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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949)

The debut pic of cult megger Samuel Fuller was this little Western about Robert Ford, THE MAN WHO SHOT JESSE JAMES . . . IN THE BACK! John Ireland is the best thing in the film as the surprisingly unconflicted killer. He’s really okay about murdering his best pal, if only they wouldn’t write those stupid ballads about his treachery. But second leads Preston Foster & Barbara Britton can’t make sense of their underwritten characters while everyone else up there comes off as a rank amateur. It’s an exceedingly modest beginning for the extravagant Mr. Fuller with a restricted gray-scale that looks tv-ready and an absurd over-reliance on newspaper headlines to ‘run’ the old-hat story. You can spot a few Fulleresque moments when he cuts to unjustified close-ups in an attempt to juice up his nothing story, but this is pretty dull stuff.

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