Raiding and Re-Writing the Past
Angered by the "Redlegs" killing his parents Jesse James (Audie Murphy - 40 Guns to Apache Pass) along with his brother Frank (Richard Long), James Younger (Dewey Martin), his brother Cole (James Best) and Kit Dalton (Tony Curtis - Winchester '73/a>) decide to join Quantrill and his group of rebels. As they head across Lawrence, Kansas and almost end up being lynched for being Quantrill men before even joining they get saved by a Union Captain who unlike the locals doesn't jump to conclusions. Having gone on and joined Quantrill and his men Jesse refuses to believe that Quantrill is the murderous mad man that everyone says he is including his own men as Jesse's own hatred of the "Redlegs" blinds him from thinking clearly.
"Kansas Raiders" might feature several well known names from the archives of the old west it is by no means a movie built on fact. Nope "Kansas Raiders" is one of those movies which not only writes its own history but distorts what we know about some of the infamous characters who fill the history of the old Wild West. As such this is one of those movies which not only sets about making heroes out of outlaws but also making out that these infamous outlaws and killers such as Jesse James were really just good kids who ended up in with a bad crowd.
Now when you realise that is the intention of "Kansas Raiders" the casting is actually not bad. I say that as the likes of Audie Murphy and Tony Curtis are perfect for portraying these outlaws as good kids in with a bad crowd. In fact all those who play the friends bring enthusiasm and smiles to their roles which reinforce the whole idea that they were misunderstood good kids. But it does mean that like the story itself we have characters which bare little resemblance to those from the history books.
But in truth whilst the star names may be part of the movies draw beyond that it is the action as the storyline is functional at best. But what it lacks in story it makes up for in action with a nicely shot action scene cropping up every few minutes from shootings to knife fights. Well I say nicely shot but what I mean is nicely shot for a start of the 50s western where a lot of the action has that staged feel.
What this all boils down to is that "Kansas Raiders" is a passable western due to its nicely paced action. But now it is more the familiar names such as Audie Murphy and Tony Curtis which make it worth watching rather than anything else.