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Seven Men From Now

Ben Stride (Randolph Scott) is a laconic ex-sheriff on a mission. Seven men have held up the Wells Fargo, and he's put it on himself to find all the thieves. After tracking down two of them, he finds himself in the company of John and Annie Greer (Walter Reed and Gail Russell), who are on their way west, hoping for a better life. After he reluctantly joins forces with them, he runs into Bill Masters (Lee Marvin). Masters knows why Stride is after the men — they killed his wife — but they also got a fine share of loot that Masters would like to call his own, and the only man standing between him and the money is Stride. The first of what became the "Ranown cycle", 1956's Seven Men From Now was the initial effort (of seven) that director Budd Boetticher made with Scott, producer Harry Joe Brown, and writer Burt Kennedy. The Ranowns have long been celebrated in cineaste circles for their brutal efficiency and snappy dialogue, but their cult status is largely due to limited availability. The films were meant to be part of double-bills, and the series was lost to late-night cable, poor video releases, and the rare repertory showing, which makes the DVD release of Seven Men something to celebrate. In the film's effortlessly compact 78 minutes, Boetticher's command of cinema is in full force. He understands the power of simplicity and often demonstrates Scott's proficiency at gunplay by not showing him fire. Though made explicit in the documentary included with the disc, it's true that the makers had a formula that carried on throughout the series (in fact, 1960's Ride Lonesome found them taking the Seven Men formula and tweaking it ever so slightly) that involved strong stoic men (played by Scott) who were buffered by charming antagonists (here played by Marvin) who would do all of the talking, providing the flavor and exposition that the main character cannot. They usually got great results, but what marks Seven Men is the presence of Lee Marvin, who invests his character with a flamboyant brio. He gets a marvelous scene where he tells a story to the Greers and Stride about how he knew a woman like Annie once. It's said that Boetticher and Kennedy thought it was some of the best work they ever did. They were right, and it's Marvin who makes it sing. Paramount presents Seven Men from Now in a good anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) with monaural DD 2.0 audio. The highlight of the package is the impressive documentary "Budd Boetticher: an American Original," which covers the director's career and includes interviews with Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Towne, and Taylor Hackford, along with period interviews with Boetticher (51 min.). Also included are a commentary by film historian and author Jim Kitses, the featurette "The John Wayne Stock Company: Gail Russell" (13 min.), a featurette on the film's location, "Lone Pine" (6 min.), a stills gallery, and trailers for this and other John Wayne-produced films. Keep-case.

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