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The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
Movie
  • Director:
    Philip Kaufman
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Philip Kaufman
  • Cast:
    Cliff Robertson,Robert Duvall,Luke Askew
  • Time:
    1h 31min
  • Year:
    1972
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 ...
Casts
Cast overview, first billed only:
Cliff Robertson Cliff Robertson - Cole Younger
Robert Duvall Robert Duvall - Jesse James
Luke Askew Luke Askew - Jim Younger
R.G. Armstrong R.G. Armstrong - Clell Miller
Dana Elcar Dana Elcar - Allen
Donald Moffat Donald Moffat - Manning
John Pearce John Pearce - Frank James
Matt Clark Matt Clark - Bob Younger
Wayne Sutherlin Wayne Sutherlin - Charley Pitts
Robert H. Harris Robert H. Harris - Wilcox
Jack Manning Jack Manning - Heywood
Elisha Cook Jr. Elisha Cook Jr. - Bunker (as Elisha Cook)
Royal Dano Royal Dano - Gustavson
Mary-Robin Redd Mary-Robin Redd - Kate
William Callaway William Callaway - Calliopist (as Bill Calloway)

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)

The production crew built several false front building façades which are still in Jacksonville, lending a nineteenth century flavor to the town.

Cliff Robertson replaced Scott Glenn at a late stage.

Goof, not a point of trivia:: At the end of the baseball game, a twentieth century house can be seen in the background.

One of the prostitutes is Valda Hanson, who appeared in several Ed Wood, Jr. movies.

Hono
Hono
Interesting movie has something of the rueful eccentricity of a Peckinpah movie, although it's told on a much more modest scale. The movie has a sense of transition, with expressions of wonderment at the new steam engine vehicles and even at the game of baseball - there's a sense of gun culture being pushed out and marginalized, although the town's crooked banker illustrates that the new age isn't going to be free of corruption. The structure also has an appealing oddity, illustrated by the band of pursuers on the train, monitored through the entire movie, only to turn up at the end after it's too late. Duvall is occasionally almost Apostle-like as Jesse James and Robertson gives one of his most flavoured performances as Cole Younger. The movie seems very much like a tentative first work and explores themes and ideas in a fundamentally very modest way, but the overall mood is quirky and distinctive and the trim ninety minutes running time makes it an appealing digression.
Zymbl
Zymbl
There are a few western staples in 'The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid': the last mission, the friendly whorehouse; but compared with most films of this type, it's a plausible and honest portrait of the life of a criminal gang, and set in the relatively lush lands of the near west instead of the dry high plains further west. In fact, it's based on the story of a real gang, one that featured the legendary Jesse James, and it's refreshing to see this character demystified: he doesn't even take top billing. However, the plot never quite comes to life, and perhaps more could have been made of the gang's origins in the aftermath of the civil war. But like Altman's superior 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller', made at around the same time, the film deserves credit for telling its own tale, instead of merely re-hashing the clichés of the genre.
Ishnllador
Ishnllador
There are really nice things here. Duvall taken by the spirit and delivering visions of Yankee raids; his sycophant brother following him even to the toilet; Luke Askew's missing lip; the old woman pronouncing doom in cryptic rhyme; Duvall's escape in drag; Robertson shot 16 times. But Kaufman apparently didn't have the chops to know that Bruce Surtees was quietly destroying what could have been a pretty good little art picture.

What should be a semi-psychedelic fever dream of distorted Americana looks like a drunken episode of Bonanza, crowded/blurry/badly framed two-shots all in brown. Half the film takes place in the woods, in Missouri, and it's not even green. The whole movie seems to have been shot with a single lens. Even the credits appear cheap and dated. No question, this movie looks as low-end and made-for-TV as any Aldrich or McLaglen Western of the same period. LONG RIDERS, a later, more traditional and visually interesting James Gang movie by Walter Hill, certainly is slicker in delivery.

But NORTHFIELD, for all its art-school faults, at least reaches toward transcendence. In Kaufman's writing and direction is an attempt to commandeer the drive-in horse opera formula and ride it into 70s ambiguity. The bad guy heroes are sort of unheroic; the Pinkertons are a cartoon counterpoint; the dialogue is occasionally quite choice. But while this is my favorite screen investigation of Jesse James, the film as a whole does not rise above its weaknesses.
Dolid
Dolid
There have been numerous films about Jesse James, most notably Sam Fuller's "I Shot Jesse James", Nick Ray's "The True Story of Jesse James", Kaufman's "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid", Hill's "The Long Riders" and Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford".

