At long last, a DVD of Lonely Are The Brave, a 1962 low-key western that is arguably the finest character-driven film that Kirk Douglas ever starred in (or produced, for that matter), will be available on July 7 through Universal Home Video. (The best issue-driven film he starred in and produced was Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory.)

Directed by David Miller and written by Dalton Trumbo, Lonely Are The Brave was handsomely captured in in black-and-white Scope (which I’m a total fool for) by Philip Lathrop.

I can’t honestly call it a great or classic film, but has a certain dignity and air of resignation that stays with you, or has certainly stayed with me. It’s a quietly stirring piece about modernity and commerce bringing down the curtain on the Old West, and the style of it is masculine, unforced and unaffected, much like the aging stubborn cowboy played by Douglas.

He underplays with a kind of sturdy quietude — an atypical thing for Douglas — and occasionally gives off the scent of a seriously confused and terrified coyote who seems to know deep down that he’ll eventually be cornered — that his way of life is doomed. You can’t but feel for the guy.

Douglas’s saddle-bum character is a guy named Jack Burns. The story is basically about his escape from county jail after getting beat up by a surly deputy sheriff (George Kennedy ) and trying to hightail it off to Mexico on horseback. A fair-minded, moderately unsympathetic sheriff (Walter Matthau) is on his trail and trying to bring him in. It all ends sadly, tragically. Carol O’Connor gives a brief but memorable turn as a truck driver in the wrong place at the wrong time. An amazingly young-looking Geena Rowlands plays the wife of a friend whom Douglas visits.

To my knowledge Lonely Are The Brave has never been out on domestic DVD. It came out on laser disc in ’94 (I know because I bought it), and has most likely been shown on TCM.

I interviewed Douglas in ’82 on the set of Eddie Macon’s Run, but our first meeting was at a party at Elaine’s in Manhattan. The first thing I told him was that Run and Lonely Are The Brave seemed somewhat similar, and that this time he was playing the pursuer instead of the pursued, etc. He soon had me pegged as a guy who not only knew all his films but could quote dialogue from some of them, and so we got along pretty well. I met him again in ’84 or thereabouts and he had no recollection whatsoever of our previous meeting.