Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

The True Story of Jesse James Reviews

This remake of the 1939 JESSE JAMES takes a similar story but changes the emphasis and themes, becoming a work that clearly belongs to its director Ray. Wagner is the notorious outlaw who turns to crime with brother Hunter when their post-Civil War South crumbles. First the two are shot at by Union forces despite a white flag of surrender. The brothers are further embittered by how easily their former Confederate neighbors become accustomed to the Union men who settle into their town to rebuild. Because of their steadfast southern sympathies, the James boys are denied work and finally take to robbery just to get money. The two find the criminal life exhilarating and become addicted to the danger and excitement that bank and train robberies bring. Gradually this excitement wears thin and they feel encumbered as it dawns on them there's no leaving the outlaw life. Wagner meets his doom when a young detective from the Remington Agency kills him for a $25,000 reward. Ray's pacing builds some good excitement, and as a western alone the film works nicely. But there are deeper things going on, some not entirely and successfully worked out. The feeling of rebellion and impending doom isn't quite as heady as in Ray's classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, but on a lesser intellectual plane, these themes are present throughout the story. Some footage from the 1939 film is incorporated into Ray's artistic presentation with good effect.