Being the most recent, Dominik's film gets all the attention, but Kaufman's and Hill's deserve just as much notice. Though released in the 1970s, Kaufman's film must be watched through the lens of his astronaut epic, "The Right Stuff", both films offering an absurdist take on progress and frontier pushing. Here, Jesse is a confused charlatan and the gang's criminality is seen as being outdated in the face of banking cartels, protection rackets and business scams. In this new world, the business man is the new criminal, violence now taking the form of organised sports, rail barons and profit margins. "How much you think that'll fetch?" one man remarks, as he tries to figure out whether he can make more profits selling earrings in pairs or singles. Stuffed dolls are similarly traded for money, whilst steam engines and horseless buggies are treated as, not a form of technological progress, but a form of capitalist spectacle which pushes Jesse and his gang further and further into extinction. Indeed, it is a steam piano constructed to attract people to a bank, which ultimately gets Jesse's gang killed.

The gang itself is split into two groups. Those who follow Cole Younger and those who follow Jesse James. Jesse embodies a kind of no-nonsense criminal psychopathy, stealing and killing and forever unable to live up to his romantic myth (he pretends to receive messages from God, but nobody believes him). Cole, in contrast, tries to play the game by the banks' rules, using guile, cunning and elaborate schemes. Significantly, Cole's plan backfires and he dies, whilst the lawless Jesse, a product of a different age, rides comically off into the sunset. Like Altman's "Thieves Like Us", the film subversively portrays its gangs, not as noble Robin Hoods stealing from corporate fat cats, but part of the same all inclusive racket.

Walter Hill's "The Long Riders" is a different sort of beast altogether. This is a fast paced action movie, the "legendary moments" in the life of Jesse James downplayed in favour for ambiance and texture. Town dances, chirping crickets, women being pushed on swings, touching romantic relationships with whores...this is film which serves up a certain air of melancholy, before launching into a series of staggeringly violent action set pieces. Hill's gangsters are not wild-eyed maniacs but disenfranchised criminals looking to score easy cash so that they can retire to some country paradise. In other words, it's a Michael Mann macho poem with the violence of Walter Hill's mentor, Sam Peckinpah, grafted on.

Hill's film also revolves around a cat and mouse feud between Jesse and the Pinkerton Detective Agency, a group of lawmen working for the banks and railroads. In an effort to humanise the gang, the film paints these lawmen as murderous brutes who kill innocents and set homes ablaze. These, of course, are narrative tactics used to convince us that Jesse and his boys are innocent of any wrong doings and that they were merely provoked by violent authorities.

Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford", in contrast, is implicitly about celebrity. Here, Jesse's gang are mythologized through legend and media exposure, and it is this which curses them. Jesse himself is killed, not by Robert Ford, but by celebrity itself. The film is thus about, not only looking, but being looked down upon, looked up at, and having perceptions projected upon you. Jesse's death, in which looking at a picture literally kills him, encapsulates all these themes. It is Jesse's own gaze, his aloof attitude toward Ford, which causes Ford's worshipful stare to be corrupted, but more importantly, co-oped by Pinkerton. Here, celebrity and mythology bulldoze truths, and court death by assuming a kind of superiority. Of course death, rather than debunking myths, tends to reinforce them further.

But while all three films go off on their own interesting tangents, they make a mistake which has been around since Henry Fonda's 1939 film, "Jesse James". These films ignore history and turn Jesse in a superstar, a Robin Hood, a pretty boy rogue, when this image was wholly invented by John Edwards, a racist and pro Confederate journalist who wanted to create a heroic figure to help rally people against the Union.

At the time, the state of Missouri belonged to the Confederates, whereas the state of Kansas was held by the Union. The two states fought each other fiercely, killing civilians, burning houses and committing various other war crimes. Jesse James, following in his brother's footsteps, joined the Confederates, fought with them for several years and then left the army to form a robbery gang with several soldiers. They hit trains and banks and kept the loot, but because banks and railroads were symbols of the Union States (who were forcing farmers, civilians etc to buy Federal dollars), it became easy for Confederate supporters to turn Jesse into a kind of rebel figure.

Jesse then began to milk this image, selling himself as an altruistic warrior who fought evil Yankee rail barons for Southern honour. In reality, far from being the last hurrah of the Confederate cause, Jesse was a cold hearted guy who fought for the preservation of slavery, robbed trains dressed as the KKK and kept all the loot for him and his gang. Of course none of the Jesse James films deal with this, even Dominik's, which is specifically about the allure and falsity of celebrity.

7.9/10 - Interesting.
Black_Hawk_Down.
Black_Hawk_Down.
There are some very interesting moments in this movie. The performance by Cliff Robertson is indeed very good, and I think the movie raises some interesting points in its portrayal of the James/Younger gang as a metaphor for the final death rattle of the old south against the modernizing north. However, this movie can't seem to decide between a comedic tone or an ironic and cynical one. I would say it succeeds in its more serious moments, but the comedic sections are very contrived.

