I Shot Jesse James (1949)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Outlaw (Gunfighter) Film, Psychological Western  |   Release Date - Feb 26, 1949 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Aubry Anne D'Arminio

The idea for Samuel Fuller's I Shot Jesse James arose from the fledgling writer/director's interest in Cassius' murderous betrayal of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. When producer Robert L. Lippert vetoed the development of a period film about "men in bed sheets" and warned Fuller that he would only be allowed to helm a picture if its costs were low, the director opted for a more recent and lower budget tale of treachery: the shooting death of Jesse James at the hands of fellow gang member, Robert Ford. Based on Homer Croy's short stories and shot in only ten days, the film emerged as a grim, emotional study of disloyalty that thrives on its meager production value. Every "intellectual" postwar Western claims to expose the psychology of its characters. I Shot Jesse James' austerity, spare dialogue, and two-dimensional sets support its refreshing assertion that the standard motivations for betrayal -- greed, jealousy, or love -- are all there is to uncover.