Sunday, November 04, 2012

7 Men From Now

This 1956 Western movie was recommended to me by several people whose opinions I respect so I gave it a try, and boy I'm glad I did. Turned out to be one of the better Westerns I can recall seeing. Tightly directed, with spare dialog and an almost hard boiled feel to it, 7 Men From Now follows one man's quest for revenge that becomes a chance for redemption.
   What I found interesting about this movie was that while the plot seems like something you've seen before, a man's wife is killed by outlaws so he hunts them down, the execution is very different. Ben Stride, played by Randolph Scott, isn't Jose Wales. This is a man driven as much by guilt as revenge. He feels responsible for his wife's death, and you can see the pain on the man's face as he goes about his mission. No snappy one liners when men die. He's taking no pride in this. It's just something he feels he has to do.
   Along the way, Stride picks up a ragtag group of companions, including a married couple and two trail bums. Two of these characters will affect him greatly. The woman (Gail Russell) of the couple reminds him of his late wife, and he's obviously attracted to her. The leader of the two trail bums (Lee Marvin) is a dangerous hombre who knows way too much about Stride's past. The very different tensions provided by these two characters drive the middle of the film.
   This movie was originally written for John Wayne, who acted as producer, but he had to bow out as star because he was committed to filming The Searchers. Just as well that he did, because this is Randolph Scott's vehicle all the way, and I don't think even the Duke could have done it better.
   Amazingly 7 Men was the first script job for writer Burt Kennedy and only the second movie directed by Budd Boetticher, but it turned out so well that it far exceeded everyone's expectations for what was basically a 'B' Movie Western and led to a collaboration between Boetticher, Kennedy, and Scott that would produce six more films, all of which are considered excellent and a couple which are considered classics. You can bet I'll be watching the others soon.
  

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