I went to college in Northfield, and I was glad to see my alma mater represented in the film (before its name was changed to Carleton). I became pretty familiar with this raid after attending Northfield's annual "Defeat of Jesse James Days" festivities four times. Surprisingly, the actual raid itself is portrayed fairly accurately, with the proper body count and roughly similar series of events, although some details are different. I liked the irony the filmmakers added with the incident of Cole Younger fixing the rifle that was later used to snipe at his gang members. Oh yeah, and you gotta love those snow capped mountains that surround Northfield (yeah, right), and the whorehouse full of buxom Scandanavians!
Sarin
Sarin
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid is written and directed by Philip Kaufman and stars Cliff Robertson, Robert Duvall, Luke Askew and R.G. Armstrong. It's a Technicolor production with Bruce Surtees the cinematographer and music is scored by Dave Grusin. Plot is based around the James-Younger gang's infamous attempt at robbing the "biggest bank west of Mississippi" in Northfield, Minnesota, September 7th, 1876.

The Western done cinéma vérité by Philip Kaufman, very much leaning towards the "mud and rags" Oaters that were filing in post Sam Peckinpah's Wild Bunch. Jesse James has provided the inspiration for a whole host of movies, with many of them having different interpretations on the man, the myth and his life. Kaufman dismantles the myth aspect and cloaks it in a sort of satirical grimness, flecking it with moments of crudeness whilst paying attention to history (the usual liberties aside) and the changing climate of the time. However, with Kaufman's affection for comic book characters also comes the odd blending of tones, rendering the film an acquired taste. The narrative is strong, with the added bonus of the story continuing after the robbery, and Duvall gives Jesse James an energetic and bonkers makeover. But a safe recommendation to Western fans it is not.

I liked it enough, but not enough in that I could watch it again, but it would come as no surprise to me if it was some Western purists' favourite Western. Roll the dice and take a chance, really. 6/10
Lightbinder
Lightbinder
Although the central character of The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid is Cliff Robertson as Cole Younger, Robert Duvall joins a great pantheon of actors that range from Tyrone Power to Brad Pitt in playing the legendary outlaw of the old west, Jesse James. Some say that the James/Younger gang were the last Confederates out there actively engaged in warfare against the invading Yankees on behalf of the south. This film certainly takes that position.

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid took place in 1877 and was the biggest job attempted by the gang and turned into the biggest flop in their outlaw career. Word leaked out about the robbery and the Pinkertons and the local law enforcement were waiting. The incident is shown in just about every Jesse James film there is.

The James/Younger gang remain populist heroes to this day in many quarters. They were an expression of outrage by a conquered people, the poor white class who saw land taken over illegally by Yankee managed railroads or foreclosed by banks with northern management they ultimately answered to. A decade later these people would find a voice in the Populist Party and if Jesse James hadn't been such a person of violence, he might have had a great career as a Populist politician, he was reputed to be that charismatic.

Younger's a different story, his charisma as it were was a laid back kind. He's got two brothers to look after, Bob and Jim and wants to live long enough to get the amnesty promised by the state of Missouri. It's one of the reasons the James/Younger gang is operating as far north as Minnesota. That and the fact they can rob from Yankees if they have to rob at all.

As is shown in the film, Missouri was debating an amnesty, but certain interests wanted to make sure that didn't happen. The gang is operating outside their home state, lest any outlaw activities interfere with the amnesty. And the Pinkertons want to nail them all before the amnesty ever is passed as an example.

The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid is one fine western with two rugged leads and very realistic settings for the old West. Fans of that generation and younger should not miss this one.
Bralore
Bralore
Riven by internal frictions and harried by the Pinkerton men, the James-Younger Gang is at a low ebb. One last big project is planned, a daring raid on the bank of Northfield, Minnesota.

Outlaws have long been treated as folk heroes by Hollywood, but a particularly virulent strain arose with "Bonny And Clyde" and "Butch Cassidy" at the end of the 60's, then flourished in the early 70's, mutating into the 'realistic' western ("Dirty Little Billy", "Bad Company" etc). The present film stands squarely in that tradition.

Cliff Robertson plays Cole Younger as an avuncular, pipe-smoking nice guy with a passion for machines. Robert Duvall, first-class as always, portrays Jesse James as a half-crazed, bible-thumping Southern zealot who can't accept that the Civil War is over. He regards robberies as military attacks on the perfidious North. His preacher-style oratory in the hot baths is a memorable sequence.

In order for the viewer to sympathise fully with the robbers, the authorities have to be made to look bad. Accordingly, we see Pinkerton bribing the Speaker of the Missouri Legislature to ensure that the Coles and Youngers don't get their amnesty. Throughout the film, we are constantly reminded that the gang is 'only robbing from robbers'. The proprietor of Northfield's bank is shown to be a charlatan, and the town's posse is crueller and dumber than the gang which it is pursuing.

