Universal must have liked the results they got with Audie Murphy playing Billy the Kid in THE KID FROM TEXAS/’50 since they quickly resaddled him for Jesse James in this Civil War oater. Here, the James Brothers, the Cole Brothers & Kit Dalton, hoping to aid the Confederacy, all join up with Quantrill’s Raiders, a notorious band of Southern sympathizing renegades acting as a quasi-military outfit. There’s a great true tale buried in here, but don’t hope to find it in this missed opportunity. A shame, since the scale of production is ripe for something more substantial and the cast is loaded with new generation actors in chrysalis (i.e. Tony Curtis, Dewey Martin & Richard Long). As a subtly delusional Quantrill, Brian Donlevy may have been twice the age of the real historical figure, but he still manages to steal the film from the youngsters with melancholy shadings he finds between the lines.
WATCH THIS,NOT THAT: Ang Lee’s sadly ignored RIDE WITH THE DEVIL/’99 brings Quantrill’s campaign to life with a superb young cast of stars-to-be. And you can check out those outlaw brothers in Philip Kaufman’s THE GREAT, NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA RAID/’72 or in Walter Hill’s THE LONG RIDERS/’80.