• The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James (Umbrella Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: March 6th, 2019.
    Director: William A. Graham
    Cast: Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Marcia Cross, David Allan Coe, June Carter Cash, Gail Youngs
    Year: 1986
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    The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James – Movie Review:

    Directed by William A. Graham, who had quite a career creating content for the small screen, and penned by Bill Stratton (who wrote a boatload of episodes of Hawaii Five-O), The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James was a made for TV movie that debuted on NBC on February 17, 1986. While this is a story that has been told before and after this picture was made, the ‘catch’ to this take was that it was cast with some of the biggest names in country music at the time.

    As you’d probably guess from the title, the story examines the last few years (not days!) of famed outlaw brothers Frank (Johnny Cash) and Jesse James (Kris Kristofferson). Beginning in 1877, we witness the James boys calming down a little bit, attempting to settle into pedestrian life after a decade and a half of stealing anything that wasn’t tied down and doing a damn good job of it.

    Of course, without heists to occupy their time, the find other things to get into. Frank takes to family life quite easily, while Jesse finds he’s got a thing for the ladies. He’s the younger and wilder of the two, and in many ways, the greedier of the pair as well. And of course, it all leads up to a certain confrontation with Robert Ford (Darrell Wilks), although the movie does follow what happens to Frank after that incident up until his own demise some years later in 1915. It also covers what happened to Ford at the hands of Ed Kelly (Slick Lawson).

    Narrated by Ed Bruce as newspaper editor/author John Newman Edwards, the film also stars Willie Nelson as a former Confederate named Joseph O. Shelby, June Carter Cash as the James boys’ mother and David Allan Coe as Whiskeyhead Ryan. As a general rule, the performances here are quite good. Cash, Carter, Kristofferson and Nelson had all done some acting prior to this, even Coe had appeared in a couple of pictures before signing on to the project. Cash (who looks a bit off with a moustache but, hey Frank James wore a moustache so it makes sense) and Kristofferson in particular are very good here, definitely throwing themselves into the two most important roles in the film and delivering solid, believable work.

    Production values are decent. While it’s clear that this wasn’t a massive Hollywood production the sets and the costumes and even the firearms look authentic enough to work. The pacing is decent, and the script is well written. Even if most will already know how the story ends, given the film’s historical origins, Graham’s direction and the performances are good enough to hold our attention throughout.

    The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James – DVD Review:

    The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James arrives on DVD from Umbrella Entertainment in a satisfactory standard definition presentation. As this was originally a made for TV movie, the 1.33.1 full frame aspect ratio would seem to be correct, and compositions tend to confirm that, there’s no obvious cropping or pan and scan nonsense going on here. Detail can look a little soft but colors are handled well enough and this isn’t going to blow anyone away and was likely taken from an older analogue master, it’s more than watchable if not all that remarkable.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 mix on the disc is fine. Dialogue is clean and clear and the track is properly balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion, nor are there any subtitles or alternate language options offered.

    There are no extras on the disc.

    The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James – The Final Word:

    The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James is more of a historical drama than a western action picture, but it’s quite good. The novelty of seeing so much country music royalty team up here is part of the appeal, sure, but the film tells a good story and most of the performances are genuinely engaging. Umbrella’s DVD is barebones, but it looks and sounds decent enough, making this one worth tracking down.