'Northfield' is a good-looking film. The music is exceptionally good, with neat bottleneck guitar and passages of calliope-style music, mimicking the steam organ which features in the story. "Our national sport, gentlemen, is shooting," we are told, and the film has some great gunplay. Watch out for Elisha Cook Jr in the cameo part of Mr. Bunker.

There are also flaws. The baseball game is too modern in its styling... did runners really slide into the bases like this in the 1870's? And the game goes on too long. The extended joke, that fielders are sometimes clumsy, quickly turns stale. The townspeople call the crazy German guy 'squarehead', a term of abuse that surely dates from the First World War at the very earliest.

However, despite these shortcomings, the film works. The dourness of unspectacular industrial Minnesota contrasts nicely with the romanticism of these vagabonds. The egotistical Jesse's struggle to supplant Cole is well depicted, each man reluctant to fight openly, but their contrasting leadership styles making conflict inevitable.

These heroes who are not heroic populate a western which is not set in the west. The free-ranging nomads are trapped in the grey drizzle and brick structures of the MidWest, caught up in the midst of an Industrial Revolution which is sounding their death-knell.
Nenayally
Nenayally
Writer/director Phillip Kaufman eschews the well-documented facts of the famous ambitious (and ultimately botched) robbery in the name of bold and downright irreverent revisionism that offers a pointed satirical critique of the new "civilization" that was coming into being at the end of the 19th century (for example, the mob of angry townspeople who go after the gang in the wake of the robbery prove to be more crazed and dangerous than said gang!). It's Kaufman's fiercely biting dry wit that gives this film an extra tangy flavor, along with the sharp cinematography by Bruce Surtees, David Grusin's jubilant and harmonic score, and the splendidly sonorous narration by the ubiquitous Paul Frees. Cliff Robertson gives an excellent and engaging performance as the shrewd and amiable Cole Younger while Robert Duvall breathes hell-raising fire as an extremely ornery Jesses James. The stellar supporting cast of familiar character faces keeps the movie buzzing: Luke Askew as the stoic and laconic Jim Younger, R.G. Armstrong as the crusty Chet Miller, Dana Elcar as the jolly Allen, Donald Moffat as the sarcastic Manning, Matt Clark as the antsy Bob Younger, Elisha Cook Jr. as the weaselly Bunker, and, in an especially tragic small part, Royal Dano as loony old coot Gustavson. Moreover, the quirky array of colorful characters are lots of fun to watch, the titular caper is both tense and thrilling, and the vivid evocation of the period seems authentic (if not entirely accurate). Recommended viewing.
Miromice
Miromice
Honor among thieves is carried to the extreme in "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid". Showing compassion for victims of corrupt banks, with swift retribution, the gang is still fighting the Civil War in Minnesota. Gradually being overwhelmed by progress, these outlaws look quite out of place. The story is told in a linear fashion, with no annoying flashbacks. Robertson and Duvall are surrounded by a believable supporting cast, that looks the part. My only objection is a couple scenes go on entirely too long, and the film would actually be better off without the interminable baseball scene. Worth seeing for the performances and authentic feel of the movie. - MERK
MilsoN
MilsoN
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."
Fomand
Fomand
In this film the real brain of Jesse James's gang is Cole Younger(Clff Robertson). Jesse(Robert Duvall) is a very mean guy, who does not care much for women and his brother Frank is just his yes man. Robertson is excellent as Cole Younger, he looks like a heavy man, which Cole really was, he is intelligent and human. When he hears that amnesty was given to the gang, he goes to Northfield to stop Jesse from robbing the bank, but on the way he learns that it was denied, so he decides to go along with the raid. When he learns that there is almost no money in the bank because people would rather keep it at home, he conceives a plan with the bank's owner for everybody to get scared and make deposits. There is a quite comical baseball game between St Paul and Northfield where Younger meets the town's most important persons. This version of the James and Younger's story seems to be very far from what really happened, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Andromajurus
Andromajurus
One of the things that most impressed me about Philip Kaufman's take on the James-Younger gang's depredations when I was a kid was that he didn't make these guys out to be heroes: they were Civil War veterans who held grudges and did everything they could to make the Northern Invaders pay for what they'd wrought. The dark, dreary look of the movie fit its overall tone. It was interesting, too, that Kaufman focused more on Cole Younger than Jesse James (who, as played by Robert Duval, struck a chord most creepy as the often bible-thumping but murderous son of a preacher). A unique western then, and just as compelling a film now. Hop on board for the ride: you won't be disappointed.
Adorardana
Adorardana
Released in 1972, Phillip Kaufman's "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" details the final bank heist of the James-Younger Gang in 1876, which was an epic failure for the infamous gang.

The tone of the film is equal parts raw realism and parody; you could almost call it a Western black comedy. For a fuller and more austere detailing of the story -- not to mention all-around better movie -- check out 1980's "The Long Riders."

