The Lonely Man (1957) DVD Review: An Equally Lonely Movie

Who's ready for a little PnP? Perkins and Palance, I mean.
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As soon as the brooding, bellowing, and otherwise lamentable sounds of Tennessee Ernie Ford's voice starts to croon the titular theme song, you get the feeling that the 1957 Paramount Picture b-western The Lonely Man is an appropriately titled affair. And it is, too; the entire film suffers from a deep case of severe depression and isolation from the whole of humanity - so much so, that Paramount even stopped distributing the film on DVD a while back. Recently, however, the Warner Archive added this one to their ever-growing collection of odds and ends, with this one most assuredly falling under the "odds" category.

The lonely movie focuses on aging bad guy Jacob Wade (Jack Palance, sporting a mustache that every bloody hipster in the world should aspire to achieve), who wanders back into the town he used to reside with his family in one day - completely out of the blue, just like the tone of the film - with the hope of patching things up with his estranged now-grown son, Riley (Anthony Perkins). Following the suicide of this mother some ten years ago (this movie is all about the happy like that), Riley has become a reclusive lad who spends his time feeling sorry for himself and blaming his father for the death of his mother. But Jacob manages to pull the boy out of the deep dark pit of despair he's in somehow, and takes him on a journey across the dusty countryside.

It is there that Riley learns being the son of a famous outlaw is not what it's cracked up to be. In fact, he gets the shit beat out of him by a sheriff in one town, before the depressing duo wind up at Jacob's ranch. There, Jacob tries to wrangle Riley into the fine art of breaking in wild horses, which our younger anti-hero finds a modest degree of interest in thanks to the inclusion of a lonely woman (Elaine Aiken, whose career in film was just as lonely) - a younger love interest of Jacob's who naturally begins to feel something for the younger, even-more-damaged near-manchild individual affectionately known as Riley.

Naturally, a movie about a miserable outlaw, his miserable estranged son, and the equally-miserable mistress of the two out in the middle of nowhere can't go on without any sort of villainous element, so enter the great Neville Brand as a man from Jacob's past with a serious score to settle (wait, did the makers of Red Dead Redemption watch this one before they sat down to write their video game script?), and who begins to gun his way down to the source of his own misery. Joining him on his personal vendetta to be the least-likable character in a movie of unlikable characters are character actors Lee Van Cleef (who, I must admit, looks a bit miserable here), Elisha Cook Jr. (whom, reportedly, once approached my own estranged father in a JC Penney's asking him if he worked there before promptly turning around and walking away when he found out he didn't), and Adam Williams.

Warner Archive's MOD DVD brings us the previous Paramount DVD (with revised artwork replacing that of the other on the pressed disc itself), and the disc sports the same language (English and French) and subtitle (English) tracks. It also houses the same extras as the Paramount release: none whatsoever - which is something that is ultimately somewhat depressing. Oh, have I pointed out yet that The Lonely Man is a bit of a downer unto itself as well? While the concept of Perkins and Palance working side-by-side in a moving picture makes for the possibility of greatness in one's mind, I can't say I'm impressed with the way it was handled here. The project was obviously one for Paramount's B department, and the fact that this one has slipped through the cracks over the years is sadly understandable.

And I mean that from the bottom of my fatherless, clinically depressed heart.

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