Monday, 21 September 2015

Quantrill's Raiders.

Historical nonsense it may be but that does not stop Edward Bernds from directing a grand wee film that takes me back to my childhood when action packed exciting westerns like Quantrill's Raiders (1958) were my staple viewing diet.

William Clark Quantrill.
Outlawry and strife spawned by the American Civil War joined forces under the black flag of William Clark Quantrill. These men included the James and the Youngers, notorious outlaw families who robbed banks, railroads and express companies. William Quantrill an ex teacher and superintendent of a small Bible School, became the leader of the largest of Missouri's guerrilla bands and became known as the ‘bloodiest man in America’. This was mainly due to the massacre that took place at Lawrence, Kansas on the 21st August 1863. It was here that Quantrill and 450 of his men killed 183 men and boys that were "old enough to carry a rifle" and burnt most of town to the ground. This act was said to be revenge for the killing of four women and the maiming of other female relatives of the raiders who had been kept prisoner by Union sympathisers and Jayhawkers in a building that became overcrowded and consequently collapsed.

Bernds movie uses the character of Captain William Quantrill and the town of Lawrence but that's about as accurate as it gets. Writer Polly James, who wrote the screenplay for episodes of the popular TV series The Lone Ranger (1949-1959), The Gene Autry Show (1959-1952) and The Roy Rogers Show (1951), changes the bloody raid on Lawrence to a raid on its arsenal. Steve Cochran plays a Confederate Captain who poses as a horse dealer for the Union army but whose real task is to contact Quantrill and arrange for him to attack and destroy the Yankee's ammunition store and put a large dent in the Unions capabilities in the area reducing the strength of the opposition giving Quantrill and his men a free hand to carry out their bloody deeds. But nothing ever goes quite to plan with Cochran falling in love with local beauty played by Diane Brewster and Quantrill seemingly unable to take orders. The raiders leader is played by Leo Gordon, an actor who made a career out of playing larger than life villains, the year previous to this film he had played John Dillinger in Baby Face Nelson (1957).

Leo Gordon and Steve Cochran.

William Quantrill - the last of the great romantics!

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