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Fictionalized account of abolitionist John Brown and his six sons who fought to ensure Kansas would enter the Union as a slave-free state. Firmly believing that he was doing God's work, Brown was prepared to use force and violence to achieve his goals. His principal adversary is Martin White who organizes the raid on the town of Lawrence, burning it to the ground. Brown becomes judge, jury and executioner killing five of the raiders. Several of his sons disagree with him and leave. After completing his work in Kansas, Brown continues his quest to end slavery. His fervent belief that violence was the only way to achieve his goal led to his demise, convicted of treason and hanged after the raid on the federal armory in Harpers Ferry. Written by
"In 1856, five years before the beginning of the American Civil War, men fought and died in the Kansas Territory. Brave, violent men came from both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line and made 'Bleeding Kansas' a battleground. The prize was admission to the Union - as ether a free state or a slave state," reminds an opening scroll. Into the Kansas Territory rides bearded Raymond Massey (as John Brown) and his sons. A fierce abolitionist, Mr. Massey will go to any length to ensure Kansas obliterates slavery and enters the Union as a free state. Three years later, Massey may be at the end of his rope...
"Seven Angry Men" refers to Massey's "John Brown" and his sons. There are, eventually, seven adult sons introduced. Yes, that equals eight. However, it's possible only seven are "angry" at any given time. Character development never moves the sons too far beyond looking like attractive young men who've answered an agent's casting call and tried on fake sideburns in the make-up room. The main son is handsome Jeffrey Hunter (as Owen). He receives some characterization by being the only one (oddly) to attract a steady woman. She is pretty Debra Paget (as Elizabeth Clark) from Illinois...
Naturally, Ms. Paget is bothered by the family's frequently dangerous conflicts over slavery. It would have been interesting to see Paget arouse passion in some of the other sons. The next most featured son is handsome (okay, they're all handsome) Larry Pennell (as Oliver), impressive in his first screen appearance. Memorable last scenes momentarily bring Tom Irish (as Watson) and John Smith (as Frederick) to the forefront. Future TV favorites James Best (as Jason), Dennis Weaver (as John Jr.) and Guy Williams (as Salmon) are all fun to see, in early roles...
Massey is fine as the biographical lead, although this mechanical story doesn't take full advantage of his impersonation. The film score, by then newcomer Carl Brandt, is noteworthy. The shadowy staging of several scenes, by director Charles Marquis Warren and photographer Ellsworth Fredericks, shows exemplary film technique.
******* Seven Angry Men (3/27/55) Charles Marquis Warren ~ Raymond Massey, Jeffrey Hunter, Debra Paget, Larry Pennell
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