Customer Reviews: The Jayhawkers
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
Format: DVD|Change
Price:$17.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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on July 31, 2012
I am allways amazed how you NEVER see some movies on TV. Jeff Chandler was a great hollywood actor whose life was tragically cut short by a botched routine operation. Any doubts buy his war sagas like Merrill's Mauraders and if Amazon has one left AWAY ALL BOATS! But this is about one of his westerns. THE JAYHAWKERS. they pair him up with a man known for tv shows not movies. Fess Parker. Known as Walt Disney's DAVY CROCKETT & ABC early days network bedrock DANIEL BOONE. The chemistry is magic and makes this western loosely based on Quantrill's Raiders riveting. Definately worth the price'
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on September 16, 2012
Chandler's superb in the Quantrill-based role. (Then again, when was he not?) Parker underplays his part as the man sent to catch him, knowing Chandler's the man indirectly responsible for his wife's demise. Henry Silva is wonderfully sleazy as the gunhand. And Jerome Moross' score is brilliant, as good as his work in THE BIG COUNTRY. There's a good amount of action, so Western fans won't be disappointed. A fun way to spend some time.Head `Em Off At the Pass!: 94 Westerns You Should Watch
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on June 5, 2012
I remember the film The Jayhawkers because I saw it on the big screen in a movie theatre. And I still find the concept of this film fascinating. Both Fess Parker and Jeff Chandler are so believable in their respective roles. It's definitely a film I will keep as part of my film library.
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on August 18, 2000
This is an odd little Western set in the 1850s, with Jeff Chandler and Fess Parker on opposite sides of the law. Chandler, as Luke Darcy, plays a very noble yet misguided self-appointed leader of a band of outlaws bent on seeing his vision of society's mores come to fruition. Chandler brings integrity and determination to his role. Parker is always good in his homespun way. Henry Silva is also on hand demonstrating his wry presence. The film's greatest asset (and probably why I always liked this film) is its score by Jerome Moross, best known for "The Big Country." If you listen close you can hear strains of his theme for the TV show "Wagon Train." The VHS color print is vivid.
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An uncharacteristic drama in a career dominated by comedies like The Court Jester and A Touch of Class, Melvin Frank's The Jayhawkers! is an ambitious Western drama with some interesting psychological undercurrents as Fess Parker's escaped convict is promised his freedom if he can deliver Jeff Chandler's ruthless empire builder for execution. Rather than the customary cattle king or ruthless outlaw, Chandler's got bigger plans, forming a private army of Jayhawkers to seize control of Kansas and turn it into his personal kingdom. Masquerading as brutal redlegs brutally pillaging small towns and then `liberating' them under their own colours, he's a keen student of history as well as a callous womaniser who uses women like wine - when the bottle is empty, he just throws the bottle away, with one difference "With a wine you sometimes learn the name, with women never." And wouldn't you know it, one of the women he threw away and left to die in the gutter was Parker's wife. But Parker falls under the spell of his big ideas and powerful personality, and it's not a one-way attraction. Chandler clearly has a more than fraternal interest in his latest recruit, casting aside former favourite Henry Silva and even killing his own men when they threaten Parker because "Nobody cheats me out of you!"

Chandler dominates the film as the would-be dictator with a fear of being hung to dance on the end of a rope "like a clown" and something of a Napoleon complex (he even keeps a bust of the man in his home and gets Parker to read up on his campaigns) but who, as Nicole Maurey's French widow points out in the odd less than subtle nod to 20th century history, is just fooling the gullible to further his own ends. Often a better actor than his material, he has particularly strong material here and rises to the challenge admirably, leaving Parker's solid turn in the lead distinctly one dimensional by comparison. Silva, often either enjoyably over the top or disinterestedly walking through parts in many of his films is particularly impressive here as his homicidal spurned puppy as well. Sadly the film's climax is a bit underwhelming as the two protagonists go mano a mano in an abandoned bar while the sounds of offscreen battle rage around them before the film regains its footing, and at times the budgetary limitations show (some of the exterior locations are very noticeably studio interiors or backlots), but all told it works more than well enough to forgive the shortcomings. It's also helped along by a terrific Jerome Moross score that's got more than a hint of his previous year's The Big Country to it, while you can spot an unbilled Harry Dean Stanton as a lawman in an early scene.

