Case Number 02834: Small Claims Court


Paramount // 1957 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 30th, 2003

The Charge

Even cowboys get the blues.

The Case

Oscar winner Jack Palance (City Slickers, Batman) is Jacob Wade, an outlaw with a cross to bear: his past. Jacob has killed many men, and as he's grown older he's tried to carve out a respectable life for himself as a law abiding citizen. However, every town Jacob rides into wants nothing to do with a man sporting such a rotten reputation. To make matters worse, a few notorious killers, led by the vile Blackburn (Claude Akins, Rio Bravo, TV's BJ and the Bear), are also out to take Jacob down. Complicating matters further is Jacob's strained relationship with his son Riley (Anthony Perkins, Fear Strikes Out, Psycho) whom he abandoned as a child, and Ada Marshall (Elaine Aiken, Caddyshack), a woman whom Jacob has been intimate with. With the help of a shady rider (Robert Middleton, Friendly Persuasion), Jacob, Riley, and Ada begin a new life performing such stimulating activities as shoeing horses and staring bitterly at each other in the blazing midday sun. Will this haggard gunman ever find piece of mind among the cacti and saddles? Or is he forever doomed to a life of quiet discontent?

Here's one of those little inconsequential '50s westerns that would have gone into total obscurity had it not been for its two famous faces (Perkins and Palance). As it stands, The Lonely Man is a movie in the vein of Clint Eastwood's superior Unforgiven -- it deals with the redemption and solitude of a former gunslinger grappling with his own mortality. Unfortunately, that's where the comparisons end. Whereas Unforgiven was powerful and acclaimed, The Lonely Man feels about as dry and baron as the desserts featured in the film. The story is a simple set up that includes Jacob and Riley dealing with their strained relationship, Riley and Ada struggling with romantic feelings for each other, and Jacob preparing for what will be the inevitable showdown with the bad guys. It's all about as complicated as a ten piece jigsaw puzzle. Jack Palance plays Jacob with a quiet stare that lets you know he's killed many a-man, and ain't afraid to do it again. As played by Anthony Perkins, the character of Riley is a sniveling mama's boy who only comes alive during the last 10 minutes of the film. Otherwise, Perkins stomps around the screen sulking because his pappy wasn't around when he was a kid (never minding the fact that Palance and Perkins only have a 13 year age difference between them...). The rest of the cast is made up of stock old west characters that flutter on and off screen quickly and without any impact on the audience or the story. Maybe the movie's biggest flaw is Henry Levin's (Journey to the Center of the Earth) restrained direction -- just when you think something exciting is going to happen, everyone just sort of stands around and emotes. It's hardly the stuff that good westerns are made of. Upon its theatrical release in 1957, the film came and went quickly, doing very little for the careers of anyone involved. While The Lonely Man is an intriguing footnote on Perkins and Palance's respective resumes, biographical history is about all this movie's good for.

The Lonely Man is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with an anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 TVs. This black and white picture looks excellent with solid blacks, whites and grays throughout. Though there are a few minor flaws in the image (including a slight amount of dirt and grain), overall this is a fine looking transfer for a mostly forgettable western. Fans should be pleased to see this picture in such good shape. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English and French. There's not a whole lot to say about this mix -- the dialogue, music, and effects are in good shape, and that's about it. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English.

To no one's surprise, The Lonely Man is void of even a single extra feature.

Review content copyright © 2003 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)

* English

Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb