7th Cavalry (1956) Poster


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Nice piece of historical fiction
clore_226 November 2006
A very satisfying western with Scott as a cavalry officer who returns with his fiancée to his detail to find the fort apparently deserted. There's a nice 360-degree shot of the surroundings as Scott surveys the area, then he's interrupted by the voice of a woman (Jeannette Nolan) whose claims that Scott is alive at the expense of her husband who took his place in the infamous battle of the Little Big Horn.

The story deals with the aftermath, not the battle itself, so anyone looking for an epic confrontation in the manner of THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON or even one as budget conscious as that in THE GREAT SIOUX MASSACRE is bound to be disappointed. However, there are rewards to be found - one of them Scott's performance. Even at about age 57 or 58, he still looks splendid in a uniform, and while of course doubles are used in two fight scenes, there's enough of him present to debunk the rumor that he was not exactly at his best in such scenes. In the inquest scene alone he delivers more dialog than he probably had in his previous three films, and does so convincingly. This scene also features testimony by Captain Benteen and Major Reno, two survivors of the battle who are treated sympathetically.

Director Joseph H. Lewis claimed to not be inspired with the assignment of this film, but he does not let it show. Granted the story may seem slow to start by those who are expecting more than exposition, but here is where we find the first filmic questioning of the judgment of General Custer in what was one of the great military debacles in history. The chase scene in which one comment claims the same stump was passed twice is actually passed three times, once by the Indian brave being chased, next by Scott and then last by two riders following Scott. The scenery is not that of the Montana plains, but it subs nicely. If John Ford can shoot MY DARLING CLEMENTINE in Monument Valley, then Lewis should be allowed his own dramatic license.

The cast is filled with familiar faces, including Michael Pate, Leo Gordon and Harry Carey, Jr., all more recognizable as being part of the Duke's stock company. Add to that Frank Faylen and Jay C. Flippen, as well as Barbara Hale who did deserve more screen time. Just about all are questioning Scott's decision to voluntarily take a patrol to retrieve the dead from the massacre site, but Scott's reasons are to redeem himself for various reasons to each.

A nice touch is in the scene where Scott questions a Sioux "peacemaker" who claims that the bodies, cavalry included, are all now part of sacred ground and instill in each brave the courage and honor of the tribe that conquered them. Scott asks if this is not just mere "superstition" whereas the brave turns the term back at Scott relative to his own spiritual beliefs. This was heady stuff in the mid-fifties when religious epics such as THE ROBE and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS were treated with such reverence. In turn, the appearance of Custer's riderless horse, further takes up the issue of superstition although it would spoil the outcome to reveal just how it does. 7TH CAVALRY is an interesting piece of historical fiction that can take its place among the better non-Boetticher westerns for Scott.
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Yellow Hair and the real meaning of Horsepower.
Spikeopath5 August 2009
Set after the Battle Of Little Big Horn, 7th Cavalry sees Randolph Scott playing Captain Benson, who returns with his future bride to his post commanded by Indian fighter, Colonel Custer. Custer however was gone, he had taken the famous 7th Cavalry to war with the Sioux at Big Horn and lost badly. Guilt ridden and tarnished by whispers of cowardice, Benson volunteers to lead a dangerous mission back to Big Horn to reclaim the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

There doesn't appear to be much much love for this 1956 Columbia Pictures Oater. Seems it's either damned for being too talky, or on the flip side, it's too hokey within its plotting to actually merit worth. Well that's a shame for this has something of a vintage feel to it, the themes of guilt and redemption are Western standards, whilst the story also takes in interesting arcs such as religious beliefs and spiritual meanings. Yes this is definitely a "talky" picture - aside from some mano mano action and single horse pursuits that is - but it's a well thought out screenplay by Peter Packer (adapting from Glendon Swarthout's story). Instances such as a military enquiry and an exchange between Benson and a young Indian warrior are intelligent passages in the story (with Scott doing fine work in the process). What it lacks in gusto action it more than makes up for with the characterisations.