Olive Films' region-free Blu-ray disc is for the most part an impressive widescreen transfer that is more than sharp enough to show why the VistaVision system the film was shot in used to herald itself as `Motion Picture High-Fidelity,' though also clear enough to see a few scratches and slight tramlines on the negative around a couple of reel changes, some of the latter, because the film ran through the camera sideways, horizontal rather than vertical. No extras.
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on October 27, 2012
Remember the "good old westerns" we watched as kids that had beautiful color and bigger than life heros! Well, this is one I highly recommend! Get out the popcorn and enjoy!
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on October 17, 2012
Another fine Vistavision western with a great score and a decent story as Fess Parker tries to figure out which path to take as he joins forces with Jeff Chandler and his Jayhawkers who are trying to take over Kansas in the mid 19th century.... The video is pretty good with numerous minute scratches traveling sideways across the screen....these do not take away from the film, however.... Definitely worth it for Western fans and those of us who love Vistavision.... The Run for Cover blu-ray looks better, but a great western nonetheless....
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on March 29, 2001
This is a hard film to review. It's a pretty good movie, a good western... but as a film about the Jayhawkers in 1850's Kansas it's so wildly inaccurate and far from any resemblance to history that it almost defies belief.
Fess Parker is good as the brooding, undecided not-quite-outlaw, and the rest of the cast is fine as well. The moral ambiguity is well done too. It's just the scenario that's the problem. This stuff just didn't happen, and in places that didn't exist.
They have Fess Parker's character having been settled in Kansas before the Mexican War when Kansas wasn't really opened to settlement until years after. Then they have the army fighting the Jayhawkers for control of the kingdom of Kansas (which has a lot of astonishingly large, well-built towns in it). The Jayhawkers are a para-military band whose raids--in this movie--are entirely in Kansas, against Kansans. Missouri, which was the real target of the real Jayhawkers gets one token mention, then we're back to raids in Kansas. The real Jayhawkers were horsethieves who raided into Missouri, occassionally kidnapping a slave so they could claim to be abolitionists (to be fair, a few were genuine abolitionists). The movie's Jayhawkers wore "Redlegs" leggings but no mention of Jennison is made. There's also not a single African-American in the entire movie though there's a brief mention of--I think they called them--"Missouri Redlegs" killing a lady's husband after asking his opinion of slavery.
It's bizarre. It's like they had the script for a stock western then went through and inserted a few pre-Civil War Kansas-Missouri border war phrases without bothering to find out anything about them. The women's costumes were decidedly not 1850s--looked more like generic 1870's-80's Hollywood western outfits. And the weapons... I'm not an expert on 1850's weapons but it struck me as more than passingly odd that everyone had such very fine repeating rifles. Oh, and a big chunk of the plot relied on the very extensive railroad that existed in this universe's 1850's Kansas.
As a nice old western, this is a fine little adventure movie. The video was crisp and the colors bright. Good action. As an historically based movie... no.
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on July 22, 2012
Glad that I made the purchase of this movie. The plot is decent and the actors keep you waiting for their next move. I enjoyed the movie so well that I watched it 3 times on the first day that I had it.
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on January 21, 2013
Pretty much a textbook example of what a great 1950s action-Western should be. Jeff Chandler steals the show as well as Kansas in one of his best ever performances (and he's had so many) as a Quantrill type ransacking Kansas towns, then reappearing with his private "army" to liberate the downtrodden offering protection, promising the Perfect Empire in exchange for support and loyalty. His methods prove to be very popular and our Napoleon of the plains is winning over the territory from the governor and his troops.

One BIG mistake. Chandler's Darcy is responsible for the death of Parker's Cam Bleeker's wife while Cam was away in prison. Cam escapes and he wants vengence. Soon re-captured by the governor, he's offered a clean slate if he'll join the Jayhawkers and set Darcy up for capture.

From here on it gets involved and plays out differently then might be expected...
This is an important and must have release from Olive Films. It's a beautiful VistaVision print in glorious Technicolor, a sheer joy to watch and behold! Everyone involved is outstanding with an especially nice turn by Henry Silva as a demented psycho gunslinger, you know, just exactly what you would expect from him.

...Saw this on tv in the early 1960s in b&w and liked it alot, so I was expecting to be disappointed, but this time the movie was actually far better than I had remembered it being. I was just a kid back then and so I only remembered the vague outline of what the film was about, as it was a film that somehow always escaped me throughout the years. So while watching this film anew I found myself in for a bonus.

For 50 years now I had been haunted by a screen image. That of a little girl running out into the dusty street only to be run over, trampled in the frenzy by the bandits' countless horses. I couldn't remember the movie from which the scene had come from. I asked my Western film friends, but they didn't know. I actually thought that maybe I had imagined it, or that it was from some tv show. Then, it unfolded before my eyes and as it was happening I knew that this was it, the image reappeared, the horses came trampling down upon the little girl.
Does she live or die? I won't say. I couldn't remember what her fate was, only the image.

Finally, the Jerome Moross score. It's rousing, exciting, befitting of such an action-packed Western. And it's available on Amazon! Buy both the dvd and the cd, I did. One of the minor themes throughout is the WAGON TRAIN theme, subtle at first, then more noticible.

This is one of my top purchases over the past year and I can't do better than to urge you to add this keeper to your dvd library. It's certainly one of my favorite Westerns from the 1950s.
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