The Seven From Texas Blu-ray Review
Dorado Films/First Line
Blu-ray Release: March 28, 2023
Audio: English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 90:00 (The Seven From Texas), 99:39 ($100,000 for Lassiter)
Director: Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent
Bob Carey (Paul Piaget) is released from prison following a five-year sentence. While he was away, Bob’s wife, Maria (Gloria Milland), remarried a wealthy, older man, Clifford (Jesús Puente), and has fallen ill with a brain tumor. Clifford keeps her condition secret – from even Maria herself – and hires five men to help them cross treacherous Texas territory in search of a cure. Meanwhile, Bob follows along and Clifford’s men, led by Ringo (Robert Hundar), plan to enact a years-old vendetta against him.
For the most part, the term ‘spaghetti western’ refers to Italian-made movies, but most of these films were multinational co-productions. They featured cast members from across the Americas and Europe, were largely shot in Spain, and several were funded by German, Hollywood, and even East Asian companies. With this in mind, the preferred (but less fun) term is probably Euro-western, as to include the likes of UK productions, like Terence Young’s Red Sun (Italian: Soleil Rouge, 1971) and Burt Kennedy’s Hannie Caulder (1971). Spanish westerns and co-productions, like Miguel Lluch’s La Montaña sin ley (1953), Fernando Palacios’ Juanito (1960), and Michael Carreras’ The Savage Guns (Spanish: Tierra brutal, 1961) even predate the onset of the Italian western craze. Still, the Spanish brand tends to be remembered as lesser and didn’t produce star filmmakers on par with Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, or Sergio Sollimia.
Arguably, the closest Spanish equivalent to the various Sergios was Rafael Romero Marchent, director of Gunman’s Hand (Spanish: Ocaso de un pistolero, 1965) and Dead Men Don’t Count (Spanish: ¿Quién grita venganza?, 1968), and his brother, Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent (aka: J.R. Merchant). Joaquín (the elder) made several pre-Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964), including two Zorro-like movies starring a character named Coyote, El Coyote (1955) and La justicia del Coyote (1956), two actual Zorro movies, Zorro the Avenger (Spanish: La venganza del Zorro, 1962) and Shades of Zorro (Spanish: Cabalgando hacia la muerte, 1962), and Three Ruthless Ones (Spanish: El sabor de la venganza; aka: Gunfight at High Noon, 1963), starring Richard Harrison.
After Fistful of Dollars became a hit, Marchent started making westerns exclusively, co-writing/directing six largely obscure titles between 1964 and 1968. But, no matter his achievements, he will forever be remembered as the guy behind the so-called “most violent western ever made,” Cut-Throats Nine (Spanish: Condenados a vivir, 1972). Cut-Throats Nine is an unusually well-plotted and thematically strong film that was, for better or worse, sold directly to horror audiences in America, after distributors demanded gory reshoots and released the film with promotional ‘terror masks.’ As such, it’s a great film, but might not be the best indication of Marchent’s abilities as director and interests as a co-writer (alongside Federico De Urrutia and Manuel Sebares). Eight years earlier, just over a month after Fistful of Dollars’ Italian debut (almost two years before the Man with No Name made his way across the Atlantic), Marchent released a more standard-issue western, The Seven From Texas (Spanish: Antes llega la muerte; aka: The Hour of Death and Seven Guns from Texas, 1964), onto a hungry European market.
It’s not quite a practice run for Cut-Throats Nine, but Seven From Texas does see Marchent exploring some of the same structure and ideas, mainly the fact that they’re both movies about untrusting and untrustworthy misfits making a grueling trek across the forbidding west. It’s a handsome, thoughtfully dramatic, and somber film of not insignificant scope, unlike Cut-Throats Nine, which is a grimy, claustrophobic, and particularly nihilistic film. The two projects are also aimed at very different markets. Whereas Cut-Throats Nine was reshot to appeal to the bloodthirsty, base impulses of the ‘70s American grindhouses, The Seven From Texas attempts to disguise its pre-spaghetti European origins as a Hollywood-made western epic. One clue to this is that the title seems to be a reference to John Sturges’ Magnificent Seven (1960), though not the actual plot, because there aren’t really seven guys on the mission. Depending on how you want to count the characters, there’s either five or about a dozen from Texas.
Marchent isn’t exactly interested in deconstructing the myth of the Wild West, but the film still has a definite revisionist slant. His version of the West is complicated than the pre-revisionist pop westerns of the ‘40s & ‘50s and, while his characters aren’t as complicated or memorable as Leone’s or Corbucci’s, their moral dilemmas reflect the same brutality inherent in antiheroes, like Django, Sartana, and the Man with No Name. Speaking of brutality, Seven From Texas is far from Cut-Throats Nine in its violence, but the gunshot wounds are bloody and the stunts are spectacular in the Spanish tradition (even the Italian westerns tended to use fearless Spanish stuntmen). It's more an issue of escalating doom than direct on-screen violence, as the protagonists stumble across a fort full of slaughtered settlers, fight drought and infectious wounds, and, of course, contend with Maria’s worsening condition (apparently, Marchent claimed that the film was semi-autobiographical, in that his mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, uprooting his family in search of a cure). Perhaps the least revisionist or Eurowestern-esque aspect of the film is the use of Apache natives as faceless hordes during action scenes. Avoiding cultural cliches was usually an important part of the revisionist narrative.