Other plus points are that it's also nicely shot in Mexico, the Technicolor doing justice to the splendid costumes on show. Backing Scott up in support are admirable performers such as Jay C. Flippen, Frank Faylen, Leo Gordon, Michael Pate and Harry Carey Junior. Although the ladies (Jeanette Nolan & Barbara Hale) aren't given too much to do and the score conducted by Mischa Bakaleinikoff is at odds with the tempo of the film, 7th Cavalry still deserves a better reputation than it currently has. If you prepare for a work of fiction that is most assuredly dialogue driven, then hopefully your expectations will at the least be met. 7/10
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Generic Western
Bob-4521 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
`7th Cavalry' is blah, disappointing, especially considering the cast and story. Captain Benson (Randolph Scott) returns with his fiance (Barbara Hale) to find the fort, home to the 7th Cavalry, apparently deserted. Surreptitiously entering the fort, Scott eventually finds the wife (Jennete Nolan) of one of the officers who had died the previous day at the Little Big Horn. She blames Scott for the death of her husband, since her husband had led Scott's unit into the massacre during Scott's absence. Searching further, Scott discovers a first sergeant (Jay C. Flippen) watching several prisoners (Frank Faylen, Leo V. Gordon, Denver Pyle) who had been left behind because they had been drunk on duty. Scott orders Flippen to assemble the prisoners and whip them into some kind of military shape to attend to the units returning from Little Big Horn. With just a little effort, this entire sequence could have been suspenseful. Instead, after Scott's confrontation with Nolan, I couldn't understand why Flippen didn't hear Scott or vice-versa.

The entire movie suffers from this problem. Considering the relative lack of action, the inherent dramatics of the story needed to be emphasized. Instead, the movie appears to have been shot quickly and cheaply. Hale, a strong actress (`Della Street' in `Perry Mason'), has little chemistry with Scott. Worse, many plot devices appear to be just that.

Potential Spoilers

For example, Scott is under suspicion because he cannot prove General Custer ordered him to leave his command to go pick up his fiance. Scott has an alibi but fails to reveal it, due to `pride' (as the alibi tells us). However, Scott was being questioned as to his actions by an official inquiry. He had a legal as well as moral responsibility to reveal all pertinent information, including his alibi.

Scott chooses only the drunken brigands to make up his `burial party,' knowing they will volunteer to protect themselves from humiliation and possible courts-martial for dereliction of duty prior to `Custer's Last Stand.' Certainly Scott knew at least a couple of responsible soldiers that would have gone with him as well.

Scott abandons his men in hostile Indian country to pursue a single Indian scout, when he should have sent a reliable soldier and stayed with his command.

Scott's alibi (Harry Carey Jr.), who is acting as a dispatch rider rides off with General Custer's second horse right after telling Barbara Hale he is Scott's alibi. It is not clear as to the urgency of Carey's mission, nor as to why he wouldn't quickly sign a deposition to clear Scott before pursuing another very risky dispatch.

The movie is wrapped up in a safe, indifferent manner.

Although the movie boasts a great set (the fort), fine cinematography, and a couple of good performances, it's blah, blah, blah.

TWO QUIBBLES: Although these are minor, they are good examples of the indifference with which this film is executed.

o The `prologue titles' identifies Custer as a colonel. During the first few lines of dialogue, he is correctly identified as a general. o Not once, but several times, Scott refers to his regiment as the `7th Calvary'. It is the `7th Cavalry'. Calvary is a place in the New Testament. Of course, if two US presidents can say `nucular' when the correct term is `nuclear,' I suppose Scott can be forgiven for this blunder.