Jesse James is played by the great Robert Duvall, who was only 40 at the time (but looked about ten years older). Actually Jesse takes a backseat to Cole Younger here, played by Cliff Robertson. These actors and the other principles do a fine job. The film is expertly made, the story is moderately engrossing and there are some genuinely amusing moments.

Despite this, the tone the filmmakers decided to go with ruins the film for me -- it de-glamorizes the wild West, making it ugly, idiotic, silly and almost profane. By Contrast, "American Outlaws" (2001) details the James-Younger Gang's first year in action and makes the Old West fun, heroic and larger-than-life and 2007's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is a serious Western drama. "The Long Riders" remains the best of the lot.

The film was shot in Jacksonville, Oregon -- a far cry from Missouri and Minnesota -- and runs 91 minutes.

GRADE: C+
Kalv
Kalv
Just like his contemporary Billy the Kid, Jesses James has become the subject of a myriad of books and films. Heck, even Roy Rogers made a couple ("Days of Jesse James", "Jesse James at Bay") that capitalized on the name but didn't really have anything to do with the real life outlaw. This film actually turns the James-Younger Gang into the Younger-James Gang, with Cliff Robertson headlining the cast as Cole Younger and Robert Duvall taking a back seat as a maniacal, God-fearing Confederate sympathizer still fighting the Civil War.

The picture provides an interesting diversion with that new fangled national sport called baseball. The first time I ever saw a ball game in a Western was in a Richard Boone episode of 'Have Gun Will Travel'. In that one, a base runner was shot attempting to stretch a team mate's hit to score at home plate and was summarily shot by an opposing player. I was fully expecting to see that here, but the game stayed civilized with only full body contact used to thwart the opposition. One wonders why they needed an umpire.

Back in Northfield proper, the outlaws prove that robbing a bank can indeed be a shovel ready job. If the true history of the raid included a gang member getting locked in the bank safe, I'd never heard of it before. It didn't seem plausible to me even if it did happen, but I'm intrigued enough to look it up later. For revisionist Western fans, this one will prove to have some merit, though for my money, I'll take the 1980 Walter Hill flick "The Long Riders" with that amazingly choreographed slow motion horse jump through the windows for the getaway. Now that was a wonderment.
Bloodray
Bloodray
Just saw this movie and must say without Duvall's performance this might rank as one of the worst Westerns ever made..I loved the snow capped mountains around Northfield and the hokey mustaches on some of the characters.. (some even looked like they were ready to fall off). The baseball game scene appeared to be just a way to lengthen the movie and had nothing to do with the actual raid. The chasing around by the Pinkerton group was almost comical and hard to watch. The only thing I did appreciate was Duvall's and Robertson's performances, but unfortunately neither warranted any type of awards because of the low budget antics of the screenplay. This very, very low budget film is not worth the time....
Lanadrta
Lanadrta
This is a terrific film with an amazing performance by Robert Duvall.

The cast is excellent and the direction by Philip Kaufman (THE RIGHT STUFF) is visceral and exciting. This film captures the energy of the real Old West. The film takes place in 1876 when the U.S. was just taking shape as a nation. Wonderful new contraptions are coming into being which fascinate the outlaws. Duvall plays the famous, often psychopathic outlaw Jesse James. Duvall is like a demon possessed and dangerous as a coiled snake. This film shows off what a wonderful actor he is. There is a rollicking energy to this often humorous and alternately tragic film that captivates the viewer. I cannot recommend this film enough. IT IS A
Kirizan
Kirizan
There are two reasons I watched The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid: Robert Duvall and Luke Askew. I like Lucas-Q as a character actor and of course, any Robert Duvall film is working a look. Unfortunately Luke Askew--playing Jim Younger--doesn't have a speaking role and spends the entire film with a cloth over his face to hide a terrible wound. Robert Duvall is adequate but he really chews the curtains in some of the scenes to such a degree it's almost embarrassing to watch. I don't imagine Duvall ever watches this movie. There is some terrible looping of the Pinkerton detective's dialogue, too. Overall, the film suffers from poor writing and budgetary limitations. The greatest drawback is the film doesn't have a position on anything. It sort of meanders around, padded in parts with pointless scenes, until the inevitable (and lackluster) climax and that's about it. Interestingly, one of the prostitutes is played by Valda Hanson, who was one of Ed Wood's stock actors.
Grinin
Grinin
First the bad: sudden, jarring changes in tone. It veers abruptly from grim, bitter drama to clever caper movie to unfunny comedy. These shifts are badly exacerbated by the messy, eclectic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink score, which all too often comments on scenes in ways I found ill-fitting and inappropriate. A couple of examples: an early scene in which Jesse riles up the boys by going into a feverish Southern preacher mode, to get them fired up for the titular bank job, is turned from creepy and compelling into light-hearted comedy by the wacky music behind it; similarly, late in the film, a citizen posse chasing the gang commits an atrocity on four innocent men, and the music again makes light of it, with an ironic silly 'wah wah wah'. Just awful. What were they thinking? Also bad, an interminable scene of a raucous baseball game comes out of nowhere and drags on and on with utterly unfunny slapstick. The subplot with the Pinkertons adds next to nothing. The cinematography is too often flat and TV-like.

