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Shortly before the start of the American Civil War rebel Kansas leader Luke Darcy dreams of a new independent Republic of Kansas. His vigilante group is called The Jayhawkers and their mission is to end slavery by force. However, Darcy uses The Jayhawkers for his own bid for absolute control of Kansas. Darcy's actions do not sit well with the military governor of Kansas, William Clayton, who wants Darcy captured and brought to justice. For this purpose the governor hires an ex-renegade rebel, Cam Bleeker, to join Darcy's group and capture their leader. Bleeker has a personal reason for wanting to see Darcy hanged. Darcy was responsible for Bleeker wife's death while Bleeker was in prison. Written by
The Jayhawkers maybe unique in the annals of screen history in that as a film with a Civil War era plot it makes absolutely no mention of slavery. Nor are there any black people in this cast.
What we have here in ante-bellum Kansas is the story of Luke Darcy who envisions himself as starting some kind of fascistic territorial republic in the struggle for Kansas's loyalty. Jeff Chandler plays Darcy and he is a fascinatingly evil man with a great deal of charisma.
To bring him down military governor Herbert Rudley uses ex-renegade raider Fess Parker. Parker and Chandler have a history and it involves Parker's late wife who Chandler ran off with and abandoned.
Parker's got ample reason to just shoot him down like a dog, but Rudley wants him alive to stand trial. Complicating things further is Nicole Maurey and her two kids who Parker's fallen for and then Chandler takes an interest when he sees her.
The story does get a bit silly at times, but the players are all doing their best. Henry Silva plays one of Chandler's raiders who has an incredible jealousy of Parker and a barely disguised gay crush on Chandler.
Jerome Moross wrote the music score and it's lively and quickens the pace of this film. Fans of the Wagon Train series will recognize parts of the score as Wagon Train's theme.
The story of Kansas before the Civil War, usually with John Brown as the protagonist has supplied the cinema with a whole range of films. The Jayhawkers with the charismatic, fascistic, but wholly fictitious Luke Darcy is far from the best one ever done.
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