I recently watched an `Unsolved History' episode on Custer's Last Stand. It (gasp, gasp) revealed that Custer lost, not only because of his recklessness (not to mention being vastly outnumbered), but also because the Indians had better firepower. This movie tells us that fact, and it is nearly 50 years old.
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back to the Little Big Horn
RanchoTuVu19 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
A cavalry officer (Randolph Scott) who wasn't with Custer when he and his regiment were wiped out, faces recriminations back at the fort for not having died with them. It is a good thing that the film doesn't remain at the fort where most of the lines go from bad to worse. An investigation is conducted about the Custer debacle which does have some interesting interpretations about what happened and about Custer's dubious decision making. The movie uses Scott's character as Custer's friend, as someone who will punch anyone who questions the general's fitness, seemingly trying to preserve his iconic image for the audience watching the film. He volunteers to organize a platoon of men to go out to the battle site at the Little Big Horn to retrieve the bodies of the fallen 7th Cavalry. The mission gives the film a unique perspective on the Custer story, a post mortem that includes the Indians. The "volunteers" that accompany Scott, the worst of the lot at the fort, who were too drunk the day Custer led his men out, turn out to have been mostly ordered to do so, and the procession out to the battle site gets increasingly mutinous, which is by far the film's best done plot. You don't see too many cavalry films with such a loser lot of men riding horseback. Scott faces mutiny and murder (see Frank Faylen as Kruger) along the way.
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One Good Point About The History Amongst All The Bad
Theo Robertson25 May 2005
This story revolves around an officer who is accused of cowardice after the battle of Little Big Horn but it's not really a case of an erstwhile hero trying to regain his honour in a dramatic and touching way as seen in a movie like SHANE and we don't get to see large scale battle scenes like in CUSTER OF THE WEST or THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON . As it appears from reading through the comments on this page it seems the reviewers were expecting so much more from 7TH CALVARY as western fans . I guess not being a western fan I wasn't all that disappointed

There is a stand out moment which someone has picked up upon which is in relation to the battle itself and that is that the Americans were armed with single shot rifles while the Indian war party was armed with the Winchester repeating rifle . This is something that is often over looked by historians and film makers at the battle of Little Big Horn - The Indians were better armed since the American military thought a rifle that had a massive fire rate would use up far too much precious ammunition hence the blue coats didn't use the Winchester very often , contrary to what you see in paintings and films commemorating the battle
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" Words, Words, Words! "
stryker-521 November 1999
Captain Thomas Benson returns to Fort Lincoln, the Seventh Cavalry's outpost in the Dakota wilderness, with Martha Kellogg, his bride-to-be. As the couple approach the fort, it is apparent that something is wrong. Benson enters to find the Seventh Cavalry's base strangely silent and motionless. Unknown to Benson, while he has been away General Custer has led the regiment to disaster at the Little Big Horn ...

The stillness and emptiness of the fort could serve as a metaphor for the film's lack of pace and content. The first half consists of endless breast-beating over the recent disaster, and the cavalrymen's torpid dialogue is unrelieved by motion or variety of any kind. It is fully 45 minutes before anything remotely resembling an action sequence occurs.

Benson is regarded with contempt by the remnants of the Seventh, both because he was Custer's favourite and because he managed to avoid the Little Big Horn. Matters are complicated by his choice of fiancee. Martha (Barbara Hale) is the daughter of Colonel Kellogg, the new commander of the regiment, and the man charged with investigating the recent military debacle.

A mundane and leaden horse opera, "Seventh Cavalry" lacks either a coherent structure, interesting action or even a convincing raison d'etre. Benson decides to rehabilitate himself by leading a burial detail out into the battlefield to recover the regiment's dead. He deliberately chooses the drunks and the shirkers, but it is never explained why these men, reluctant soldiers at the best of times, agree to be 'volunteered' for this dangerous work. Once in open terrain, Benson deserts his command to go chasing after a lone indian scout, in flagrant dereliction of his duty. During the pursuit, the two men ride past the same tree stump twice! They fight hand-to-hand, and Benson uses a stick to trap the indian's knife-wielding right hand. Why doesn't the indian simply transfer the knife to his free left hand?

The widow Mrs. Reynolds wails like a soothsayer in the deserted barracks, but neither her text nor her acting carry any conviction. The returning survivors of the Little Big Horn ride into Fort Lincoln, hamming up the weariness and weakness for all they are worth - but where did they acquire the neat, clean bandages? When Benson fights with the loud-mouth Vogel, the scrap is all too obviously conducted by stunt doubles. Even an indian who has been brought up by white folk is unlikely to come out with preposterous lines such as "You are defiling sacred ground". The film's ending is a cheap and hurried reconciliation between the Kelloggs and Benson, shot in an interior to save time and effort.

Randolph Scott was Associate Producer of this piece of nonsense, as well as starring as Benson (despite being patently too old for the part). If one scrabbles around for aspects of the film which deserve praise, one could commend Donald Curtis for his believable Lieutenant Fitch, and the fort set, which is huge and impressive. But that's it.

