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    Jesse James Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Fox

    Dec 02 2013 08:17 AM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Tyrone Power was the second-ranked box-office star in America in 1939, and Henry King’s Jesse James was one of the smash hits that put him there. A fictionalized biography of the famous outlaw, the movie nevertheless provides plentiful entertainment value with the expected holdups and chases but also providing romance and even comedy. It might not be true to the real story, but it’s a bracing entertainment just the same.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono), English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 5.1 DTS
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 46 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 12/03/2013
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    Jesse (Tyrone Power) and Frank (Henry Fonda) James go after the St. Louis Midland Raildraod after their unscrupulous agents led by Barshee (Brian Donlevy) are inadvertently responsible for the death of their mother (Jane Darwell). The boys and their gang begin a series of train robberies to weaken the railroad to make people think twice about using their service and to sue the company for lost valuables. McCoy (Donald Meek), the president of the company, tries a ruse to capture Jesse by offering the deal of a minimal sentence through district marshal Will Wright (Randolph Scott), but when his treachery is unmasked, Frank rescues Jesse and all out war is declared. Jesse’s wife Zee (Nancy Kelly) tries to struggle along with his lawless ways, but when she has a baby, she realizes the nomadic existence is not right for their child, and she goes back to her original home as Jesse and his gang become more and more ruthless.

    Nunnally Johnson’s screenplay whitewashes Jesse’s notorious reputation for brutality (there is one scene where Jesse is shown callous and brutal, but he quickly apologizes after some words from Frank), and he gains audience sympathy for the James boys from the start with the cold-hearted, unfair treatment handed to the homesteaders by the railroads. Henry King directs the picture with a wonderful pace, but only two actual jobs are shown: Jesse’s first and last raids. The first, a train heist captured at dusk with Jesse running along the tops of railroad cars before stopping the train, is beautifully staged and shot. Equally good is the notorious Northfield, Minnesota, bank job mounted as a trap for the gang as they’re ambushed by the entire town. The love story between Jesse and Zee with Will Wright on the sidelines pining for Zee allows breathing room between the various raids and traps, and the chic use of wanted posters with ever-increasing amounts of reward money offered for Jesse’s capture allow us to follow his growing notoriety. Jesse James’ story has been told in quite a few films, many of them more accurate than this one, but the star power and great supporting cast make this one among the most entertaining.

    Tyrone Power’s screen charisma is in full blaze in this role even if he’s more matinee idol (with mustaches he keeps growing and shaving off) than bank bandit. Henry Fonda’s low key approach to older brother Frank James is a nice counterpoint to Power’s more effusive emoting. Nancy Kelly makes a lovely Zee and has some excellent dramatic moments as she realizes the dead end existence she’s living. Randolph Scott is simple and sturdy as the faithful Will Wright. Henry Hull has a hilarious running gag as Horace Greeley-like newspaper editor Rufus Cobb barking out editorials at the drop of a hat while Brian Donlevy and Donald Meek earn audience scorn as the antagonists for the brothers. John Carradine enters screen history as Robert Ford, Jesse’s cowardly attacker, and J. Edward Bromberg as the detective who sets up the Northfield ambush is likewise effective in his role.

    Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented at 1.33:1 with a transfer boasting 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Once again, the lack of true three-strip Technicolor elements leaves the viewer with but a pale, ineffectual shadow of what was once a striking color work, and color values are all over the place with some shots nicely hued and strong but most seeming washed out and lacking texture. Sharpness is all one could want, but black levels are once again seriously compromised. The image is thankfully free of any age-related artifacts. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    The disc offers both 1.0 and 5.1 sound mixes in DTS-HD Master Audio. The surround mix offers a nice spread to Louis Silvers’ rather minimal music score but otherwise is basically a mono mix. The 1.0 mix offers what moviegoers heard during the era with clear dialogue never compromised by the music or sound effects. Hiss and other artifacts have been removed and pose no distraction to the aural experience.

    Special Features: 2/5

    Movietone News: Jesse James at the Roxy (0:33, SD): a very brief publicity moment at a premiere of the film at another theater stressing how crowds were lining up at the Roxy in New York.

    Movietone News: Hollywood Spotlight (1:26, HD): Ed Sullivan presents the crowns to 1939’s King and Queen of the Movies: Tyrone Power and Jeanette MacDonald.

    Theatrical Trailer (2:14, SD)

    Overall Rating: 4/5

    Jesse James offers topnotch entertainment, but don’t expect any accurate biography of the outlaw’s life. This shows the Hollywood movie machine working at full tilt in an action-packed, audience-satisfying way. Too bad the remaining film elements at Fox’s disposal can’t truly represent what audiences in 1939 were able to see and enjoy.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    7 Comments

    Photo
    lukejosephchung
    Dec 02 2013 10:25 AM

    My copy's shipping from Amazon along with the other 7 catalog titles Fox is releasing this week...can't wait to see this, Matt!!! :biggrin:

    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    Dec 02 2013 10:43 AM

    I watched it over the weekend and found it to be very enjoyable. The Technicolor is unavoidably compromised, but it didn't detract from my viewing experience and it is a significant upgrade over the 2007 DVD. The film takes many liberties with the real story of Jesse James, but who cares?

