Review: The Midnight Man
Burt Lancaster, a former cop who has recently served time for the manslaughter of his wife and her lover, has to take the crummy midnight shift of a security guard gig at a small town (in South Carolina) local college. It’s the closest thing to his natural line of work that he is allowed to do. His buddy Cameron Mitchell (also a former cop) got him the gig, and shares with Lancaster a need to snoop where it’s not wanted, and likely hazardous to his health. Not surprisingly, Lancaster discovers the dead body of a co-ed (Catherine Bach), daughter of a powerful Senator (Morgan Woodward), and with connections to a Psych professor (Robert Quarry), and earns him the ire of not only local sheriff Harris Yulin (who thinks it’s an open and shut case when an ‘obvious’ culprit is quickly found), but just about everyone else in town. Susan Clark is his one ally, his foxy parole officer whom he strikes up a relationship with. Charles Tyner is a perverted, religious zealot janitor (i.e. Prime suspect numero friggin’ uno!), Ed Lauter is one of a trio of local rednecks somehow involved in the plot, and Lancaster’s friend and frequent co-star Nick Cravat has a brief cameo as the campus gardener.
1974 crime-mystery flick written and directed by both Roland Kibbee and star Lancaster (Kibbee being the screenwriter of several Lancaster films including “Vera Cruz”, “The Crimson Pirate” and “Valdez is Coming”, whilst Lancaster had previously directed “The Kentuckian” back in the 50s), features an overly confusing (but interesting) plot, and a slow pace, but an interesting array of characters and performances.
Mitchell steals his every scene, Tyner has a terrific showy part, and Bach (Daisy Duke gets to play a bit of a bad girl here) is particularly startling as the deceased, but everyone’s pretty much fine here. You’ll keep watching it even when you’re lost with the plot. Lancaster’s back-story is especially poorly integrated into things, and the backwoods family seem to come in from a different story altogether. Based on a David Anthony novel, it’s pretty compulsive viewing.