Thursday, January 19, 2006

Seven Men from Now (1956)

Tough, compelling B-western starring Randolph Scott and his wounded pride. Scott plays a sheriff obsessed with hunting down seven bank robbers, and his dilemma provides the key to the film -- it's about what it means to be a man (check not only Scott's guilt but Walter Reed's befuddled impotence and his eventual attempt at "macho" redemption). The carefully constructed plot winds its way towards an inevitable confrontation, but when we get there it's not what we expect at all -- it's more ritualistic than cathartic. The ending, in this light, is rather sad and defeatist, with the surviving characters slinking away, tails between their legs, back to attempt a resumption of the lives they had before it was all blown apart. Scott's weather-beaten face suits his role perfectly; in fact, all the roles are pretty perfect in their casting, with a plum role for a young Lee Marvin as a bandit who takes up with Scott's party and may or may not be a bad guy. He savors every bit of the pungent dialogue given to him. (Listening to the dialogue here and in the other B-westerns I've seen, it is becoming clear to me that there isn't as much separation between the western and the film noir genre as it might seem.)

Grade: B+


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