Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin. A Wells Fargo robbery leaves the wife of a former sheriff dead. Haunted by this, he seeks out the seven men responsible in order to avenge her death. 1956/color/78 min/NR/widescreen.
Not many Westerns can claim to be original. Seven Men from Now
can. Its making, for the B-picture arm of John Wayne's Batjac company, was a modest enterprise. The screenwriter, Burt Kennedy, was just starting out; the director, Budd Boetticher, was a matador-turned-filmmaker with only one film of distinction (The Bullfighter and the Lady
) in a journeyman career; the star, Randolph Scott, was regarded as "over the hill." Yet the three men's talents blended uncannily, producing not just a terrific Western but a cinema masterpiece--an ironical, beautifully spare bit of storytelling that became the ideal showcase for Scott's sandy reticence.
You don't want anybody synopsizing the story for you; there's little of it, really, yet how it's told makes it complex and compelling. We know, from a memorable first scene, that Scott is hunting down seven men who did something terrible. He will be thrown together with several other characters, including Lee Marvin as an affable but deadly rascal with whom he shares some history. Everybody has private reasons to be traveling through Apache country. Savor every syllable of the laconic dialogue, what people say and what they don't quite say--what they think they understand about one another's motives, except that that understanding keeps getting rearranged.
Seven Men from Now went missing after Wayne's death in 1979 threw the Batjac library into limbo. (Its success had inspired Scott, Boetticher, and Kennedy to collaborate on three other remarkable Westerns--The Tall T (1957), Ride Lonesome (1959), and Comanche Station (1960)--which, because they weren't made for Batjac, we've had little trouble seeing over the years.) The movie became legendary, a Holy Grail for film buffs. Now, with a beautiful restoration on DVD, it gets to be a movie again. A great one. --Richard T. Jameson