Now the good, and the reasons I gave this a 7 anyway: excellent performances from Robertson and Duvall and the supporting cast, and a very strong screenplay, well-paced, with believable characters whose individual traits are clearly delineated. Cole Younger is a crafty pragmatist, keenly interested in modernity as represented by machinery, ready to leave criminality behind and change with the times; Jesse James is shown as his opposite, an embittered true believer in the Confederate cause, who uses that belief as justification for continued criminal violence. In this theme of men unable to change with the times, the film is akin to some of Peckinpah's work.

Also good are fundamentals like art direction, locations, costuming, and set design. This is all handled with grubby veracity, in the same vein as other films from around the same time like "McCabe and Mrs. Miller". It really excels here.

On the whole, the character-driven, group-dynamic elements of the story are so fully realized that they make the movie compelling and worth watching in spite of its tonal flaws.
Thordibandis
Thordibandis
At 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, 1876, eight members of the infamous James-Younger Gang attempted to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota. The local citizenry got wind of the robbery while it was in progress and a fierce shoot-out erupted outside the bank. Two members of the gang—Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell—were killed and Jim and Bob Younger wounded (and later captured, along with brother Cole, the ringleader). A bank employee and a bystander were killed and another bank employee wounded. Frank and Jesse James managed to escape back to Tennessee but, after five years in operation, the James-Younger Gang ceased to exist: an outcome still celebrated in Northfield annually. 104 years after the bungled robbery writer-director Philip Kaufman brought out a film version of the famous raid that is not strictly accurate historically but entirely consistent with the anti-authority zeitgeist of the early Seventies. Paul Frees' sonorous opening voice-over sets the tone: "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 Missouri would never forget what the boys had done for them." The laughable notion that Jesse James was a modern Robin Hood originated with James himself, an early adept at public relations, who characterized himself and his cohorts as aggrieved victims of a Radical Republican administration bent on unending persecution of those who had sided with the defeated Confederacy. The newspapers ratified Jesse James's version of himself, which soon passed into enduring myth. In reality James was apolitical and a criminal psychopath to boot. Also worth noting is the fact that the James-Younger gang mostly robbed banks; railroads were only an occasional target of opportunity. Kaufman's film correctly characterizes Jesse James (Robert Duvall) as mean and unstable and Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson) as the real brains of the outfit. Where the film most egregiously errs is in depicting the Northfield raid in Keystone Cops fashion and in characterizing the gang's victims and foes as generally corrupt, cruel, incompetent or cowardly. The outlaws look good by comparison and their enemies get to stand in for an emerging, oppressive corporate establishment (cf. 'Bonnie & Clyde' and 'The Wild Bunch'). VHS (1992) and DVD (2007).
Hbr
Hbr
"The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid"(the comma between the city and the state in the title doesn't make an appearance in the actual film) is a movie that fails the test of time. Alternately shoddy, glib and cheap-looking, the film seems more like a made-for-TV quickie than a critically praised "classic" that earned a Writers Guild nomination for its screenplay. Repetitive scenes of Pinkerton Security enforcers inside a train car, as the man himself rails against the James/Younger gang, quickly become laughable in an Ed Wood sort of way.
Naril
Naril
The opening scene is in northwest Missouri.The railroads are stealing the farmers' properties and dispossessing them.

In 1876 the Missouri legislature moves to grant a blanket amnesty to farmers as well as to Jesse and frank James(two celebrated Missouri outlaws.)

However,the railroad hires detective Allan Pinkerton(Dana Elcar)to "get" the Jameses.

Frank(John Pearce)and Jesse(Robert Duvall)find some newspaper upon which gang member Cole Younger(Cliff Robertson)has written plans to rob the First National Bank in Northfield,Minnesota.

They justify robbing the bank because the amnesty vote was blocked by a Pinkerton bribe.

The train carrying Pinkerton enters the area; detectives dressed as farmers disembark,positioning themselves to kill the James gang.The resulting ambush leaves Cole Younger seriously wounded and the Pinkerton detectives dead.

Although Jesse James comes from educated people,he rants himself into a mad-eyed,ecstatic state describing the upcoming bank robbery.

Jesse and Frank leave to pursue Jesse's "vision"; Younger and his group soon follow.

On the way the Youngers pick up Clell Miller(R.G.Armstrong.)Upon entering Northfield,a curious sight greets Younger and the gang: a trackless steam engine chugging down the middle of Main Street.

In front of the First National Bank is another oddity: a malfunctioning steam calliope on the sidewalk.Cole Younger repairs the calliope's pressure gauge.

