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The James Gang rides on Sunday! (10/4)


HollywoodGolightly
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TCM's Sunday primetime feature consists of two westerns about the James brothers. I am not familiar with the Walter Hill one, but Fuller's is a remarkably good film, done in a low-budget kind of way and features a memorably performance by John Ireland as that Ford fella.

 

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*The Long Riders* (1980) 8pm ET

The James brothers turn to bank robbery for revenge.

Cast: James Keach, David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Robert Carradine Dir: Walter Hill C-99 mins, TV-MA

 

*I Shot Jesse James* (1949) 10pm ET

After shooting his best friend, an outlaw tries to cope with guilt.

Cast: Preston Foster, Barbara Britton, John Ireland, Reed Hadley Dir: Samuel Fuller BW-81 mins, TV-PG

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*The Long Riders* is stylish and well done, with sets of brothers -- Keach, Carradine, Quaid -- playing brothers in the movie. Some fine scenes and dialogue and good fun, too.

One of the best movies on the subject, however, is the recent Pitt-Affleck piece *The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.* Although criticized for being slow, the movie really pushes into the frightening character of James, and how his paranoia probably played a huge role in his death. He was not a Robin Hood character, nor was he much good, despite some of Hollywood's productions.

Like Costner's *Wyatt Earp* the more I see the Pitt movie the more I like it ... it's very dark, very good.

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The Pitt project did nothing for me. I'm one of those who found it dull, plodding and self-indulgent. Dark, yes. I respect that choice. But how many times do we need to be told the boss is paranoid? That he's being set-up? That his lieutenants live in fear? And after the shooting, I thought it would never end. This was about an hour's worth of story, stretched to fit a much (MUCH!) longer frame. I gave it a try, thinking, with a decent story and respect for the material, it's kind of hard to screw up a western. They managed.

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With all the hoop la in beautiful color and wide screen and major stars, I'll take Sam Fuller's "I Shot Jesse James". A much more interesting film and much shorter {or so it seemed} and it was done by a first time director on a shoe string budget. So bigger doesn't always mean better....

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Bigger hardly ever means better. Almost exclusively, the best movies are the ones that aren't so extravagantly over the top. I've just ordered Fuller's film from Netflix. Looking forward to it. One of the first movies I ever, EVER saw featured Robert Wagner as Jesse. I was about four!

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I understand and don't disagree with some of the criticisms of the Pitt film about James. However, I did like the dark realism. I don't mind if a film is a bit slow; this one dealt with James from more of a historical perspective, and I liked that. To each his own, I reckon.

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