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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid

I picked up this DVD at an incredibly low price on Amazon. I'd seen it before, I think on TV, but that had been many years ago and I couldn't really recall it.

This is another telling of the story of the James/Younger gang, or at least a part of the story and depicts the events leading up the infamous raid in Minnesota during 1876 which resulted in the death of several gang members and the capture of most of the others. Only Frank and Jesse James managed to escape after the botched and bloody bank raid.

The movie's got a great cast, headed by Cliff Robertson and Robert Duvall. Robertson plays Cole Younger and he is portrayed as the brains of the bunch, while Duvall's Jessie James is presented as the meanest young psycho this side of Emilio Estevez's Billy the Kid in the Young Gun movies. The films is made in a king of semi documentary style - the Wild West is given the Dragnet treatment, the original advertising boasted. And  this does indeed give the movie the feel of looking in on events as they happened, almost as if this was some news reel footage from a time before news reels were invented.

The film does drag a bit but it's certainly not a bad movie and the detail in recreating the period is quite meticulous. One particular scene where Cole Younger watches a Baseball game - it's the new thing. Everyone's playing it back East - is excellent and the final shoot out is brilliantly staged.

'Anyone can get shot down. It's the getting back up that's the thing.'

Duvall's performance alone makes the film a must see, but the real star is Cliff Robertson who gives us a realistic portrayal of Cole Younger, basically a good man caught up in violent times. The film ends with the immediate aftermath of the botched raid and tells us that Jesse James was killed in 1882 by that coward Bob Ford, while Cole was captured during the raid shown in this movie and ended up in prison. He lived though until 1916 when he died a free man after being paroled in 1901.

Not exceptional but a damn good western all the same.

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