Monday, January 4, 2010

'The Lonely Man' seeks company in a weak western

The Lonely Man (1957)
Starring: Jack Palance, Anthony Perkins, Elaine Aikin, and Neville Brand
Director: Henry Levin
Rating: Four of Ten

Jacob Wade (Palance), an aging gunfighter, who, among his many other problems, is going blind, seeks out his estranged son, Riley (Perkins), in a final attempt to forge a normal, peaceful life. But Jacob's past won't be put to rest so easy, and if psychotic gambler King Fisher (Brand) has his way, Jacob will be laid to rest.

"The Lonely Man" is a fairly run-of-the-mill western, with the plot being driven primarily by Jacob's desire to put violence behind him and attempt to up make up for all the years he wasn't part of Riley's life by teaching him all about busting broncos. The performances are about par for this sort of movie (which means they're pretty decent all around), and the film makes decent use of the natural surroundings. Unfortunately, the melodrama is slathered on so thick (particularly in the relationship between Jacob and Riley) that it drags the whole film down a notch. The horrendously stilted dialogue that is exchanged at many points during the film and pacing stumbles both near the beginning and at the middle hurt the film almost as much.

I've seen worst westerns than "The Lonely Man", but there are far better out there as well. The funnest part about the film are the presence of some of the bit-players, such as Lee Van Cleef (who has more hair on his head here than I think he ever appeared with in any other film), Elisha Cook (whose character doesn't whine even once in his repeated scenes) and Claude Akins (who plays a former partner of Jacob, and who makes for a far more sinister character than the lead villain).

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