Fabled Missouri outlaw Frank James, brother of the legendary Jesse James straps on his six-shooters and rides out for revenge in director Fritz Lang's The Return of Frank James, the thrilling 1940 sequel to the Western cla... more »ssic Jesse James. From the green Missouri hills to the rugged Rockies their steps are dogged by Frank James, riding hard on the vengeance trail in the wild and woolly era when there was no law for folks except at the end of a gun.« less
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 01/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1940, Darryl Zanuck gave Fritz Lang the opportunity to shoot his first Western - a sequel to director Henry King's "Jesse James" (1939). When asked why he allowed Lang to make a Western, the Fox producer responded: "Because he'll see things we don't." Lang's attention to detail and atmosphere dominates this unusual tale of revenge. "The Return of Frank James" also marks a cinematic advance for the German director in his vivid use of Technicolor and location photography. An impressive highlight is the chase through the High Sierras - a spectacular action sequence that reveals Lang's expressionist design in his use of architectural rock formations. "The Return of Frank James" has a look and feel unlike any Western of the period. In some respects, it can be considered the first "Western noir." Henry Fonda delivers a memorable performance in the title role, with good support from Henry Hull, John Carradine and Jackie Cooper."
A great sequel to Jesse James
Daniel Lee Taylor | GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas United States | 08/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you have ever seen the Tyrone Power movie of Jesse James, this is a must. If you have not seen it, this is still a great movie. The film picks up where the first ended and runs from there. Henry Fonda is simply great as the slow talking but extremely wily Frank James. much of the cast carries over into this sequel with is seamless in production. It was very well written and beautifully filmed. This is a good one to watch. Better yet, get both and watch them together. It will be a hoot."
A Classic Western from a Classic Director and Classic Actor
Kevin B. Hovis | Canton, GA USA | 04/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is much better than what the other reviewers would have you believe. While it is a sequel, it stands on its own as sort of a revenge flick with Frank (Henry Fonda) terrorizing and delivering retribution to John Carradine's Robert Ford, the man who shot Jesse James. It is also the screen debut of the beautiful Gene Tierney. Compared to the special effects laden trash spewn out by Hollywood today, this has excellent characterization, excellent plot and excellent acting. It is definitely worth the price of admission. Fritz Lang did a great job of depicting his vision of the Old West and while it may not be the greatest Lang film such as his 1931 classic, M, it is still a classic nonetheless."
A well-crafted fable of Wild West outlaw Frank James
H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 06/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Frank James learns his infamous outlaw brother Jesse has been shot dead in the back by the cowardly Ford brothers. The peaceable and laconic Frank at first doesn't seek revenge, deciding instead to leave the killers' capture and punishment to the law. Bob and Charlie Ford are summarily caught and found guilty, but are pardoned immediately by the governor. So Frank picks up his guns and goes a-hunting for the murdering varmints. The film follows his relentless quest to bring his brother's murderers to justice. Along the way, he fends for his foolhardy young charge Clem and strikes a friendship with the beautiful Eleanor Stone, would-be reporter of the Star. After a lot of absorbing exposition and some action, the film culminates in the spirited trial of Frank James, on charges of murder and robbery.
The quite mythical story of the James brothers is comprised of two excellent films: Jesse James (1938) and The Return of Frank James (1939). In Jesse James, Tyrone Power does a fiery, charismatic turn as the lead character, eschewing the feared outlaw persona and remaking him instead into a misunderstood folk hero. Lanky Henry Fonda adeptly plays his more level-headed brother, Frank. Reviews must have been good for Fonda because he merits his own sequel here. Fonda's calm, thoughtful, folksy persona is in full evidence, his acting as reliably good as ever. The sequence where Frank shows up at a play showcasing the Fords' interpretation of Jesse James' death is a gem. The look on Fonda's face as this travesty was being re-enacted by the Ford brothers themselves is chilling and displays prominently his ability to plumb the depths of a darker, more bleak persona. Gene Tierney, in her first movie, is fresh-faced and eager, and is loveliness personified. I only wish that a romance would've blossomed between her Eleanor Stone and Frank James. But, apparently, the studio feared a lawsuit by Frank's widow or son. A mention must be made of John Carradine, who makes an aptly despicable Bob Ford, the dirty rat.
This classic western, ably directed by Fritz Lang, may be too leisurely at times for die-hard, shoot-em-up fans. Where gunfire is usually exchanged, we have instead an investment in story and character. But, of course, good stories and characters are synonymous with the iconic Henry Fonda.
Lang On the Range
Andrew Mangravite | 05/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fritz Lang's "The Return of Frank James" is best-viewed as a warm-up exercise for "Rancho Notorious." As a tale of "hate, murder and revenge" it falls flat because Henry Fonda is too nice a guy to be a genuine outlaw and the infrequently-glimpsed John Carradine is not nearly a ferocious-enough villain as Bob Ford. (By contrast, Barton MacLaine's evil progress-hating brother in Lang's "Western Union" gave good brother Randolph Scott a worthy adversary to overcome.) "The Return of Frank James" is beautiful to look at, but it gives the sense of being a mere appendage to Henry King's earlier romantic celebration of the James Brothers, "Jesse James." Characters from the King film are retained or dropped randomly. Thus Donald Meek's cowardly sneak of a railroad baron returns, while Randolph Scott's virtuous lawman does not, and Henry Hull's cantankerous newspaper editor becomes a cantankerous country lawyer. I don't dislike "The Return of Frank James," I just wish it were a better film than it is. As it stands, it is definitely the weakest of Lang's three westerns."