SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956)

   Randolph Scott, Lee Marvin, Gail Russell, Donald Barry, and Budd Boetticher (director)
   Ben Stride (Scott) is an ex-sheriff, rejected at the last election. His wife is then forced to work at Wells Fargo. The Wells Fargo office is robbed, his wife is killed, and now, in order to reassert his masculinity, he is in pursuit of the seven killers who have probably scattered. When the film begins, Stride has already killed two. Four minutes into the film, he kills another two. Then he comes across a young pioneer couple with their covered wagon stuck in mud, and he helps them out. Shortly, two thugs (Marvin and Barry) join them. Marvin played a wonderful villain (Bill Masters), flamboyant (he wears his pistols butt forward and a brightly colored bandanna) and attractive in his meanness. Barry played his grunt. Masters is upfront in his intentions. He plans to follow the sheriff and see him kill the robbers. Then he will get the gold from him. (It turns out that the gold is in the covered wagon all along.) Sheriff Stride and the young wife (Russell) begin to fall for each other, and Masters sees right through them. In the covered wagon during a rainstorm, he tells a long story of a man just like Stride falling in love with a pretty wife like Annie. But the sheriff is virtuous despite the temptation. Eventually Stride finds the robbers in Flora Vista. The gang sends out two of them to kill the sheriff, but Stride kills them both, getting badly wounded in the leg in the process. Stride discovers the gold and intends to offer it to the robbers, but since he cannot come to them, he places the gold out in the open. The robbers try to get it, and in a fantastic shootout, Stride kills them all. But Masters has been waiting. Now he comes forward, and we have a classic quick-drawshootout. Marvin loses. Stride heads for town. Earlier, the young husband had shown his masculinity in a daring move to contact the sheriff during the face-off, and he is killed. Thus, at the end Annie and Stride are free. We assume they will now marry.
   Three incredible acting jobs make this movie: Randolph Scott, the stoic Westerner who cannot express himself except through action, tormented for losing his wife, tormented by love for another man’s wife; Lee Marvin, loud, boastful, virally handsome, and colorful yet bad through and through (he shoots his partner in cold blood when he is no longer needed) ; and Gail Russell, gorgeous with her bright smile and beautiful blue eyes, yet not at all a glamour girl. Budd Boetticher’s Seven Men from Now is a powerful film that, while working within the classic Western formula, explores all the passions fully. Nothing is unambiguously black and white. No actions by anybody are fully validated except the pursuit of masculinity.
   See also CLASSIC WESTERN' FORMULAS.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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