In Northfield,Younger strikes a nefarious bargain with Mr.Wilcox(Robert R.Harris),the bank's owner,who plans to inveigle the unsuspecting townsfolk to invest their savings - then fleece them,and disappear.

Wilcox is seconded by his "yes-man,"Bunker(Elisha Cook,Jr.),but the upright bookkeeper,Heywood(Jack Manning)denounces them both.

Meanwhile,the Jameses and their part of the gang lodge with an elderly lady being evicted over an unpaid mortgage of $80.Jesse hears her rambling story about"don't sell the children"(a group of mannikins); Jesse buys the "Uncle Sam" doll for $80,takes it and confronting the landlord,shoots him dead.

At the town's baseball game,the Northfield team wins because Cole Younger blasts the ball to smithereens with his rifle.Younger(calling himself "Mr. King")and Wilcox "converse" over "King's" nearly being robber,and how he wants to protect his money in a safe bank.

Another comedic touch at the game is a lanky young man with a goofy grin who is marching around,shouldering a rifle.He's Henry Wheeler(Barry Brown),supposedly a medical student,but wearing impossibly thick-lensed glasses!

Younger tries to show Wheeler how to shoot correctly; Wheeler promptly shoots off a man's hat!Later,at a blacksmith's,Younger creates a device for Wheeler's gun allowing him to shoot straight - with unexpected catastrophic results,later.

A phony gold shipment "conveniently" arrives near the playing field,"guarded" by Younger's gang.The townsfolk,entranced,rush to put their money in the local bank.

Back in town Younger encounters a wild-eyed,incoherent individual, "Crazy" Gustavson(Royal Dano).He is insane because his son never returned from the Civil War.

Jesse James and his group ride into town,meeting up with the Youngers and their group.Before the robbery,Cole Younger shoots the town telegrapher through a plate-glass window.

Now inside the bank, Wilcox(outflanked in treachery by Younger)is soundly beaten.Bunker(injured)escapes out a back window,but the brave Haywood,who claims he can't open the bank vault's time lock is shot dead by James.(The vault,which opens briefly,traps Bill Chadwell(Craig Curtis)inside.)

Unexpectedly,"Crazy" Gustavson shows up raving,and is shot dead - but falls onto the steam calliope which,blasting like an air-raid siren alerts the townsfolk.

The enthusiastic kid,Wheeler,fires wildly with the modified gun and accidentally hits Clell Miller,killing him instantly.

Armed citizens pour into the streets,shooting.In the mêlée,Bob Younger is shot,rescued by his brother,and the surviving outlaws escape.

When the bank's time lock opens the trapped outlaw,Bill Chadwell,is promptly gunned down.

Back at the "doll lady's" house,Cole Younger,his brothers Bob and Jim (Luke askew),Charlie Pitts(Wayne Sunderlin)and the James brothers are hiding out.The Jameses want to leave; the Youngers want to stay.Bob Younger's condition is serious,requiring immediate medical attention; the elderly lady wants to bring back a trustworthy doctor.The Jameses accompany her.

A search party finds the remainder of the gang holed up in the house and enfilades it,killing Charlie Pitts.

Jesse and Frank James escape in a buckboard,heading for Missouri.Jesse is disguised in women's clothes.Presumably,they murdered the elderly lady and stole her wagon.

As Pinkerton's train arrives in Northfield,he is infuriated to see the prison wagon paraded through the town's streets,the townsfolk cheering the surviving desperadoes.(Footnote: Cole Younger received a life sentence for murder,and served 25 years in prison.)

Cliff Robertson(Cole Younger)played the part of the outlaw Cole Younger with a certain raffish bravado.

Robert Duvall(Jesse James)was eerie as the fanatical Jesse James whose cosmic "vision" led him to Northfield to rob the bank.

Dana Elcar(Allan Pinkerton)was convincingly self-righteous as the sinister detective who cut corners in the pursuit of "justice."

John Pearce(Frank James)was very good as Jesse's supportive brother,Frank.

Wayne Sutherlin(Charlie Pitts)was believable as the taciturn Charlie Pitts.

R.G.Armstrong(Clell Miller)imparted a "good ol'boy" flavor to his characterization of Clell Miller.

Royal Dano("Crazy" Gustavson)was convincingly demented as the ill-starred émigré.

Barry Brown(Henry Wheeler)was engaging as the enthusiastic but maladroit medical student,playing his part with just the right comedic touch.

