In 1876, the Missouri legislature issues a pardon and amnesty to the James and Younger gangs despite many people considering them outlaws. The pardon is because they protected the homesteaders of Clay County against the marauding railroaders, who wouldn't let anyone or anything get in their way of building the railroad where they wanted. However, the railroad companies and banks still consider them outlaws and will take matters into their own hands if they come across the gangs. Prior to the pardon, Cole Younger had contemplated robbing the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota - what is considered the largest bank west of the Mississippi - but has now decided against it. Circumstances, including learning that Jesse James and his gang are going ahead with the robbery behind his back, and that the railroaders issuing a war against them which also includes bribing the legislature to revoke the pardon, make Cole change his mind. But right from the start - even during the planning ... Written by
One of the prostitutes is Valda Hanson who appeared in several Ed Wood, Jr movies. See more »
The film was shot mostly in Jacksonville, Oregon, whose landscape bears little resemblance to that of Northfield. Many errors result from this, such as the hills outside of town (Northfield is located in relatively flat farm country). See more »
Even before the wounds of the Civil War had healed in Missouri, the railroads came swarming in to steal the land. Everywhere, men from the railroads were driving poor, defenseless families from their homes. And that's when a fresh wind suddenly began to blow. It was other Clay County farmers, the James and Younger boys, coming to the rescue. They tarred and feathered the railroad men and drove them from the land. From that moment onward, they were outlaws. But the people of ...
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Philip Kaufman's first major-studio film was one of many interesting but not very commercially successful (the major exceptions being "Little Big Man" and "Soldier Blue") revisionist westerns in the early 70s. Like "Bad Company," "Dirty Little Billy" and others it's more interesting conceptually than it is in execution, despite good performances and some flavorful period atmosphere (notably during an early, rough, messy baseball game in a cow field). But the narrative thrust is somewhat diffused, the psychological insight not esp. deep, and for the most part the violence is routinely handled. The result is a consistently interesting historical drama but not a particularly suspenseful or exciting one, which is odd given the extreme eventfulness of the "James Gang's" criminal career.
Aspects of this story were chronicled with vastly more focus and force in the recent epic "The Assassination of Jesse James" (which was, lamentably, also a total commercial flop). "Great Northfield" is worth seeing for Kaufman fans, among others, but he certainly hit closer to the bullseye with his subsequent "The White Dawn," "The Wanderers" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" before graduating to big-budget cinema with "The Right Stuff."
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