“Kansas Raiders” was another of those fast moving little 80 minute westerns turned out by Universal. As was their custom, they liked to cast many of their up and coming young actors in various roles. This one is no exception.
The story takes place during the Civil War where five young riders, Jesse James (Audie Murphy), Frank James (Richard Long), Kit Dalton (Tony Curtis), Cole Younger (James Best) and James Younger (Dewey Martin), are looking to join up with Quantrill’s Raiders.
They ride into Quanrill’s camp and enlist in his service. Quantrill (Brian Donlevy) takes a shine to young Jesse, who in turn has an eye for Quantrill’s woman, Kate Clarke (Margeurite Chapman). After Jesse kills Tate (David Wolfe), one of Quantrill’s lieutenants in a knife fight, he is elevated to Tate’s position. Jesse learns that Quantrill’s other lieutenant, the brutal “Bloody Bill” Anderson (Scott Brady) kills without provocation.
The boys go on raids with the Raiders and Jesse sees the senseless brutality and killing of innocent people. He begins to have second thoughts. After the pillaging of Lawrence Kansas, the gang is pursued relentlessly and they decide to desert Quantrill. However Jesse and the boys remain loyal until…………………………………..
Murphy, Curtis, Brady, Long, Best and Martin all went on to varying degrees of success in the coming years. Donlevy had a long and successful career playing classy villains. Chapman here, looks too old for the boyish looking Murphy. This was Murphy’s second film and he carries most of the picture. Richard Arlen and a young Richard Egan also appear as Union cavalry officers.
Director Ray Enright keeps the story moving and the raid sequences are particularly well done. The “glorious” Technicolor photography is equally stunning.
Audie Murphy, the most decorated US soldier in WWII, would make a career out of these fast paced little oaters over the next 15 years.