Marchent made other substantial contributions to the Eurowestern canon between Seven From Texas and Cut-Throats Nine. He directed The Tough One (Spanish: El aventurero de Guaynas; Italian: Gringo, getta il fucile, 1966), starring Mario Bava favorites John Richardson and Evi Marandi, and Django (1966) villain Eduardo Fajardo, and Dollars for a Fast Gun (Spanish: La muerte cumple condena; Italian: 100.000 dollari per Lassiter, 1966 [see the Extras section of this review]). As a writer, he penned Enzo G. Castellari’s Chuck Conners action western Kill Them and Come Back Alone (Italian: Ammazzali tutti e torna solo, 1968), Sergio Martino’s Arizona Colt, Hired Gun (Italian: Arizona si scatenò... e li fece fuori tutti!, 1970), starring Anthony Steffen, and some of his brother Rafael’s biggest Italian market hits, including Dead Are Countless (Italian: Garringo, 1969), also starring Steffen, and Sartana Kills Them All (Italian: Un par de asesinos, 1970), starring Gianni Garko.
Any Gun Can Play: The Essential Guide to Eurowesterns by Kevin Grant (FAB Press, 2010)
10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western by Alex Cox (Kamera Books, 2009/2020)
Seven From Texas isn’t a particularly well-known title, but it has been readily available over the years. An HD version premiered on Amazon Prime streaming for rent or purchase and a R2 DVDr was issued by Spanish company Impulso. I dug around the internet and found some screencaps from the DVD and, while horizontally stretched and fuzzy with digital artifacts, it does feature richer colors than this largely washed-out 1080p transfer. That said, I’m the type of guy that will always prefer a dirty, damaged source with genuine film-based artifacts to a transfer that tries to correct said artifacts with DNR, over-sharpening, and awkward digital color timing. The advertising claims that this 2.35:1 image was mastered in 2K and, given the amount of detail, natural grain texture, and the tight lines, I believe it, though I assume it must have been taken from a print source. Despite a steady stream of black dots and other minor print wear, the harsh whites and blacks are the only things really holding the transfer back. It works in the case of wide-angle vistas, especially those bitter snowy environments, but is problematic during close ups and a handful of darker sequences.
Another (possible) key issue with this release is that it runs exactly 90 minutes, while IMDb claims the export runtime was closer to 98 minutes. In fact, the box art of this very Blu-ray claims a 98-minute runtime. The Prime streaming version and Impulso DVD both list a 94 minute runtime, while the original VHS releases ran closer to 85 minutes. Unfortunately, I have no access to any of these variations to check for differences. I could currently access a 90-minute cut on Youtube that more or less matches this Blu-ray’s transfer. Maybe there are 98 and/or 94-minute versions available, but they aren’t in HD. This version does feel a bit choppy, but there aren’t many obvious holes in the plot, so I’m not sure what might have been cut and what isn’t simply the effect of rough filmmaking.
The only audio option on this disc is a Dolby Digital English mono dub. As per usual, Italian and Spanish westerns were shot without sound and dubbed in post, so there isn’t an original dialogue track, but it’s always nice to have options, since dubbing and performance quality can vary from film to film. Spanish dubbing was almost always weaker than its Italian counterpart and Seven From Texas isn’t an exception. The cast is clearly speaking Spanish on set and the dubbing script is pretty stiff, despite the performance quality. Funnily enough, if you look at reviews of the streaming version on Amazon Prime, most are complaining that the English dub flips to Spanish without subtitles early on. The sound quality is clear and consistent with minimum distortion and decent volume levels, despite being a lossy track. There weren’t a lot of industry stars involved with The Seven from Texas, except for composer Riz Ortolani, who, next to Ennio Morricone, is possibly the most important and influential film composer to ever come out of Italy. What’s interesting here, though, is how hard Ortolani, who was capable of stylishly modern western scores (see Tonino Valerii’s Day of Anger [Italian: I Giorni Dell'ira; aka: Gunlaw], for example), goes full, traditional Elmer Bernstein western for this one.
Marchent trailer gallery
Bonus Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent film: $100,000 for Lassiter (99:39, SD, separate DVD disc) – Co-written by Sergio Donati, who would soon work with Leone on Once Upon a Time in the West (Italian: C'era una volta il West, 1968) and Duck, You Sucker! (Italian: Giù la testa, 1970), and starring Italian actors Luigi Pistilli and Robert Hundar, $100,000 for Lassiter counts as a proper spaghetti western in every way that matters. According to Marco Giusti’s Dizionario Del Western All'italiana (Mondadori, 2007), producer Alberto Grimaldi worked on it and For a Few Dollars More (Italian: Per qualche dollaro in più, 1965) simultaneously (though uncredited). The comparisons to Leone are significant, from the basic story content (there are a lot of direct plot parallels to the three movies already mentioned) to the punchier tone, though there are cute subplots about a thieving family and their sickly pig. If it wasn’t included as an extra, you’d never guess that this much more lighthearted adventure was from the same guy who made Seven from Texas. The DVD’s A/V quality (anamorphic and English Dolby Digital mono, for the record) is similar to that of the transfers found in better budget label spaghetti collections from Mill Creek and the line. It’s not top of the line, but still perfectly watchable.
A second spaghetti western trailer gallery
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be seen by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.