The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Seven Ways from Sundown (Universal, 1960)


The Barry Sullivan Show


 
 
Clair Huffaker wrote Western novels and
screenplays, sometimes screenplays from his own novels, as in this case. They were
competent and workmanlike and occasionally excellent. Some of them were quite
big and famous – The Comancheros or The War Wagon, for example, both with
John Wayne, and some were entertaining and exciting, like 100 Rifles or Rio Conchos.
Flaming Star was outstanding. In Seven Ways from Sundown he gives us an
enjoyable story for Audie Murphy to star in.
 
C’est Clair
 
Almost more than an Audie Western (his 20th), this
is a Barry Sullivan vehicle. While Murphy plays the straight-and-narrow Texas
Ranger determined to bring him in, it’s Barry who plays the charismatic
charming rogue who is the object of the hunt, and it is he who steals the
picture.
 
Barry stealing the show
 
It’s the story of frock-coated outlaw
Jim Flood, who has a splendid entrance in the first scene, escaping from a
saloon and his pursuers. It is Sullivan, of course. This was the year that he
became Pat Garrett on TV, in The Tall Man
(he was tall actually, though not as vertiginous as Garrett) and he’d been in big-screen Westerns since 1943. He
was (a very fictional) Tom Horn in 1949 in Bad
Men of Tombstone
and he’d been an Earpish marshal in Forty Guns in ’57. He had another charming-rogue part in Dragoon Wells Massacre that year too,
and he was a regular on various Western TV shows. Seven Ways from Sundown is one of his better oaters.

You can tell Flood is a good-badman
because at one point he is nice to a kid and gives him a knife. If you see a
character mistreating an animal or child, especially in the first reel, that’ll
tell you right off he’s a baddie, but if you see one patting a dog or being
kind to a kid, that’s a sure sign he’s on the side of the angels.
 
Being nice to a boy? Must be a goody.
 
Huffaker liked colorful names and the movie’s
title, it may surprise you to know, is the name of Audie’s character. Audie explains that Mr. Jones,
his father,  rather unimaginatively called his sons by numbers,
not being bothered to think up names, and so Audie was Seven Jones. Two was
also a Ranger but was killed (by Flood as it turns out) and that’s why Seven
has joined the Rangers at all, even though he can’t shoot a sixgun. Mama,
however, didn’t like only numbers for her sons so she added names, One for the Money
Jones, Two for the Show Jones, and so on. That’s how Audie got to be named Seven
Ways from Sundown Jones. OK, why not. Presumably (though we are not told) there
was Three to Get Ready Jones and Now-Go-Cat-Go Jones, though what Five and Six were
called is a mystery.
 
Lt. Tobey
 
Kenneth Tobey is the carrot-topped Lieutenant of
Rangers who, it transpires, is not all he’s cracked up to be. The best thing,
though, is that the tough Sergeant Henessey, who takes Seven under his wing and
teaches him to shoot a sidearm, is John McIntire. He knows Flood of old and
they are almost friends. It doesn’t stop him hunting Flood down though. Sadly,
however, Flood shoots at his pursuers from a distance, unaware that the man he
has killed is his old pal Henessey. Oops.
 
Well, son, that there is called a trigger
 
So it’s a pursuit Western, with Seven
and Henessey, then Seven tout seul
chasing down badman Flood. Seven acquits himself well and turns out to be
tougher and more resourceful than his boyish appearance and rookie Ranger
status lead Flood to believe. Classic Audie, in fact.
 
Tougher than he looks
 
Before leaving on the chase Seven just
had enough time to fall in love with sultry starlet Venetia Stevenson in the
last of only two Western movies she did (the other was the excellent Day of the Outlaw, in which she was
good). The best thing about Ms. Stevenson in this one, though, is that she has
a dog named Apache which Audie saves from a hawk. Seven Ways from Sundown opines that Apache is an odd name, but that’s the kettle calling the pot black.
 
It’s lerve. You can’t quite see but that’s Apache in her arms.
 
Of course howsoe’er charming or simpatico
Barry may be, he is a badman and cannot be allowed to get away scot-free.
Hollywood mores dictate that he must
perish. Nicely, but he’s gotta go. And Audie duly dispatches him.
 
Ranger Audie gets the drop on Barry
 
The ending is very downbeat though,
unusually so. It adds a touch of class to an otherwise fairly straightforward B-Western. The New York Times review said,
rather dismissively, “
Undemanding
audiences who have seen it all before should find it no more boring than usual”
(very snooty)
but actually I think it’s rather better than that. But
then I am a bit of an Audie fan. And McIntire will raise any Western a notch
too.


The excellent John McIntire

6 Responses

    1. If you watch The Unforgiven I think you'll say he could act, and well. But most of these Universal and Columbia B Westerns didn't give him much of a chance.

  1. I think this is one of Murphy's better westerns. Sullivan is a 'good baddy' and McIntire is reliable as ever.
    Bart

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