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"The James Brothers of Missouri" was the third of three serials based on
the Jesse James character, produced by Republic Pictures in the late
In this one, the roles of Jesse and Frank are taken over by Keith Richards and Robert Bice. Noel Neill returns as the helpless heroine and Roy Barcroft, who had appeared as the villain in "Jesse James Rides Again" (1947) is again the chief heavy.
The story has the James Brothers posing as John Howard and Bob Carroll coming to the aid of a former member of their gang (John Hamilton) who is running a freight line in competition with Barcroft who is trying to drive them out of business. After he is murdered the boys stay on to help out daughter Neill. The "brains" of Barcroft's operation is "respectable" storekeeper Belle (Patricia Knox). There are the usual cliffhangers expertly handled by the Republic special effects unit and stunt people. It's amazing how many times that one or both of the heroes are knocked out by the bad guys at the end of a chapter, only to recover in the nick of time with no visible effects and escape certain death. Let's face it, the slightly built Richards would be no match for the burly Barcroft.
Lane Bradford, who was beginning to come into his own as a villain, plays Barcroft's chief henchman. Also, rising "B" western movie favorite Marshall Reed has a small role as one of Barcroft's gang. Veterans Edmund Cobb as the sheriff and Gene Roth (aka Studdenroth) as the Marshal round out the cast. Stunt men Dale Van Sickel, Tom Steele and David Sharpe also appear in a variety of bits as henchmen. And watch for upcoming villain Bob Wilke in a small role as a vocal townsman at the attempted hanging of Jesse.
Richards and Bice make the most of their one opportunity to play the lead characters and how can you not watch a serial where the bad guys are Roy Barcroft and Lane Bradford.
At the time of this serials release,Republic was using new screen plays,incorporated with stock footage from their other serials. This serial is one of the better products as serials were now in decline. Keith Richards and Robert Bice are adequate in the lead roles. Noel Neil,is good as the helpless leading lady,and as in many of Republic's serials and features, Roy Barcroft steals the show as the master heavy. Half the fun is recalling the serials that the stock footage,usually the cliffhangers,were taken from. Unlike some serials made by other studios using the same technique,Republic kept a degree of quality throughout their last serial release,KING OF THE CARNIVAL.This serial is not the best by any standard, but worth viewing all the same.
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