The Long Riders (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
June 12, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Featuring an awesome collaboration with the Keach, Carradine and Quaid brothers together in one film, “The Long Riders” is a loosely based adaptation on the outlaw James-Younger Gang. Overall, an exciting western worth checking out!
Images courtesy of © 1980 Metro Goldwyn Mayer. All Rights Reserved
TITLE: The Long Riders
FILM RELEASE DATE: 1980
DURATION: 100 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1), English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio and French Mono, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists/Twentieth Century Fox
RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2011
Directed by Walter Hill
Written by Bill Bryden, Steven Smith, Stacy Keach, James Keach
Executive Producer: James Keach, Stacy Keach
Produced by Tim Zinnemann
Music by Ry Cooder
Cinematography by Ric Waite
Edited by Freeman A. Davies, David Holden
Casting by Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton
Production Design by Jack T. Collis
Art Direction by Peter R. Romero
Set Decoration by Richard C. Goddard
Costume Design by Bobbie Mannix
David Carradine as Cole Younger
Keith Carradine as Jim Younger
Robert Carradine as Bob Younger
James Keach as Jesse James
Stacy Keach as Jesse James
Stacy Keach as Frank James
Dennis Quaid as Ed Miller
Randy Quaid as Ciell Miller
Kevin Brophy as John Younger
Harry Carey Jr. as George Arthur
Christopher Guest as Charlie Ford
Nicholas Guest as Charlie Ford
Nicholas Guest as Bob Ford
Shelby Leverington as Annie Ralston
Felice ORlandi as Mr. Reddick
Pamela Reed as Belle Starr
James Remar as Sam Starr
Savannah Smith Boucher as Zee
Jesse James and his gang of outlaws ride again in this “extraordinary” (LA Herald-Examiner) western that pulsates with hard-driving action and electrifying drama. Four sets of acclaimed actor brothers David, Keith and Robert Carradine, James and Stacy Keach, Dennis and Randy Quaid, and Christopher and Nicholas Guesteach depict real-life siblings in emotionally charged portrayals of the Old West’s legendary bandits.
When it comes to westerns, America can’t get enough of stories about the James-Younger gang featuring outlaw Jesse James and his gang of American outlaws that were notorious for their armed robberies and murder, part of the fascination of these criminals was because media and public sentiment made them out to be celebrities and rumors that the gang were like Robin Hood in which they robbed from the rich and gave to the poor (which to this day, there is no evidence that supports this as fact).
And with continuing conspiracy theories (that Jesse James did not die and his death was a coverup) continuing to this day, there will always be fascination around these group of outlaws and that includes films made about them.
Quite possibly the most ambitious film was back in 1980, when Stacy and James Keach wrote the screenplay loosely based on the James-Younger family but instead of going the route of hiring the actors, director Walter Hill (“48 Hours”, “Brewster’s Millions”, “Red Heat”) wanted to keep the film focused on family, brothers….and what best than to hire the brothers that were known in Hollywood at the time. So, along with the James (who plays Jesse James) and Stacy Keach (who plays Frank James), joining the film were Dennis (playing Ed Miller) and Randy Quaid (playing Ciell Miller), Christopher (playing Charley Ford) and Nicholas Guest (playing Robert Ford) and Keith (playing Jim Yonger), Robert (playing Bob Younger) and David Carradine (playing Cole Younger) were hired to be part of the film as members of the James-Younger gang.
The film revolves around the James family, the Younger family and the Miller family and how these brothers would plan an execute their armed robberies but most of all, how they would elude authorities because of their network of support from family members and former Confederates.
With no one being able to catch the gang, the Allan Pinkerton of the Pinkerton Detective Agency of Chicago (famous for their work in foiling a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln and for security in guarding private military contract work) and known for catching urban criminals, were hired to track the western outlaws James-Younger gang.
We see the back-and-forth retaliation between both the Pinkerton Agency and the outlaws when the outlaws kill two of Pinkerton’s agents. In retaliation, the Pinkerton agency went to the home of the James family farm and staged a raid and threw a smoke bomb into the house. Instead of shooting out smoke, the bomb exploded and it killed James young half-brother Archie and blew off the arm of his mother Zerelda Samuel’s.
