitive. His trail is dogged by Sheriff Johnson (Walter Matthau), a frustrated frontiersman who secretly admires the freewheeling Burns. Meanwhile, a truck driver (Carroll O'Connor) is ominously driving down the highway with a truckload of toilets. If you think there's supposed to be some symbolism in this seemingly peripheral character, you're absolutely right. Bill Raisch, a genuine amputee who played the one-armed man on TV's The Fugitive, is Douglas' surly opponent in the café brawl sequence. Filmed on location in New Mexico, Lonely are the Brave was adapted by Dalton Trumbo from Edward Abbey's novel Brave Cowboy.
by Hal Erickson synopsis