Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck & Kenneth Macgowan
Written by Sam Hellman
Music by David Buttolph
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Walter A. Thompson
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date(s) August 16, 1940
Running time 92 min.
Country United States
I watched this film on Fox Classics the other night and whilst for some reason I don’t have too many westerns in my DVD collection (something I need to rectify), I did enjoy this particular film. This movie starred Henry Fonda as the anti-hero Frank James, the brother of the infamous Jesse James and member of the outlaw James gang. This film is apparently a sequel to 1939s Jesse James in which Jesse was double crossed by gang member Bob Ford played by John Carradine. The Return Of Jesse James involves Frank’s search for revenge against former friend Ford.
The film is a highly fictionalised account of Frank’s life after Jesse’s death but is very entertaining. It is a very good old-fashioned western film, with some hints to Gone With The Wind thrown in for good measure. There is even a bit of a moral dilemma thrown in for good measure when Frank has to decide whether to pursue Ford or to fight for the freedom of his farm hand Pinky, who is set to be hanged after wrongfully being arrested as an accomplice of Frank’s.
One surprising element to the film is who directed it. Fritz Lang was a German director known for films such as Metropolis and M, German Expressionism and film noir and not films from the western genre, although he did follow this up with some more westerns. This was just his fourth American made film. I still recommend this film and will probably buy it if I see it on DVD. (It used to be available at Big W before Christmas for $9.99)