The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Seven Women for the MacGregors

Spaghetti westerns have a stigma of being ultra-violent, extremely cynical looks at the wild west -- from an Italian perspective that is.  The Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci westerns certainly helped perpetuate that stigma, and overall the best movies to come out of this genre are the darker ones.  Of course, not ALL of them are dark, serious looks.  Italian westerns had their comedic westerns too, but for the most part, they're often left in the dust compared to the more serious entries.

A sequel to 1966's Seven Guns for the MacGregors (which I haven't seen), 1967's Seven Women for the MacGregors is one of those comedic Italian westerns.  It is not as well known as the Terrence Hill/Bud Spencer pairings which to a point legitimized comedic westerns, mostly because the cast just isn't up to the task.  This is a big, sprawling comedy with pretty base humor and a fistfight or a gunfight whenever the story starts to lag.  Not to be taken seriously at all, it is an odd mix of that ultra-violence and humor. 

The MacGregor patriarch Alastair (George Rigaud) is hosting a huge party for his family and friends and Irish neighbors, the Donovans, led by their own aging father (Roberto Camardiel).  But during the party, a bandit gang attacks.  The MacGregors and Donovans team to drive them off but discover it was all a decoy while the bandits dug up the hidden MacGregor gold treasure.  The seven MacGregor sons mount up and head off in search of the gold that's been in their family for generations.  On the trail, they meet an old drifter who says a bandit named Maldonado (Leo Anchoriz) was most likely behind the robbery and so off they go, trying to find Maldonado's well-guarded hideout.

What humor is there is pretty broad with those brawling fistfights with all sorts of dangerous weapons and blunt objects are used, but no one is ever really hurt.  As the brothers try to find out where Maldonado is, they always find someone who can point out where he is, but right at the reveal they're always dragged off to jail or picked off by a waiting posse.  Pretty hysterical, right?  Surprisingly though, it does provide some laughs because it is all pretty ridiculous.  As an added bonus, the Donovan girls are all single and what do you know? There's seven of them.  So if you ever wanted to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Italian Style, this is your movie.  Don't believe me? There's even a dance scene reminiscent of that American musical.

Humor aside, 'MacGregors' does feature some great action and some impressive stuntwork.  The opening attack is a pretty run of the mill shootout with the bandits attacking the MacGregor household.  Any action through the middle of the movie is restricted to the already-mentioned fistfights with all the gunplay saved for the end as the seven MacGregor boys sneak into Maldonado's fortress and go for the gold.  All of this crashes together on a deserted railway yard with Scots, Irish, bandits, and an antique cannon all playing a part.  How does that not sound appealing?

Watching a sequel before the original is typically a bad idea, but here it doesn't really make a huge difference.  It's a good stand alone movie that doesn't need a whole lot of background -- although I would like to see '7 Guns' just out of curiosity.  The one thing I question is whether the 7 brothers are developed any better than they were here.  American actor David Bailey plays Gregor, the leader of the brothers who also gets the romantic subplot.  I recognized two of the other brothers from other spaghetti westerns, Saturno Cerra who plays Johnny MacGregor, an albino-looking priest and Alberto Dell'Acqua as Dick MacGregor, the youngest of the brothers who's got a crush on the youngest Donovan girl.  The other four brothers are pretty bland overall and given little background, some of them I didn't even hear a name during the movie.

Being at least fairly familiar with spaghetti westerns -- which typically weren't character-driven spectacles -- I feel safe saying the first MacGregor movie probably didn't flesh these characters out too much.  Most of the cast returns for this sequel, reprising their same roles.  And worth mentioning, the Italian westerns filmed throughout the Spanish countryside which look surprisingly a lot like parts of the American southwest.  Throw in a solid score from Ennio Morricone (who uses an exact sample from his Fistful of Dollars soundtrack), mix it all together, and you've got this very average but still enjoyable comedic spaghetti western.

Seven Women for the MacGregors <---trailer (1967): ** 1/2 /****

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