"The Great Northfield,Minnesota Raid" is a Revisionist Western(a genre popular just after the Sixties),and is greatly at variance with the true facts surrounding the event.However, for 91 minutes of escapist diversion - it will fit the bill nicely.
Qwert
Qwert
It's a strange mixture of comedy and dramatic action, cheerfully ripping off two wildly successful movies of a few years earlier, "The Wild Bunch" and "Bonnie and Clyde." Pekinpah's influence is much in evidence in the editing, since there are many brief shots of the faces of participants laughing pointlessly or gaping in shock. No slow motion, though. It's hard to imagine how director Kaufman missed that stylish trait. The long, retrograde title brings to mind several lavish flicks of the 60s -- "The Great Race," "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines," which may in turn have been influenced by Tom Wolfe.

Cliff Robertson, in a typically restrained but effective performance, is Cole Younger, the outlaw who leads a dozen others in a raid on the bank at Northfield, Minnesota, the kind of place we don't normally associate with the outlawism of the Old West.

Actually, he's kind of a co-leader of the gang, the less reckless and less bloodthirsty one. His partner is Robert Duvall as Jesse James. Jesse doesn't mind slinging lead around because, in addition to stealing money, he wants to demonstrate that "the war is still going on." Kids, that war is what we call "the American Civil War." It was fought between the Northern and Southern states in the early 1860s. That's "1860s AD". The "AD" stands for "anno domini." That's Latin and it means "in the year of our Lord." Jesse James is talking about "the American Civil War." Jesse fought for the South and, like a few others, turned outlaw when the formal conflict ended. PS: The South lost.

Most of the gang have nothing but contempt for the good folk of Minnesota they are about to rob of all their money. Ain't nothing' up there but Squareheads anyhow. Squareheads are most Scandinavians like Swedes and Norwegians but can include Germans and Poles too. The outlaws can't tell the difference. Kielbasi and knockwurst become jokes at the dinner table.

When they reach Northfield and begin to case the joint, they are introduced to the game of baseball. They've never heard of it. "Yep, it's our National Sport!", one Squarehead brags. The baseball scene is played for laughs but, to tell the truth, it's a bit extended. After a while it no longer seems so funny when the ball lands in a cow flop or a brawl breaks out. I, for one, was happy when Cole Younger finally shoots the ball into sawdust while it's in mid air.

Finally we get to the robbery itself, which takes place in rain and mud, not the dusty and sun-baked little towns we usually think of. (It was shot in Oregon, where it rains a lot.) Murphy's Law applies. "If something can go wrong, it will." The townspeople are as ready to shoot as the bandits are and all hell breaks loose. Cole Younger winds up with some 28 bullets in his body but manages to live out the rest of his life in prison, dying only in 1916.

I found it kind of entertaining. The baseball scenes do have some laughs after all. And Cole Younger is as amusing as Jesse James is chilling. Not that Younger actively tries to be funny. It's just that his character has some engaging quirks and some good lines. I also thought it might be, well, instructive for younger viewers, the kind who have little history and less general knowledge, the kind who think that baseball and pipe organs, like tooth decay, have always been with us, maybe invented by cave men.
Duzshura
Duzshura
Cut from the Dirty Cloth and Whimsy of its Era, with Echos of "The Wild Bunch" (1969) and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), Director Hoffman Manages to Make the Film an Enjoyable Romp with Good Acting and a Visual Template that Works as a Time Machine Travel Back when the Future was Not Certain. The Country was in Flux.

There are Many Colorful Details that Make the Movie Interesting and Fun to Watch, but there is also a Goodly Amount of Angst about the Civil War, Social Concerns, and of Course the Rivalry Between Cole Younger and Jesse James. Cliff Robertson is Cole and Robert Duvall is Jesse and They are Surrounded by Some Good Stalwart Western Character Actors.

This Never Quite Attains the Entertainment Value of the Same Story Laid Out in Walter Hill's "The Long Riders" (1980) that Amped Up the Stylization and the Characters Prove More Profound and Engaging. But This One Came First and is Worth a Watch for the Better Parts with its Look More Effective Than its Tone.
PanshyR
PanshyR
With an amnesty vote pending in the Missouri legislature, a last attempt to nab the James-Younger gang leaves Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson) gravely wounded, prompting Jesse James (Robert Duvall) to try his luck at a lucrative out-of-state bank job, leaving Cole worried about his amnesty and hot on his trail.

Indicative of Hollywood in the early seventies, this is slick, glib entertainment that takes a few shots at the establishment, though writer/director Philip Kaufman manages to do so without becoming smug and self-righteous (Robert Altman cough, cough), while remaining amusing and clever throughout and delivering a few good action scenes.

Robertson (who also produced) portrays Younger as the real brains of the gang and plays him with a grin and a twinkle in his eye, while Duvall's Jesse is half-crazed and ignorant, though with a quick wit and a devil-may-care attitude that brings to mind his characters in Joe Kidd and Apocalypse Now.

Great character actors like R.G. Armstrong, Royal Dano and Elisha Cook Jr. are always a welcome sight, while Luke Askew (who's third-billed despite never uttering a word!) went on to play a pivotal role in Frank And Jesse, another Jesse James movie a couple decades later.