Frank James, after learning that the men who killed his brother, Jesse, have been pardoned, comes out of hiding to enact revenge.
Following straight on after the ending of Henry King's 1939 Tyrone Power starrer, Jesse James. The Return Of Frank James sets its stall out from the off to entertain without giving much credence to history. Back by popular demand as Frank is Henry Fonda, who in turn is joined by the returning John Carradine and Charles Tannen as Bob and Charlie Ford respectively. Along for the ride and offering up petite beauty and innocence is Gene Tierney in her first starring role. Directed by Fritz Lang, who had cemented his glowing reputation with the likes of M & Fury, The Return Of Frank James is a solid if unspectacular Western entry. Certainly its dark theme of revenge is not to be sniffed at, nor is the strand dealing with the influence of the press. Whilst the California photography from George Barnes is appropriate and pleasing on the eye. It's just that the film, in spite of its fine production, feels like the cash in sequel it obviously is. It's a hard film to take seriously, which in a film dealing with serious issues such as revenge, is not particularly good really is it! It's actually the jovial nature of it that stops it from veering towards the maudlin. Certainly the court case sequences are joyous and give Fonda and the team something to get stuck into. But it's an odd mix of a film, with its main allegiance difficult to really pin down. Yet in spite of my own protestations, it's a film I heartily recommend to those interested in light hearted Westerns, regardless of if that was Lang's intention from the off. It's also fair to say that those who enjoyed Henry King's far better first movie, will doubtless enjoy this sequel. Safe, solid and definitely enjoyable, but ultimately it's not very memorable. 6/10