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Title: Jesse James

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:69

America loves a good outlaw, we have purely righteous ones, such as many in the super hero genre, anti-heroes, such as “The Watchmen” or “The Punisher”, swashbuckling pirates, and the good old fashioned western outlaw. Maybe it’s because of our innate desire to see “justice” done, maybe it’s because they live in that utter freedom that’s the desire of each of us, maybe it’s because we respect their goals and ambitions. Maybe it’s a lot of things, but we still love to tells and partake in their stories and legends. Jesse James is one of America’s most famous and legend infused characters. Some stories claim he’s a hero, other’s claim he was a merciless outlaw, some paint his as evil, others the savior of his people. He’s been the focus of many a book and many a movie, and his story told, retold, had pieces added to and taken away from the actual events to where all that exists is a legend. Hollywood is notoriously bad at sticking to the facts when they create a movie, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to enjoy the story as pure entertainment, and that’s exactly what we have here today, pure popcorn entertainment.

It seems that we’ve done TWO reviews this month where the railroad is portrayed as the voracious villain, eating up poor common folks and spitting them out in the dust. First it was with “The Lone Ranger” and now we have it again with “Jesse James”. It seems that the railroad denizens are going from town to town fleecing the townsfolk through hook or through crook to get their land for dirt cheap. However Frank (Henry Fonda) and Jesse (Tyrone Power) James refuse the robber barons their prize, instead opting to get a lawyer and see what can be done to stop this thievery. In a turn of fate Jesse ends up killing one of the railroad crooks when his mother is killed by them. This turns Frank and Jesse into the outlaws that they are known today as. Living outside the law they rob the trains and cause nothing but trouble for the railroads in a 2 man war against injustice. Zee (Nancy Kelly), Jesse’s love, watches helplessly as the two men struggle against injustice.


Unfortunately, as what happens when men have a taste of power, the James boy’s goals change, no longer is it to make the railroad pay, they have morphed into true outlaws. Robbing and stealing just because they can, not to make any certain point. The outlaw life starts to overcome them and they become the crooks they’re trying to overthrow. Jesse is the worst of the lot, becoming cruel and vindictive he loses his wife and son, and nearly loses his brother in the process. In a heroic turn of fate he chooses one last job, a job that ends with betrayal and the inevitable fate that even a movie cannot change for poor Jesse.

“Jesse James” is a treat for this modern day. Filled with the fun and romanticism of the era it was shot in, Tyrone Power proves once again that he was the hero of the decade. Playing everything from a pirate, to Zorro to the legendary outlaw, Jesse James, he is the epitome of dashing and carefree. Swooping in, getting the girl, the audiences affection and ultimately the starring role he carves a path through film like cutter through the ocean. Henry Fonda has always been a favorite of mine in his western roles and it’s nice to see him play the back seat this round. Tyrone is the ladies’ man, while Henry plays the cool headed counterpart to Jesse’s hot headedness.

Supposedly Jesse’s real life granddaughter, Jo James, assisted in the story’s creation, but as you can see Hollywood tended to veer away from keeping to “just the facts ma’am”. Highly romanticized and filled with all the good stuff that audiences love, Jesse is portrayed in a very positive life, even a gentleman among thieves. If you can roll with that than this is the flick for you. Filled with action, adventure and just pure family fun, it can still rival and even beat today’s fare, in the fun department alone.



Video :3.5stars:
The 1.33:1 AVC encode for “Jesses James” is extremely solid for a film of its age. There are scenes that really shocked me for a film made in 1939. However there are also signs of the films age in the same sentence. Scenes will have some color shifting to them and there’s inconsistency with the detail level at times. Some scenes are razor sharp, with excellent detail, while the next scene will be softer with a little bit of focus issues. Colors will fluctuate in the same scene and the real problem has to do with black crush. A lot of the black crush is relegated to the “day for night” shots due to them intentionally darkening the screen to simulate night time, but even in day shots the crush would show up. However, with all those points made, the film looks stunning in comparison to films of the same decade I was extremely impressed at the cleanliness of the print, left unmolested with any obvious digital manipulation and free from artifacting.

Audio :3.5stars:
Now, as you can guess from my reviews of the last Fox batch, the audio suffers from its age. There’s some tinnyness and you get a little ambient hiss. The weird thing is that fox issues a remixed 5.1 track along with the 1.0 Mono track, and with a mono film like this you wouldn’t expect much difference, and you’d be right. The 5.1 track is pretty devoid of any surround usage, except for the occasional ambient noise and I found the Mono track to be more accurate sounding. Still the dialogue was crisp and clean without any major issues and again I’m left impressed with a solid presentation, given the films age and the issues with sound capturing of the era.

Extras: :1star:

• Theatrical Trailers
• Movietone News: "Jesse James" at the Roxy
• Movietone News: Hollywood Spotlight

Overall: :3.5stars:

A fun throwback to the days of the classic Western, “Jesse James” is a nice romanticized take on a classic American outlaw, who has spawned dozens of movies regaling in his escapades. The dashing Tyrone Power proves that he was the charmer of his day and it’s refreshing to see a young Henry Fonda in such a downplayed role. Filled with classic stars and a solid Blu-ray presentation it makes for a fun movie night and certainly fares better than the last western that came out in this month. A solid recommendation for film fans of young or old age.

Additional Information:

Starring: Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda
Directed by: Henry King, Irving Cummings
Written by: Nunnally Johnson
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD Mono, French DTS 5.1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: Unrated
Runtime: 106 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: Dec 3rd, 2013

Buy Jesse James Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Watch It

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