7 Men From Now

"Essential"

7 Men From Now Review


It's with a heavy heart that I admit this, both to readers and myself: nobody cares about westerns anymore. Well, maybe Tommy Lee Jones, but he's that all-too-rare exception. It's hard to imagine that not too long ago (the 1940s and '50s) westerns were considered high entertainment, only exceeded by comedies and musicals. And though the genre was dominated by masters like John Ford and Howard Hawks, a film like Budd Boetticher's 7 Men from Now still got some attention from viewers. These days, without major critical hype and publicity, you wonder if it would even make a bleep on the radar.

An obvious forbearer to Clint Eastwood's groundbreaking Unforgiven, 7 Men concerns Ben Stride (Randolph Scott), the former sheriff of Silver Springs and a recently widowed drifter. Not a drifter without purpose, however. When seven men held up a Wells Fargo office, they killed Stride's wife and ran off with twenty grand. In a chilling opening scene, Stride kills off two of them in a small cave and then heads off to find the rest. Early in his mission he runs across Annie and John Greer (Gail Russell and Walter Reed, respectively), a couple heading to California to find their fortune. He also runs across an ex-con that he locked up once, Bill Masters (the ever-brilliant Lee Marvin), who agrees to help Stride for the possibility of picking up the stolen loot. But, as always, nothing is as it seems.

Every character has a secret and Boetticher stages every scene with an astute sense of mystery. Even by today standards, the tremendous script, by first-timer Burt Kennedy, twists and turns in ways that modern thrillers (I'm looking at you, Mindhunters) couldn't even dream of accomplishing. Boetticher and Kennedy never allow the audience to expect what is going to happen next, and they both have an acute sense of the darkness that greed and vengeance bring out in men.

At a scant 78 minutes, the film leaves no trace of fat. Every scene has an otherworldly tension, even in the calm moments. Consider an early scene where the Greers and Stride stop to wash horses: Annie goes to a small patch of river to swim and sing while Stride and John wash down the animals. Between John mentioning Silver Springs and the sound of Annie's singing, Boetticher layers the suspense of what happened in the past in Silver Springs while also planting the seeds of romantic yearning between Stride and Annie. Both Russell and Reed bring brooding emotion to their roles, but Scott paints a deep, steely portrait of a man haunted by misguided regret and terse yearning that keeps us at a distance, yet lets us understand every action he takes and doesn't take.

The two climactic shoot-outs outside of Flora Vista (where the Greer's are heading and the five remaining men are hiding out) give the gifted cinematographer William Clothier scenes to show his undeniable talents with space and lighting. Boetticher ends the film on a note of muted emotion, but there's no denying that the film gets everything right and we indeed feel this movie in our stomachs and hearts. Not completely unlike the John Ford classic My Darling Clementine, Boetticher's film shows how sparse style and subtle, quiet moments tend to dig much deeper than noisy gobbledygook.

Aka Seven Men from Now.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Batjac Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Budd Boetticher

Producer: Andrew V. McLaglen, Robert E. Morrison

Starring: as Ben Stride, Gail Russell as Annie Greer, as Bill Masters, Walter Reed as John Greer, as Payte Bodeen, Don Barry as Clete (as Donald Barry), as Cavalry Lieutenant Collins, Fred Graham as Henchman, John Beradino as Clint, as Jed, Chuck Roberson as Mason, as Señorita Nellie, Steve Mitchell as Fowler, Cliff Lyons as Henchman, as The Prospector

Also starring:

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