Nick Ray takes the Jesse James legend and turns it around his own feelings of disenchantment. Freely adapting the original (1939) Nunnally Johnson script (which initiated the long line of motifs still recognisable in The Long Riders), he transmutes Jesse into one of his familiar outsiders ('the spokesman for everyone whose life is quietly desperate'): an adolescent who turns to outlawry from a disaffection with adult values, rather than Civil War rivalries. This outlaw, like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, entertains dreams of the good life (along the lines of teen-dream romance), but it's never more than a gesture of hope in a surrounding gone rotten. A fine Western, the only regret being Robert Wagner. Imagining Dean in the central role makes it one of the great might-have-beens. CPea.