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The Weekend Western: Seven Men from Now August 18, 2007

Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Westerns , trackback

Much as I loved the western genre, I was never a fan of Randolph Scott when I was growing up. He always seemed too stiff, too straight laced and it took Sam Peckinpah to make me see the error of my ways. When I first saw Ride the High Country I realised I’d underestimated Scott. Since then I’ve seen several of his westerns and I’ve enjoyed more than a few, but until now I’d never seen one that came close to Ride the High Country.

Seven Men from Now is a psychological western that’s more in the vein of the Anthony Mann/James Stewart horse operas than with anything I’ve seen in Scott’s back catalogue. In fact Scott’s vengeance seeking ex-sheriff has much in common with Stewart’s character in The Man from Laramie, both looking to avenge the loss of a loved one, in Scott’s case his wife, murdered during a robbery.

As well as Scott’s excellent turn as the craggy hero Ben Stride, the film features strong support from an actor whose career was on the rise and an actress making a comeback. Lee Marvin’s character is far too complex to just be labelled a villain, he even saves Stride’s life at one point and it’s clear he admires him. Good though he is in Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance he’s much better here, allowed to show shades of grey as opposed to just play black hearted bad guy.

Gail Russell hadn’t made a film in five years but she throws herself into the role (and the mud) with gusto. Her part is perhaps the most complex in the film, married to a spineless wanderer (Walter Reed), lusted after by Marvin’s dangerous gunman and drawn to the widowed Stride. She manages to convey far more than mere dialogue would allow, when she talks with Scott there is much left unsaid but you see it in her eyes. She may have lost some of her youthful beauty but she’s still strikingly attractive and it’s sad to think that just a few years later she would be dead.

Ride the High Country remains my favourite Randolph Scott film but Seven Men from Now runs it a close second and stands as one of the great revenge westerns. I’d love to see some of the other Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher /Burt Kennedy westerns but sadly they don’t seem to be available on DVD.

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