7 Men From Now (1956)

16 09 2008

My second encounter with Boetticher and Scott’s “ranown” series, and it is just as great as the first. I missed the very clever narrative set-up of Decision at Sundown – this film is a bit more straightforward, and probably better because of it. The visuals are great, as expected, but it is really Randolph Scott turn as Ben Stride that makes this one so special. I understand that this will give the impression to many people that his performance, since it is so important, is probably really over the top and energetic, but it is the exact opposite. This is classical western protagonist type passiveness and Scott totally nails it.

Providing support is Lee Marvin as Masters, a villain, of sort, but one that is on remotely friendly terms with Stride. The film’s romantic thrust is courtesy of Gail Russell as Annie Greer, the wife of a naive and much less masculine (at least in comparison to Stride or Masters) man, John Greer. The Greer couples happens upon Ben Stride in the middle of the dessert while they’re on their way to California to take advantage of a job opening. Stride helps get the Greers out of a mud puddle, and they respond by inviting him on their journey. This all happens within the scope of about ten minutes, which provides a perfection explanation of Boetticher’s pace. Perhaps equating his sense of pacing to Antonioni would make film buffs scoff, but he definitely seems to be in the same ballpark.

Also in the first ten minutes, is one of the most brilliant moments in the entire film. As Stride and John Greer wash up their respective horses, Annie takes a swim some distance away. She begins to sing, and her song begins to eclipse the awkward and clumsy attempts by her husband to make conversation with Stride. To inadvertently quote the back of the DVD box, Stride is a no-nonsense character, and yet he constantly finds himself stuck with people filled with nonsense. Only Stride’s nemesis, Masters, seems to be on the same (emotional) page.

Oddly enough, the emotional sensibility of every western protagonist is called in to question only a couple minutes later in the film when Masters grills John on how he was able to end up with Annie. He mentions how he and Stride are tough, simple mind with no time for fancy concepts like love, while John, being sensitive, does. Obviously, Stride and Masters are the more superficially masculine men, but the implication (from screenwriter Burt Kennedy) is that they are just as soft. This isn’t a groundbreaking hypothesis, but it is one of the few times I can personally recall a western presently the topic so openly. There’s all the usual great Boetticher goodness in this movie, too, which also contributes a good deal to its greatness.

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One response

17 09 2008
Dan

Another masterpiece…

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