Jesse James returns to Missouri, and he and brother Frank come to the aid of a young woman who owns a gold mine. Her father was murdered and she took over the mine, and now the villains who...
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Jesse James returns to Missouri, and he and brother Frank come to the aid of a young woman who owns a gold mine. Her father was murdered and she took over the mine, and now the villains who killed her father are trying to drive her out of the mine so they can take it over.Written by
ADVENTURES OF FRANK AND JESSE JAMES (1948) is a 13-chapter Republic serial that's a direct sequel to JESSE JAMES RIDES AGAIN (1947) and once more offers a complete whitewash of the notorious outlaw. In this one, the James brothers are presented as good guys who decide to clear their names by working a silver mine owned by a relative and using the proceeds to pay off the victims of robberies falsely attributed to "the James Gang." There's about enough plot for a single hour-long B-western, but they drag it out over the course of 13 chapters, for a total of three hours running time. (The chapters are shorter than usual here.) The title cards rehashing the previous episode are down to one sentence each in this one. Chapter 11 is an entire rehash episode consisting of flashbacks.
The James Brothers, operating under pseudonyms, join a female cousin, Judy Powell (Noel Neill), in working the mine and collaborate with a mining engineer, Amos Ramsey (John Crawford), who's secretly in cahoots with a gang of bad guys led by Rafe Henley (George J. Lewis) to wrest control of the mine and reap the profits from previously undiscovered lodes of silver AND gold found in it. It takes 13 chapters for Jesse & co. to figure out that every time they make a plan with Ramsey (and only Ramsey) the bad guys get the jump on them. In every episode, they visit Ramsey at his house/office on the Powell premises and tell him what they're going to do and we then see Ramsey go out the back way to an unidentified meeting spot to tell Rafe where to take his band of interchangeable henchmen to stop Jesse, Frank and Judy. Then Rafe and his henchmen attack and an inevitable fistfight with Jesse and Frank occurs—in every episode. If the brothers would just once get the sympathetic sheriff (House Peters Jr.) to arrest Rafe and put him behind bars for attempted murder and robbery or if they'd just simply say "Enough!" and shoot him to death after their third or fourth fistfight with him, it would have meant a very short serial or, better yet, another plot element or new villain to introduce after the fourth episode or so.
There's a stagecoach race in Chapter Five that looks forward to the chariot race in BEN-HUR (1959), which is no coincidence when you realize that this serial's co-director, Yakima Canutt, also directed the chariot race in BEN-HUR. Of course, I'm not sure that the stagecoach race in this serial, like most of the action scenes, wasn't stock footage from an earlier Republic production and, if so, it's quite possible that Canutt directed the earlier sequence as well.
Chapter Nine does not end on a cliffhanger. The marshal (Gene Roth) is awaiting Jesse and his surprise witness at a hearing and they're so late he's about to issue a ruling anyway when the episode abruptly ends. In the next episode, Jesse and his witness arrive and submit to questioning. First time I've ever seen a serial episode end without any peril.
As Cousin Judy, Noel Neill's job is to be a damsel-in-distress in some episodes and to just stand around stating the obvious in every other scene she's in. Luckily, she got her first gig as Lois Lane in the first Superman serial the same year, which led to a longer-term stint and a much more challenging role. Clayton Moore, Jesse James here, went on to play the Lone Ranger for the first time the following year when it premiered on TV, one of the very first filmed series for TV, and he stuck with that for pretty much the rest of his career. As a huge fan of his portrayal of the Lone Ranger, I have no complaints. John Crawford, who plays the corrupt mining engineer, is identified as the same actor who went on to a long career as a character actor in film and TV under that name, but I'm not sure it's the same person. This John Crawford doesn't look a thing like the one who played Polydeuces, one of the Argonauts in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963), or the Mayor of San Francisco in the third Dirty Harry movie, THE ENFORCER (1976). He doesn't sound like him either. But stranger physical transformations have happened in Hollywood careers.
While this is one of the weaker serials I've seen, I must confess that it was fast-paced and consistently entertaining and went by quickly and painlessly.
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