The Magnificent 7 Ride

The Magnificent 7 Ride
(No, not a Spaghetti)

No, this is not a spaghetti western. It's the third and final sequel to Sturges' classic (not counting the recent re-imagining starring Denzel Washington). It's also the only sequel that was entirely shot on American soil, but it stars one of the most iconic actors of the Italian western and uses his screen persona to nourish the script: Lee van Cleef's Chris, the leader of the original Seven, has become the sheriff in a border town and he is accompanied throughout the movie by a journalist who wants to immortalize him by writing his biography. Furthermore the script mixes the familiar premise of the seven men coming to the rescue with a revenge story, the type of story that brought Van Cleef eternal fame thanks to his adventures with Leone in Italy.

Our Chris has a good, almost peaceful life as a lawman, but now his much younger wife Arilla (Mariette Hartley) thinks one of his latest arrests, a 18-year old small time crook named Shelly Donovan is too young to stand trial. Shelley is charged with robbery, but Arilla pleas her husband to temper justice with mercy. Chris reluctantly agrees but Shelly almost immediately robs the local bank with two of his friends and the three young men go on the lam when things go horribly wrong, taking Arilla with them as a hostage. Chris is injured during the incident but heads in pursuit, accompanied by his biographer. When they discover the body of Arilla - who has been raped and tortured before her death - Chris swears to take revenge ...

In an Italian western it would have taken Lee 85 minutes to track down the killers (and five more to kill them in a showdown ritual), but in this movie the revenge story is  blended with another storyline about an old friend, Jim McKay (Ralph Waite), who also has become a sheriff and asks Chris for help in fighting off the constant attacks of the Mexican bandit De Toro and his gang of cutthroats. Chris first refuses but changes his mind after he has discovered that Shelly has joined De Toro and told the bandit about the trap Mackay had set for him. De Toro has killed all male townspeople and raped the women. Chris knows that De Toro will be back for more (and he also has an eye on the town's first lady, Stefanie Powers); first he doesn't know what to do, but then, all of sudden, he has the brilliant - but hazardous - plan to release six notorious criminals from the state prison in order to form his own private army ...

The movie has a good cast, Elmer Bernstein's score will give you the feeling of being in a trusted surrounding and the whole thing passes the time smoothly, but at the same time the mix of styles feels a little uncomfortable. The previous Mag 7 movies had been clear-cut adventure movies opposing right and wrong, but in this movie Chris is torn between his desire for revenge and his better, altruist self. He shoots two young men in cold blood while he should have taken them into custody (even if it would have slowed him down); in a spaghetti western we wouldn't have worried, simply interpreted it as an expression of the 'blood calls for blood' philosophy of the genre, but in this context the scene seems to cry for some explanation, but the script is too haphazard to treat any of the problems it raises seriously. After the morally ambiguous, interesting first half, the movie makes an about face and opts for a heroic, gung ho second half, full of explosions, romance on the barricades and enough carnage for three movies of this kind.

1972 - Dir: George McCowan - Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Stefanie Powers, Michael Callan, Luke Askew, Mariette Hartley, James Sikking, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., William Lucking, Ed Lauter, Ralph Waite; Gary Busey, Robert Jaffe, Melissa Murphy - Screenplay: Arthur rowe - Music: Elmer Bernstein


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