Verdict - too much talking, not enough motion.
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Custer's riderless horse doesn't go very far...
westerner3577 September 2003
Captain Benson (Randolph Scott) returns from the east with his new bride-to-be (played ably enough by Barbara Hale) only to find out that his post under General Custer was wiped out at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The men who were left behind at the post resent Benson because he wasn't there to die gallantly with the rest of his troop.

A presidential order is given for the army to go into Sioux territory and gather up Custer's dead for burial. Benson quickly volunteers for such a dangerous mission, probably to redeem himself. After all, the Big Horn is still surrounded by hostile Sioux and Cheyenne, drunk with victory.

When Benson and his men reach the site, they find that the Indians won't let them un-bury the dead because it is now considered sacred ground and not to be violated. That is, until Custer's riderless horse strolls into view, scaring all the Indians into thinking it's bad medicine and Custer's spirit has returned.

There's a subplot about how this horse came onto the scene involving Harry Carey Jr. and all, but I'm not gonna get into that. Anyway, the Indians are plenty superstitious about the whole thing so they allow Benson and his men to pass, unscathed.

Although it's nowhere near as good as the oaters Scott did with Budd Boetticher, this one nonetheless still rises above most of the other western dreck Harry Cohn and Columbia Pictures was putting out. It also helps filming it out in the California pine country away from the usual Columbia ranch locations that we've seen a zillion times before. It still doesn't pass for the plains, though.

Still, it's better than most of Scott's RKO westerns from the late 40s

5 out of 10
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History for kindergartners
aa5613 June 2007
Yes, I know the disclaimer in the opening credits says there is no relationship between the film characters and events and real persons and events, but I think such disclaimers in films that obviously portray real persons are a cheap cop-out.

This screenplay is so badly written it should be in the comedy genre. We begin by transplanting the northern plains to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where we find Ft. Lincoln about a day's ride from the Little Big Horn battle site.

As was the cavalry custom back then, forts are left almost entirely deserted when the troops go into the field. When Capt. Benson enters the fort, he finds Capt. Reynold's widow, who apparently read the Indians' wire report on the teletype immediately after the battle, for she knew all the details even before the surviving cavalry returned from the battlefield.

The returning survivors include Harry Carey, Jr. playing bugler John Martin, who in reality was immigrant Giovanni Martini, who the real Capt. Benteen complained could barely speak English.

For the sake of the film, the battle inquiry takes place a couple of days afterward rather than the several years in real life. Benson volunteers to lead the burial detail after the inquiry. On the ride to the battlefield he engages in hand-to-hand combat with a white man dressed as an Indian. You see, the Indians decided they enjoyed the Sierra Nevada, er, the Big Horn area and wanted to stay. Surely the U.S Army would leave them in peace now that they had massacred several companies of cavalry. (In reality they fled post-haste.)

Upon arriving at the battlefield, instead of finding naked and mutilated bodies as at the real battle site, Benson finds the Indians have thoughtfully prepared a Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Sorry, I just can't go on further.
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It plays a bit fast and loose with history, but it is entertaining.
MartinHafer26 January 2014
"7th Cavalry" picks up just after General Custer and his command is wiped out at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Captain Benson (Randolph Scott) was away on personal leave, so he somehow missed out on the massacre. However, folks are looking for a scapegoat and folks second-guess Benson and brand him a coward. Not wanting to live with disgrace, he volunteers to do an insanely difficult duty--to go into Indian territory and bury the Cavalry's dead. Oddly, instead of taking competent soldiers, he takes the scum of the regiment--guys who DID survive due to their own cowardice. Can these guys somehow redeem themselves?

The film is not based 100% on real history--which is VERY typical of most westerns. Benson and his mission is entirely fictional. However, one thing that isn't is that some officers, rightfully, questioned the competence of General Custer. He was, according to most historians, an incompetent who made many serious blunders due to his own hubris. So, when the soldiers openly question his decisions that led to the battle, that is pretty much fact--despite Benson defending his commander's decisions.

