Paving the Way for the ‘Anti-Western’


The last of the red-hot, golden-age Hollywood genre buckaroos, Budd Boetticher represented a long-vanished prototype: the man’s-man studio director who, before turning gruffly to making pictures, had spent years being a boxer or a stevedore or a soldier or what have you. Today, filmmakers pay their dues by earning six figures shooting shampoo commercials; then, a man who made westerns or war movies or gangster films was a man who had been to the world and returned with a heartful of brutal and hopeful business you can’t learn by watching other movies. In a sense, Boetticher outdid the competition by becoming a professional Mexican matador right out of college—a scenario difficult to beat for hard-won iron-man chops in Tinseltown. Boetticher came into his own with the small cycle of westerns he made with Randolph Scott and scriptwriter Burt Kennedy, beginning with Seven Men From Now (1956). An elegantly constructed 78-minute funeral song for the western, Boetticher’s film lands in the middle of Scott’s autumnal revenge journey, muddied up by a clueless family of settlers, a stolen box of stagecoach loot, and Lee Marvin as a magnetic, not-so-bad complement to Scott’s not-so-good hero. Ultra-realistic, weathered, fatalistic, and never less than adult, Seven Men and the six films that followed reforged the dynamics of the genre and cleaned out the mythic baloney, paving the way for Peckinpah, Hellman, and the very idea of an “anti-western.” They remain some of the most incisive, unpretentious, and knowledgeable movies of the ’50s. Supplemented by scholarly commentary, trailers, and a robust combo Boetticher bio–Seven Men making-of doc.