This would lead to the public looking negative towards the Pinkerton agency and many having sympathy for the James-Younger gang.
It becomes a battle of strategy as the James-Younger gang want to pull of more robberies but with the Pinkerton Agency going after them, will the Agency become successful or will the James-Younger gang who has eluded the agency for so long, continue to elude them once again?
“The Long Riders” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1) and similar to other catalog titles being released by MGM/Twentieth Century Fox, the film didn’t go through any major restoration as you can see quite a bit of speckles and dust during the film (nothing that hurts your viewing of the film) but with the upgrade to HD, obviously the picture quality is much better than its DVD counterpart. More detail can be seen through the film, especially from the injuries on the characters, the texture of their clothing, the black levels are nice and deep and there is a good amount of grain in the film as well.
Picture quality can be made better but for now, I think that if you are a fan of this film, you can’t go wrong upgrading from a previous video format to Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Long Riders” is presented in English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio and French Mono. The film is center-channel driven and while the dialogue is clear, I chose to watch this film with stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundscape (towards the final 20-minutes of the film). Also, I wanted to hear Ry Cooder’s musical score much better and thus my preference to watch this film with setting my receiver to stereo on all channels.
Subtitles are English SDH, Spanish and French.
“The Long Riders” comes with its original theatrical trailer.
“The Long Riders” is an enjoyable film and made even more exciting when you see this unprecedented move to have the Keach, Carradine and Quaid brothers in one film. For those not familiar with the history of the James-Younger brothers, what “The Long Riders” does differently than any film made on the outlaws is that it doesn’t focus just on the armed robberies or how notorious the brothers are. The film tries to concentrate on relationships.
Relationships between the men and their women, the relationships between the James, Younger’s and Miller’s and this tense brooding relationship that was developing between Jesse James and those with him.
For anyone who enjoys westerns, especially films based on real-life outlaws, one can hope for authenticity. In the case of “The Long Riders”, there are some differences of what happened in the story and what transpired in reality from the disagreement between the group and Edward T. Miller (played by Dennis Quaid) and also what transpired between the James and Younger brothers after their botched bank robbery.
Also, there are details that probably wouldn’t make a difference in the film but in historical accuracy, the group was caught near a swamp area and actually tried to fight back against a posse that were going after them and were further wounded from this exchange.
But disregarding authenticity, the fact in the matter is that the film does try to follow the major key points of the James-Younger Gang and their involvement in robberies, the botched robbery and the assassination of Jesse James. The relationship portion of the film is dramatized and although the film does try to humanize these men through their time with the women featured in the film, I found myself wanting less of it and wanting more focus on the gang itself and them trying to survive and see this cat and mouse chase between them and the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Fortunately by the second half of “The Long Riders”, you get more of that.
As for the Blu-ray release, its a barebones Blu-ray release with no special features at all (but the trailer). While the PQ is a major upgrade, that may be enough to have fans upgrade to the Blu-ray release. The film does have fine cinematography and an awesome musical score from Ry Cooder. For the most part, wonderful direction from Walter Hill, but I felt the screenplay on how it focused on relationships vs. the second half which focused on the actual conflict between Pinkerton and the James-Younger Gang was a bit disjointed.
Your attention is more on the men, wanting to see who lives, who dies and how they are killed or injured in the film. You really have no sympathy towards the women because you know that despite the men showing these women love, they were celebrity outlaws who were having fun with women. The women were used well in the first half but are barely even in the film by the second half. So, it’s obvious that the goal was to humanize these outlaws but for me, it wasn’t pulled off successfully.
But still, most people come to westerns seeking action and in the case of “The Long Riders”, there is a good amount of action and the last 20-minutes of the film was pretty awesome! Overall, its subjective to the viewer if “The Long Riders” is one of the better films to capture the James-Younger Gang but as a film on its own, it’s an exciting film worth checking out!
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