Jesse James Women
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Written by The Dingus Project

Jesse James Women on the Dingus ProjectTHE DINGUS PROJECT
Jesse James in Film #24

With the exception of Jesse "James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter," it doesn’t get much worse than this. On second thought, this one is worse. Donald Barry, who wrote, produced, directed and starred in this film gets full credit for this trash classic. WINNER: Reall bad Award!

Our Worst of the Jesse James Films Award

Jesse James Women (1954)
Don Barry, Peggie Castle, Lila Baron, Joyce Barrett, Laura Lee

As the title implies, this is nothing more than a B-western exploitation romp. Today it is often marked with the added title "The Naked Hills." Our Australian-made DVD bootleg was so badly duplicated that it is extra painful to watch and listen to. The sets look recycled and the dialogue seems made up on the spot. The cartoonish big band soundtrack, that clicks off and on with each chase or fight scene, must have been lifted from earlier movie melodramas. When actors muff their lines, the camera keeps rolling.

Jesse James' Women on The Dingus ProjectIn the opening scene, J. Woodson aka Jesse James (Don Barry) has convinced the banker’s daughter to loan him the key to the bank. Jesse doesn’t steal it all. ("Take a little, leave a little," he says). Then he colludes with a local dance hall girl to rip off her partner. Jesse robs her, then they make out. Minutes later Jesse saves a singer from gang member Bob Ford, and then makes out with you. "You haven’t got enough guts to shoot a man in the back," Jesse tells Bob. It’s low humor all the way. A dance scene in the saloon deserves a ‘worse of" award on its own, but is bested by the following torch song – "If you care for me, then you will dare for me."

Back in camp, Jesse’s men are getting rowdy and raunchy and jealous of their leader, who by now is juggling a whole harem of female accomplices. Jesse refers to them each as "doll." But Waco, the saloon owner, is the jealous type. So when Kate, Jesse’s former lover, arrives in town on a cattle drive, the long-awaited battle breaks out. Kate and Waco leap into a bodice-ripping catfight that Jesse turns into a wet T-shirt contest with a bucket of beer.

Smug and moon-faced, Jesse seems more fit for a midlife crises than the town gigolo. Jesse’s plot to rob the town from every angle is almost uncovered when one of his gang members takes a photograph and tries to "out" him to the sheriff. But the letter is intercepted by a pre-teen girl who has a crush on Jesse. Meanwhile, the lazy lothario is working two more scams. He plans to rob Kate of her cattle money and conspires with singer Delta to cheat in a high stakes prizefight.

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It’s all about the money, Jesse says, and women are only the means to an end. Nothing, other than the occasional appearance of Frank James and Cole Younger, is connected to reality here. Don Barry’s Jesse James is entirely tongue-in-cheek, but not as funny as when Jesse meets the Three Stooges or Bob Hope in other parody westerns. There is no climax here, just heavy petting. At the finale, Waco and Kate meet high-noon-style on the main street of Silver City, but are arrested before anyone can shoot.

As an aside, main actor Don Barry also wrote, produced and directed this bomb, and created the soundtrack. "Jesse James’ Women" was his only one-man production. Barry didn’t know it, but he was on a long slow decline by the time he took on Jesse James. Best known for the title role in the 1940 cliffhanger action series Red Ryder, Barry played in over 200 productions, mostly bad. At the end of a long artistic decline, he shot himself to death in 1980.

Copyright © J. Dennis Robinson, All rights reserved.

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