Seven Men from Now is the first, best and least-known of the seven films Producer-star Randolph Scott and Director Budd Boetticher made together. Written by Burt Kennedy, the 78-minute story focuses on Scott’s character tracking down the seven men who robbed a Wells Fargo station and killed his wife. Scott escorts a wagon with a wimpy husband and his beautiful wife (Gail Russell), and two bad guys who are after the Wells Fargo money.
An old expression in screenwriting goes: “Your story is only as good as your bad guy.” When you’ve got the stoic-to-the-point-of-grim Scott in the lead, this adage is particularly true. Luckily, Seven Men from Now has the best bad guy of the Scott-Boetticher films—a young and downright creepy Lee Marvin. (He became a big star nine years later with his hysterical, Oscar-winning performance in the comedy Western Cat Ballou.)
Marvin plays a gunslinger intent on getting the Wells Fargo money before Scott’s character does. Along the way, Marvin becomes more and more attracted to the beautiful, pouty Russell (who’d already costarred in two John Wayne films, then managed to drink herself to death by age 36). In an absolutely brilliant, claustrophobic scene, everybody ends up inside the wagon during a rainstorm. Marvin proceeds to make blatant sexual innuendo to Russell, right in front of her husband and Scott. It’s as creepy and uncomfortable as anything you’ve ever seen, creating a tension so thick you almost can’t breathe. Marvin simply couldn’t be better.
In what I consider to be one of the most beautiful shoot-outs in Western movie history, Marvin barely gets his gun out of the holster before Scott’s character shoots him dead. The scene cuts to Scott holding his smoking pistol. He’s so fast, the draw couldn’t be captured on film!
Boetticher is considered one of the best Western directors in film history, mainly because of his Randolph Scott films: The Tall T, Comanche Station, Ride Lonesome, Decision at Sundown, Westbound, Buchanan Rides Alone and, of course, Seven Men from Now.
Josh Becker is the internationally-known director of Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules, has directed seven feature films and has been a proud member of the Director’s Guild of America for 17 years. His latest book is Going Hollywood by Point Blank.