      • Lromero1396 likes this

    the_return_of_frank_james.jpg

     

    When (in Heaven's name) is THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (1940) going to be released in bluray?!

     

    Somehow I suspect that this will ultimately lead to a JESSE JAMES (1939)/THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (1940) bluray double-pack.

     

    You just can't leave things the way they are with Jesse James (The Robin Hood of the Old West) getting shot-in-the-back by that loathsomely despicable betraying coward (this is what is referred to as "revenge in print") the infamous Robert "Bob" Ford (John Carradine) a man whom Jesse "loved as his own brother."

     

    I believe that the screenplay for JESSE JAMES (1939) was done with the (strict) approval of Jesse James' surviving grandson so not surprisingly it tends to depict the characterization in a much more "positive" light. 

     

    Look real fast for a young Lon Chaney, Jr. (February 10th, 1906 - July 12th, 1973) as one of the James Brothers gang members in JESSE JAMES (1939).

     

    Clayton Moore (September 14th, 1914 - December 28th, 1999) made a great Jesse James (September 05th, 1847 - April 03rd, 1882) in the Republic Pictures movie serials JESSE JAMES RIDES AGAIN (1947) and THE JAMES BROTHERS OF MISSOURI (1948).

     

    http://www.youtube.c...h?v=cc4HmyFUf2c

     

    Jeff T.

    Photo
    Richard Gallagher
    Dec 05 2013 03:05 PM

    Clayton Moore (September 14th, 1914 - December 28th, 1999) made a great Jesse James (September 05th, 1847 - April 03rd, 1882) in the Republic Pictures movie serials JESSE JAMES RIDES AGAIN (1947) and THE JAMES BROTHERS OF MISSOURI (1948).

     

    http://www.youtube.c...h?v=cc4HmyFUf2c

     

    Jeff T.

     

    I have both of the Republic serials on laserdisc.

     

    I also have The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford on HD-DVD, The Days of Jesse James (Roy Rogers) on DVD, The Long Riders on Blu-ray, and The True Story of Jesse James on DVD.

    jesse-james-rides-again.jpg

     

    It would be nice if the Republic Pictures screen serials utilizing superior (or satisfactory) source elements could be minted in quality DVD pressings.

     

    With precious few exceptions this generally inert classic film property seems to have lamentably fallen into unfortunate neglect and disinterest just aching to be rediscovered and enjoyed once again.

     

    In her heyday Linda Stirling (October 11th, 1921 - July 20th, 1997) was certainly one of the most attractively stunning Republic Pictures serial heroines imaginable to be sure!

     

    Jeff T.

    Photo
    Lromero1396
    Dec 06 2013 05:28 PM

    the_return_of_frank_james.jpg

     

    When (in Heaven's name) is THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (1940) going to be released in bluray?!

     

    Somehow I suspect that this will ultimately lead to a JESSE JAMES (1939)/THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (1940) bluray double-pack.

     

    You just can't leave things the way they are with Jesse James (The Robin Hood of the Old West) getting shot-in-the-back by that loathsomely despicable betraying coward (this is what is referred to as "revenge in print") the infamous Robert "Bob" Ford (John Carradine) a man whom Jesse "loved as his own brother."

     

    I believe that the screenplay for JESSE JAMES (1939) was done with the (strict) approval of Jesse James' surviving grandson so not surprisingly it tends to depict the characterization in a much more "positive" light. 

     

    Look real fast for a young Lon Chaney, Jr. (February 10th, 1906 - July 12th, 1973) as one of the James Brothers gang members in JESSE JAMES (1939).

     

    Clayton Moore (September 14th, 1914 - December 28th, 1999) made a great Jesse James (September 05th, 1847 - April 03rd, 1882) in the Republic Pictures movie serials JESSE JAMES RIDES AGAIN (1947) and THE JAMES BROTHERS OF MISSOURI (1948).

     

    http://www.youtube.c...h?v=cc4HmyFUf2c

     

    Jeff T.

    I voted repeatedly for The Return of Frank James during the polling period and was pretty angry when it lost. Since it did decently poll-wise, I'd expect a release sometime this coming year, but not until at least April, since Fox's classic releases through March have been announced. I'm puzzled as to why they didn't release them simultaneously, like they did in the VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD days.

      • JeffT. likes this

    Jesse-James-Posters.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CA

    "Jesse James the name that haunted a thousand lawmen and now strikes terror in the hearts of outlaws."

     

    Sales will likely determine a continuance (and possibly further online consumer voting).  It seems that for the present 20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment is content in deservedly awarding the spotlight to JESSE JAMES (1939) which is fine.

     

    But it shouldn't be forgotten that only half of the epic saga has been made available (in the bluray medium) and there is still an import half that remains to be told.  THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES (1940) is a fine film in its own respective right (with a welcomed reprisal of many of the "surviving" characters from the first production) and a worthy follow-up to JESSE JAMES (1939).

     

    Anyway we anxiously wait!

     

    Jeff T.