Seven Men from Now Studio: Paramount Home Video Year: 1956 (2005 Release) Rated: Not rated Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays (see note in video section) Audio: English DD mono Subtitles: English Time: 78 minutes Disc Type: DVD-9 On a mission of vengeance, Randolph Scott portrays Ben Stride, in Budd Boetticher’s often-misunderstood western, “Seven Men from Now.” Stride is hunting down a group of seven men who robbed a Wells Fargo freight station, killing Stride’s wife, a clerk at the station, in the process. Stride, who was almost the deputy of the town, foregoes his duty to search for the seven robbers. As the picture begins, Stride has found two of the criminal’s and he quickly guns them down. He moves on and he encounters a pioneering couple, John and Annie Greer, on the way to a new life in California. Stride befriends the couple and agrees to accompany them. The trio runs into Lee Marvin’s Bill Masters, a rogue ex-con who was jailed by Stride in the past. Masters tags along with them as a way to toy with Stride and make advances towards the bewitching Annie. The story follows this group through the desert locales into a frontier town that marks a deadly turning point for the story. Eventually, Stride must confront his own guilt as a by-product of his vengeance. Boetticher did seven films with Scott (this one being under the BatJac label), and this picture has gone through ups and downs in its status as a classic. As James Kitses points out in the commentary, “Seven Men from Now” has finally achieved its rightful place with other westerns of the time by John Ford. Even though it is considered a B movie by Hollywood standards, it allowed Boetticher to slide in all kinds of things because the picture was not really noticed, such as the borderline verbal groping Masters gives to the Greer’s and Stride in the wagon. Marvin provides a monologue that shows its descendants in numerous Tarantino characters, most notably Budd from “Kill Bill”. It’s no surprise there is a common name there. In the documentary that accompanies this release, we are reminded of the threats of each of the characters that lie beneath their simmering surfaces. When they do erupt, their violence is often quick to the point of simplicity utilizing an economy of shots (which was reflected in the eighteen day shooting schedule). Scott’s stoicism, or as Peter Bogdonavich calls his, “…square decency…” seeks to reinforce Stride’s singular purpose in avenging his dead wife. He has no time for such distractions as the advances of Annie or some pesky Indians. Video: “Seven Men from Now” is presented in Warner Color. It appears to be framed anamorphically at 1.85:1, and Kitses also notes this aspect ratio in the commentary. However, I have seen other reports online putting it closer to 1.77:1. Edge enhancement is highly visible, to the point of distraction in some places. There are fluctuations in picture detail throughout the feature, and in some scenes it becomes very muddy. There are also variations in film stocks and you can almost see where the camera was at the end of a reel or at a dissolve. Colors are accurate and they virtually leap out at times, but they have a tendency to fluctuate depending on the film stock. Blacks are deep with decent shadow detail. There is a very minor bit of film dirt, and grain is apparent. Part of the Boetticher documentary shows the original negative and the restoration of the color, and I would imagine this is probably the best we will ever see this picture. Audio: The feature is presented in big fat mono. Voices are accurate but some ADR is noticeable. The soundtrack is very clean and free from any distortions or hiss. Bonus Features: Feature length commentary by James Kitses, film historian and author: Kitses provides a scholarly evaluation of the feature, Boetticher and how the picture challenges the conventions of the genre. “Budd Boetticher: An American Original” (50:35) – A history and retrospective of Boetticher and his career. It features comments from Arnold Kunert, Clint Eastwood, Taylor Hackford, Gretchen Wayne, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Towne, Quentin Tarantino and many others throughout the various parts. There is also archival footage from “Budd Boetticher: One on One” a 1985 interview running throughout. The documentary is broken up into seven parts: “Americano” - Boetticher’s love for all things Mexican, and the beginnings of his career. “Burt Kennedy, Writer” - history of screenwriter Burt Kennedy. “Duke, Randy and Budd” - the beginnings of “Seven Men from Now.” “Loveable Villains and Strong Women” – a discussion about the morality of the characters. “Keeping it Simple” – discussion of the action scenes and their simplicity. “The Last Matador” – Boetticher returns to his original interest, bullfighting, in a picture about Carlos Aruzza. It also contains a discussion of the slow down of Boetticher’s career. “Restoring the Legend” - Boetticher’s legacy and the restoration of the picture. The John Wayne Stock Company: Gail Russell (13:16): Background and history on Gail Russell (Annie Greer), including her problems with alcoholism. Lone Pine (6:25): A visit to the shooting location of the picture. Theatrical trailer (2:00): 4X3, but it appears to have undergone the same restoration. BatJac trailer (6:00): Trailer gallery for BatJac pictures from Paramount. “Island in the Sky”, “Hondo”, “The High and the Mighty”, “McLintock!”, “Track of the Cat”, “Man in the Vault”, “Plunder of the Sun”, “Ring of Fear”, and, “Seven Men from Now”. Photo Gallery Conclusions: Paramount has done a really bang up job with this release, presenting us with the restored version that was done several years ago. We are also given a new documentary on Boetticher that seeks to reinforce his, and his pictures, reputation as a western classic. There are also a sufficient amount of extras that will spark an interest in other Botticher and BatJac titles. Recommended!