Audie Murphy is again the kid who puts on a badge to catch the bad guy, skillfully played by Barry Sullivan. On the way back to town the two develop a curiously close relationship - Sullivan passes up several chances to get away - but in the end Sullivan "asks for it" and Murphy obliges.
Well we all have our cross to bear.
Seven Ways from Sundown is directed by Harry Keller and adapted to screenplay by Clair Huffaker from his own novel of the same name. It stars Audie Murphy, Barry Sullivan, Venetia Stevenson, John McIntire and Kenneth Tobey. A UIP production in Eastman Color with music scored by William Lava & Irving Gertz (Joseph Gershenson supervising) and cinematography by Ellis Carter. Plot finds Murphy as Seven Ways from Sundown, a Texas Ranger who tracks and captures notorious outlaw Jim Flood (Sullivan). As the two men make their way back to Texas, a bond begins to form...
It's another Audie Murphy Western that rarely gets a mention when the talk turns to Murphy's best Oaters. On this occasion, though, it's not because it is operating suspiciously at the low end of the "B" Western scale, or that it is boorish in the formula department, this is actually a case of it being under seen by the last couple of generations of Western fans. A shame because it has much to recommend.
Film basically centres around the two (initial) polar opposite characters finding a mutual respect as they traverse the dusty land back to Texas. Along the way they encounter problems; Apache attack, bounty hunters et al, but they play cards, they fight, with both men getting ample opportunities to either escape or wound, but mostly they talk. Wonderful dialogue driven chat from the Huffaker (Rio Conchos/The Commancheros) pen. This isn't in the same league as the psychological smarts laden 3:10 to Yuma chatter between Heflin and Ford, no sir, but it's well scripted and boosted considerably by the chemistry between Murphy and Sullivan.
It's an odd couple physically, especially in the early parts as Seven has Greenhorn traits to overcome, but the guy's odd friendship does become believable. When Seven says late in the day that there's no man he trusts more than Flood, we understand why, because Keller (Day of the Bad Man/Quantez) and Huffaker have done great work in bringing the characters and actors to life. There's extra spice in the beans, too, with knowledge given to us of what Flood has done with his guns and what Seven is irked by in his past, he has a calling but is it a burden?
There's enough action in here to please the undemanding Western fan, with gun play, fist throws and show downs (look out for a nice stunt leap off of a wagon), while there's the odd smattering of heroism such as Audie saving a dog from a bird of prey! A potential romance angle (no not between the men) is very low key and not a hindrance, McIntire and Tobey impact nicely with their respective performances and Nevada's Red Rock Canyon forms a magnificent back drop (bravo Ellis Carter). But this is all about Murphy and Sullivan and the care and consideration afforded them by Messrs Keller and Huffaker. Far from perfect for sure, anyone will find holes in this sort of production, but forgiveness is not hard to come by when it plays out so damn well. Hey! The ending is a real beaut as well. 8/10
Footnote: I viewed the film from British TV, Dave Channel. A lovely print that only makes me lament there's no widespread DVD release for this film. There is a very expensive Region 2 French DVD available from certain outlets, the quality of which I can't vouch for.
Universal Pictures by Harry Keller, Clair Huffaker.
Stars: Audie Murphy, Barry Sullivan, Venetia Stevenson, John McIntire.
Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Western
Keywords: texas ranger
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