The Midnight Man (1974 film)

The Midnight Man is a 1974 American mystery film starring and co-directed by Burt Lancaster. The film also stars Susan Clark, Cameron Mitchell, Morgan Woodward, Harris Yulin, Robert Quarry, Joan Lorring, Lawrence Dobkin, Ed Lauter, Mills Watson, Charles Tyner and Catherine Bach.[1]

The Midnight Man
film poster
Directed byRoland Kibbee
Burt Lancaster
Produced byRoland Kibbee
Burt Lancaster
Screenplay byRoland Kibbee
Burt Lancaster
Based onThe Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man by David Anthony
StarringBurt Lancaster
Susan Clark
Cameron Mitchell
Morgan Woodward
Harris Yulin
Robert Quarry
Joan Lorring
Lawrence Dobkin
Ed Lauter
Mills Watson
Charles Tyner
Catherine Bach
Music byDave Grusin
CinematographyJack Priestley
Edited byFrank Morriss
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 14, 1974 (1974-06-14)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States


A former Chicago policeman, Jim Slade (Lancaster), has just been released on parole from prison for shooting his wife's lover in their bed. He goes to live with friends, Quartz (Cameron Mitchell) and wife Judy (Joan Lorring), in a small town where he has been offered a job (part of his parole agreement) as a night watchman at Jordon College.

A coed (Catherine Bach) is murdered and the local sheriff, Casey (Harris Yulin), tries to pin the crime on a creepy college janitor (Charles Tyner) who spouts Biblical revelation while hiding pornography. Slade has other ideas and pursues an unauthorized investigation of his own. "Taking the lid off the hornet's nest involves him in considerable danger as blackmails, beatings, attempted rape and further murders wrestle for screentime before the long and-overcomplicated drama grinds to a close." [2]

The murdered student turns out to be the daughter of Senator Clayborne (Morgan Woodward), who subsequently receives blackmail letters over his daughter Natalie's confession to her campus psychiatric department counselor about an incestuous relationship with her father. Incriminating cassette tapes of the account have fallen into the hands of the blackmailers. Slade questions possible suspects including Natalie Clayborne's estranged boyfriend King, (played by Burt Lancaster's son, William), who declares to Slade that the generation gap "just got a little wider," and Dean Collins, the psych professor (played by actual Clemson faculty member Harold N. Cooledge Jr.), as well as a nerdy student whose taped psych rant was also stolen and Senator Clayborne himself.

All the while, Slade is being warned off of overstepping his authority as a mere night watchman, no longer a cop, by his parole officer Linda Thorpe (Susan Clark), as well as by his buddy Quartz. A brief affair between Slade and Thorpe begins. A rustic family of thugs, including Leroy (Ed Lauter), overseen by a "Ma Barker"-ish mother arrive, turning out to be "muscle" for certain corrupt members of the Sheriff's Department.

Slade realizes that both the parole officer and Quartz are the powers behind the crime, a conclusion Slade reaches as he watches his friend hobble around the cinder track, on crutches from a broken leg. Only Quartz could have known one critical clue in the cover-up of the original murder. Sheriff Casey rolls up and arrests Quartz. As they depart, Slade confronts Thorpe, who produces the stolen tapes, hidden in her freezer, knowing that the jig is up and she, too, is about to be arrested.

The film concludes with the sheriff offering Slade an apology and a job, even though, as a convicted violent felon, Slade cannot hold a position with the law.


  • Burt Lancaster as Jim Slade
  • Susan Clark as Linda Thorpe
  • Cameron Mitchell as Quartz Willinger
  • Morgan Woodward as Sen. Phillip Clayborne
  • Harris Yulin as Sheriff Jack Casey
  • Robert Quarry as Dr. Prichette
  • Joan Lorring as Judy Willinger
  • Lawrence Dobkin as Waldo Mason
  • Ed Lauter as Leroy
  • Mills Watson as Cash
  • Charles Tyner as R.W. Ewing
  • Catherine Bach as Natalie Clayborne
  • Bill Lancaster as Arthur King
  • Quinn Redeker as Swanson
  • Eleanor Ross as Nell
  • Richard Winterstein as Virgil
  • William T. Hicks as Charlie
  • Peter Dane as Karl Metterman
  • Linda Kelsey as Betty Childress
  • William Splawn as Eddie Lamar
  • Susan MacDonald as Elaine
  • Joel Gordon Kravitz as Lester Pearlman
  • Nick Cravat as Sam, the Gardener
  • Rodney Stevens as Jimmy Gill
  • Weems Oliver Baskin III as Bartender
  • Jean Perkins as Nurse
  • Harold N. Cooledge Jr. as Dean Collins
  • Gene Lehfeldt as Casey's Driver
  • William Clark as Deputy
  • Elizabeth Black as Bus Dispatcher
  • Rachel Ray as Parolee
  • David Garrison as Photographer
  • Hugh Parsons as Grocery Clerk
  • Lonnie Kay as Hostess
  • G. Warren Smith as Director
  • Lucille Meredith as Radio Evangelist
  • Mal Alberts as Basketball Announcer


Burt Lancaster shared directing credit with Roland Kibbee, and shared writing credit with Kibbee and author David Anthony upon whose 1969 novel The Midnight Lady and the Mourning Man the movie was based. Featuring a fairly convoluted plot, the movie was not a major success and Lancaster did not consider it to be among his better work. Other than 1955's The Kentuckian, this was Lancaster's only film as a director.

Co-stars included Susan Clark and Cameron Mitchell, Eleanor Ross as Nell, as well as the future Daisy Duke, Catherine Bach, in her first screen appearance, and character actors Ed Lauter and Charles Tyner who would both be featured in 1974's The Longest Yard starring Burt Reynolds.

It was filmed in Clemson, South Carolina, and Anderson and Pickens Counties in 1973, with the first shots begun on February 13, 1973, the opening scenes of the Jim Slade character arriving by Trailways bus at Jordon College.[3] The film was released in the United States on June 10, 1974, in New York City, and nationwide on June 14. It premiered at the Astro III theatre, Clemson, S.C., on March 14, 1974, with a red carpet ceremony.


  2. Clinch, Minty, "Burt Lancaster", Stein and Day, New York, 1984, Library of Congress card number 84-40625, ISBN 0-8128-3016-4, page 147.
  3. The Tiger, Clemson University, Friday 16 February 1973, Volume LXVI, Number 19, page 1.
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