There Was a Crooked Man . . . has a crooked plot that is neither comedy nor convincing drama. Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Hume Cronyn, Warren Oates and Burgess Meredith are the formidable elements that don’t jell in this picaresque tale set in a bleak western desert prison. It is the type of action drama in which neither the actors nor director appear to believe the script or characters.
Douglas is the crooked man of title who steals $500,000 from Arthur O’Connell and is caught in a bordello literally with his pants down when voyeur O’Connell recognizes him through the peephole.
Fonda plays it straight as the saintly sheriff who becomes an idealistic prison reformer, only to have his principles literally blow up in his face when Douglas organizes a riot and break-out.