Boetticher’s first and probably finest western with Randolph Scott
7 Men from Now, I finally got to see Budd Boetticher’s superb Technicolor western “Seven Men from Now” which was long considered a lost classic in 1950s American cinema. The copy I saw was a pre-restored version but in excellent condition. This is Boetticher’s first of a series of fascinating, modest, and low-budget westerns with Randolph Scott. The others include “Buchanan Rides Alone”, “Decision at Sundown”, “The Tall T”, “Ride Lonesome”, and “Comanche Station”.
All of them are superb, but “Seven Men” is really my favorite. As Andrew Sarris astutely observed in his Boetticher entry in The American Cinema, “Constructed partly as allegorical odysseys and partly as floating poker games in which every character took turns at bluffing about his hand or his draw until the final showdown, Boetticher’s westerns expressed a weary serenity and moral certitude that was contrary to the more neurotic approaches of other directors in this neglected genre of the cinema”. From the stunning opening sequence of Scott coming from behind the camera entering a rocky shelter to the final scene of Gail Russell watching Scott leaving the town, “Seven Men” is an exciting, brooding, and impeccably constructed western. Boetticher deftly uses the vast isolated landscape to comment on the characters’ isolation and entrapment. The screenplay by Burt Kennedy is brilliant and witty. The film also features some extraordinary performances by Scott and his clever nemesis, played by the incredible Lee Marvin, a role that somehow anticipates his sadistic Liberty Valance in Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. Scott plays a morally ambiguous ex-sheriff who, while helping an Eastern husband and wife, travel cross-country in their covered wagon, hunts for the seven men shot and killed his wife. The scenes between Scott and Russell are strangely moving and effective. The final showdown between Scott and Marvin is stunning and unforgettable.