The Return Of Frank James (1940)


This sequel to Jesse James sees his brother Frank hunting down those responsible for his death.

I must say that I’ve never seen such a bloodless warpath. We are are used to the way films can romanticise outlaws, but this one really takes the cake; Henry Fonda’s Frank makes Robin Hood look like Charles Manson! The only crime he commits is a robbery – for very good reasons of course – and of the men he is hunting, one (or rather the most unconvincing dummy in cinematic history!) falls off a cliff and the other dies before he gets a chance to shoot him. For most of the film Frank is far more interested in romancing Gene Tierney than revenge, although I doubt anyone could blame him for that. Fritz Lang is clearly not comfortable with this genre; it all feels very static and the wishy washy technicolor does not suit his visual style. But it is the overly simplistic script that is by far the biggest handicap of this film.

It’s kept watchable by the amiable cast, but The return Of Frank James is hardly the finest moment of anyone involved.



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