The 1956 western film, 7 Men From Now was the first of the collaborations between Randolph Scott and director Budd Boetticher. John Wayne bought the rights to the film for his Batjac production company, but due to scheduling conflicts with John Ford’s The Searchers, Wayne was unable to star. He suggested Randolph Scott to take his place, and Scott recommended using Boetticher. It became the first of seven films that they would make together, forever cementing them into western film history.
7 Men From Now tells the story of Ben Stride (Scott). He is a former lawman who is hunting down the seven men who killed his wife in a robbery. As he is in pursuit of these men, he meets John and Annie Greer (Walter Reed and Gail Russell), a married couple making their way out west to start a new life. Stride helps them out of trouble and they ask him to travel with them. Later down the road they meet with a duo of gunmen named Bill and Clete (Lee Marvin and Don “Red” Barry). Years ago, Stride had put Bill in jail and now Bill is looking to get revenge. Before he seeks his revenge, Bill and Clete are going to stick with Stride until he catches the murderers. They figure they might be able to end up with the money, as well as their vengeance. Now this band of misfits is traveling together toward a band of killers, knowing that in the end only one of them can stay alive.
7 Men From Now is unlike most of the westerns of the 1950’s. Typically in a western from this era the good and the bad are easily separatable, the innocent walk away and the good end up happy. This story doesn’t make any character seem like a hero, and even the villains have some humanity. Everyone is in danger because they are all involved in this mess together. Even Stride has a darker side than many of Scott other western “hero” characters. He is searching for his wife’s killers out of revenge, not justice. While watching 7 Men From Now, I wasn’t reminded of the great, justice filled John Wayne movies from that era, but rather the darker, more intense westerns of Clint Eastwood that would come later. In fact, the similarities between 7 Men From Now and The Outlaw Josey Wales are remarkable. A quiet, scorned man searching for revenge for the murder of his wife, who picks up various “lost souls” along his journey toward a fresh start and personal redemption.
Since Boetticher was considered a “B” filmmaker, his movies always have a smaller feel to them. In the case of 7 Men From Now, this is exactly what was needed. A larger production would not only have hurt this story, but it also would have taken away from the personal feel that an audience can have with these wonderfully written characters. Cinematographer William H. Clothier was a legend of the western genre. In fact he made so many great pictures that he got himself elected into the “Cowboy Hall Of Fame”. 7 Men From Now is just one example of the many great western films that had Clothier working his magic. The movie is breathtaking, and due to the enormous landscapes, this group of travelers seems completely alone in the wilderness. I was reminded of the much more recent western Meek’s Cutoff (2010), as our group spends so much of the movie walking together in silence.
Randolph Scott’s acting in 7 Men From Now surprised me. Typically I don’t think of his roles as being emotional, but for some reason I was touched by his performance here. It wasn’t the dialogue, but rather the silence that I noticed. His character was flawed and troubled, and it made him more human than I am used to seeing him. It is by far my favorite of his performances. In addition to Scott, I find myself consistently needing to mention the always-satirical Lee Marvin and the underappreciated humor in his roles. He is a welcomed addition to any movie, and fits perfectly with Randolph Scott. Gail Russell gives what was to be a comeback performance in an extremely troubled career. After having befriended John Wayne early in life, he was more than willing to help her out by giving her a chance in this film. Unfortunately, she was never able to overcome her lack of self-confidence and stage fright, which in turn lead to the alcoholism that killed her just a few years later. It is quite sad considering how talented she was, and how far she could have gone.
Over 50 years later, 7 Men From Now stands out as a must see western film. It has endured the test of time and is possibly the finest example of Budd Boetticher’s ability to take something small, and turn it into a cinematic marvel.Back to Home for More Reviews