The Long Riders (1980)



Director:  Walter Hill.

Starring:  David Carradine (Cole Younger), Keith Carradine (Jim Younger), Robert Carradine (Bob Younger), James Keach (Jesse James), Stacy Keach (Frank James), Dennis Quaid (Ed Miller), Randy Quaid (Clell Miller), Kevin Brophy (John Younger), Harry Carey Jr. (George Arthur), Christopher Guest (Charlie Ford), Nicholas Guest (Bob Ford), Shelby Leverington (Annie Ralston), Felice Orlandi (Mr. Reddick), Pamela Reed (Belle Starr), James Remar (Sam Starr).

The James-Younger gang (but what the heck is Belle Starr doing in here?)


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Missouri after the Civil War.  The James-Younger gang robs a bank.  Ed Miller shoots the bank clerk three times.  A customer pulls out a gun and wounds Jesse James.  Frank James kills the bank customer.  The gang kicks out Ed Miller for shooting an innocent bank teller.  They take Jesse to Mimm's place to get the bullet out.  At Mimm's Cole does not like an anti-slavery song being sung by the band.  Clell Miller goes over and forces the band to stop playing the song and switch to "I'm a Good Old Rebel". 

Jesse visits with his girl Zee.  They are going to be married.   The gang robs a stage coach.  Cole Younger goes to see the prostitute that later became known as Belle Starr.  She wants Cole to marry her.  Cole says:  "You got to be crazy."

At the marriage of Jesse and Zee, Beth tells Jim Younger that she is engaged to marry Ed Miller.  Jim does not like the idea, since he likes Beth.  Two brothers, Bob and Charlie Ford, ask Frank if they can join the gang.  With no answer, the two men turn around and walk away.  Frank takes a fancy to a woman he sees at the wedding.

The gang robs a train and then ride off firing their weapons in the air.  The Pinkerton Detective Company offers a $5,000 dollar award for information leading to the arrest of any member of the James-Younger Gang.  Mr. Rixley is in charge of chasing down the gang.  Carl Reddick of the New York Herald newspaper talks with Rixley to tell him he will be doing some articles on the gang.  Rixley is not too keen on the idea. 

Two of the Pinkerton men run into Jim and the young John Younger.  The detectives tell the men that they are looking for the Youngers.  Jim tells them they have found two of the Youngers.  He adds that cousin John does not ride with the gang.  One of the detectives draws his pistol, shoots and kills John Younger.  On the way down John pulls the trigger of his shotgun and kills the second of the detectives.  Jim Younger then wounds the detective who killed his cousin.  The wounded detective rides away, Jim gives chase and catches up with him.  Jim shoots the man dead. 

The Pinkertons throw a smoke bomb into the James house and there is an explosion that sets the house on fire.  The 15 year old Archie Payton Samuel, brother to Frank and Jesse, dies.  A funeral is held for Archie.  At the funeral Beth breaks up with Ed Miller in favor of Jim Younger.  The gang now looks for retribution.  They find the two Pinkerton detectives and shoot them dead.  There are now four dead Pinkerton agents.  A posse comes looking for the gang.  Three of the gang's women are there when the posse arrives.  The men take a look into the house for the gang members. 

The posse finds the men in the McCorkindale barn.  When Mr. McCorkindale comes out from the barn he is shot dead.  A gun fight starts.  Frank is wounded.  They get away by busting through the back of the barn and heading down the ravine to their horses below. 

The gang members go their different ways for awhile.  Frank is together with Annie, the woman he took a fancy to at the wedding dance.  Cole visits Belle who is now married and known as Belle Starr.  Her husband is Sam Starr, an Indian.  Sam and Cole get into a knife fight.  Cole wins when he sticks his knife into Sam's right leg.  He then says good-bye to Belle and leaves. 

Riddick asks Rixley why the Pinkertons have not caught the gang yet.  Rixley replies that the gang members are spread out across five states, but he expects Jesse to be getting the gang back together soon. 

Jesse does call for a gang get-together.  They decide their next bank job will be in Northfield, Minnesota.  Jesse brings Bill Cladwell and Charlie Pitts into the gang.  The guys take the train up to Minnesota.  Approaching Northfield, one of the gang members suggests that they check out the bank first.  But other members reject the idea.  When they get into the bank the bank teller informs them that the lock on the safe is a time lock and is set for 4:30.  He also tells them that the Pinkertons informed them that the gang was coming.  A lady screams and a customer runs out of the bank.  Clell shoots the man in the back, but this does not stop him from yelling that there is a bank robbery going on.  The gang starts to leave the bank. 

Towns people are waiting for them to come out.  Jim Younger is shot.  Cole Younger is shot.  One of the new gang members is knocked off his horse when he hits a low lying tree branch.  The other new member is killed.  Frank James is wounded.  Clell Miller is mortally wounded.  Bob Younger falls of his horse.  He gets shot several times.  Cole Younger comes to his brother's rescue.  In the process he receives a number of wounds.  (He receives a total of 11 shots.)  All the Youngers and the James brothers get away, along with Clell, but Clell soon dies.  Jesse tells the Youngers that they have to ride out, otherwise they will be caught.  All three Youngers are badly wounded.  Jesse reasons that the posse will pick them up and get them some medical care. 

In the hospital, Rixley talks to the Youngers.  He wants to know if the James brothers were in on the robbery.  The Youngers, receivers of life sentences, will not rat on the James boys.  Cole tells Rixley:  "We played a rough game and we lost." 

Rixley talks to Bob and Charlie Ford.  The reward for Jesse James is now $15,000 dollars.  He agrees to give the Fords half the money up front and the other half after they kill Jesse.  The Fords go to dinner at the James house.  After dinner Jesse and the Ford brothers have a talk.  Jesse wants to rob the Platte City Bank.  He then notices that one of the picture frames on the wall is crooked.  He goes to straighten it and the Fords fire their weapons into him. 

Frank James turns himself in to Rixley.    

An o.k. western.  At least they did not try to make Jesse into some kind of Robin Hood.  The guys are train and bank robbers and that's that.  Some of the scenes were legit, or almost so.  It was interesting watching all the different groups of brothers starring in the film.  The last big shootout was a pretty good scene.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.  

For the Historical Background, see review for Jesse James (1939).


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