During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.
Sometimes it can be a real challenge to review a movie with any kind of objectivity. So I won’t. Welcome to our next movie, 1954’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”, a musical about rape and Stockholm Syndrome, all played for laughs.
Set in the 1850s, Adam Pontipee (played by singer Howard Keel) arrives at a nearby town to buy supplies. He and his six brothers live in the wilderness, but every six months or so he comes around for trade. This time, he is also looking for a woman who can cook and clean for him since the food back home sucks and the place looks like seven men live there. One song later, he finds his bride-to-be, Milly (Jane Powell) and convinces her to marry him by withholding everything about where he lives and who he lives with.
Milly returns with Adam and is immediately disappointed. On the way back, he let her make a fool of herself with a song about it being just the two of them, so the additional six brothers was a bit of a shock. The brothers gawk at seeing a woman, likely for the first time ever, but soon have her cooking and cleaning.
Milly eventually turns things around and ends up teaching the brothers the manners they never learned as uncouth mountain men. The movie seems charming enough at this point, if a bit quaint. After lessons and color-coordinated clothes are made, Milly takes all of the men to a social in town where they can meet women of their own. It leads to the movie’s only redeeming scene in which the brothers dance off against the local suitors in hopes of winning a future bride. It goes on forever, but it is one of the more unique musical sequences we have seen yet. The sequence takes full advantage of having dancers and gymnasts in the cast, including some very innovative dance sequences on a balance-beam like structure.
Despite getting the upper hand in the dancing, the barn raising (literally a contest to build a barn for some other dude, such a hootenanny) doesn’t go so well. Bitter, the local men make multiple homicide attempts by throwing/tossing hammers, wildly swinging wooden boards, or pushing the brothers off ladders. It does a great job of earning sympathy for the brothers, but they eventually cave in at Adam’s urging and a brawl ensues. Women don’t like brutes who practice self-defense, so the brothers and Milly leave the town empty-handed.
It is around this time that the movie takes a dark, troubling turn. When Milly moved in, she brought with her a book by the Roman writer Plutarch that tells the story of the Sabine women. In the story, better known as “The Rape of the Sabine Women” (rape is used here in the slightly less unpleasant sense of “kidnapping”), Roman men abduct en masse women from other nearby cities to take as brides since they are short on women. Since this is the only book they own, Adam decides the brothers should just steal their brides instead of winning them the sissy-way of courtin’ and the like.
And that is exactly where the film goes. Adam and his brothers ride down to the town in the dark of night and the dead of winter. There is a series of abduction antics that are shot and written similarly to any sitcom. It’s a wonder the film didn’t opt to have a laugh track to really sell the hilarious kidnappings.
The alarms get sounded and the men of the town rally to protect their property from the rapists. They make chase, but Adam, our other heroes, and their catch narrowly avoid an avalanche that conveniently cuts off the pass until Spring. The change in the season is conveniently long enough for the women to fall in love with the brothers, even after Milly kicks them all out of the main house to protect the other women’s virtues or some such nonsense.
The movie ends with the men of the town coming to the women’s rescue, but as Milly recently had a baby with Adam, all the women claim they are the baby’s mother. Rather than kill the men, the townspeople let them live since each one might potentially be the father of a ruined woman’s child.
It is all bullshit and this is a terrible movie by all standards. Avoid at all costs.
For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.