So is it any good? Well, I gave the film an 8. This is mostly because they acting is very nice and compared to other films of the genre from this age, it stands well above most due to very nice acting and an interesting what if scenario.
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Not one of Scott's best
lwetzel22 March 2005
Randolph Scott is one of my favorite western actors, but this is a poor movie. Blame the screen writer, the director and probably the budget. There's not much action or tension, just a lot of horse operatics with a stable of unsympathetic and unlikable characters. Even the usual team of normally good character actors (Jay C. Flippen, Harry Carey Jr., Barbara Hale etc) can't pull this broken wagon out of the mud of bad writing. The scenery's not bad,the pine country of California, but it's a far cry from the Montana plains where Custer met his doom. Everybody's against Scott as an officer who went to bring his fiancé to Fort Lincoln instead of joining Custer, Benteen and Reno with their rendezvous with destiny on the Little Big Horn. He tries to redeem himself by undertaking a dangerous mission to retrieve Custer's body from the battlefield. They meet up with some superstitious Indians and the way they get out of the mess is not bad. For a more compelling story, even the wildly historically inaccurate "They Died With Their Boots On" is scalps and shoulders above this entry.
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Entertaining although not historically accurate!
Tweekums18 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
When Captain Benson returns to Fort Lincoln with his bride to be he is surprised to find it apparently abandoned; he climbs in and finds a handful of drunken soldiers and a woman ranting about how her husband had died because of him... it turns out this was the base of Custer's 7th Cavalry and while Benson was away a large proportion of the regiment including is CO where killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Benson had been a friend of Custer and many of the survivors believe he was able to use this friendship to avoid the battle. He can't prove this wasn't the case so is soon shunned by the other officers and given the sort of assignments that should be beneath somebody of his rank. When a presidential order comes through to go to the battle site to retrieve the bodies of the fallen officers and bury the men he volunteers and takes the bunch of misfits and drunks he found in the fort at the start of the film with him. On the way some of the men want to get rid of him; clearly he will have more than the Sioux to worry about on this mission. When they finally get to the site they fine that the Sioux have already buried the dead and set about finding Custer's grave; at this point the Sioux arrive and make it clear that no bodies are to be removed; vastly outnumbered it looks as if they are doomed...

This isn't the most action packed western I've seen by a long way; much of the film is spent with the inquiry into what happened and Benson's potential father in law who is clearly not happy with his daughter's choice of husband. When their mission gets underway there is only a little bit of action although this includes an impressive fight between Benson and a knife wielding Sioux, even the final confrontation which one might expect to be a wild shoot out is fairly tame with only one arrow shot and a deus ex machina ending that many viewers will find ridiculous... after all that one might think I didn't enjoy it but surprisingly I did; Randolph Scott did a fine job as Capt. Benson and while there wasn't much action there were some fairly tense scenes; especially the final stand off. While this never claims to be based on fact a quick reading of the real events will show few details of the aftermath of the original battle are left unchanged to suit the plot so if you want accuracy you'll be disappointed if you just want a decent story set in pleasant (inaccurate) scenery you should like it though.
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"The lower you drive him, the further down I'll go with him"
utgard1428 July 2014
Captain Benson (Randolph Scott) returns to the 7th cavalry with his fiancée (Barbara Hale) to find most of his outfit had been wiped out with General Custer at Little Big Horn. The men under Benson's command resent him for being close friends with Custer, who they hold responsible for the death of their fellow soldiers. Benson's superiors, including his fiancée's father, suspect him of cowardly asking for leave because he knew a battle was looming. So Benson volunteers to lead a detail into danger to recover the bodies at Little Big Horn to prove he isn't a coward.

Scott's always good and he's backed up by a fine supporting cast, including Jay C. Flippen, Frank Faylen, Denver Pyle, and Harry Carey, Jr. In most early movies dealing with Custer, he was portrayed as a martyr and American hero. But by this time the reexamination of Custer had begun and we're starting to see a little historical accuracy seep through. This film tries to please both sides by offering plenty of condemnation of Custer as arrogant and reckless but also having the lead character (played by movie hero Randolph Scott) defend him as a man of honor and "a great human being." Custer is still, to this day, a divisive figure and any movie that portrays him in anything less than a villainous light often attracts soapboxers. Judged strictly on its merits as a film, this is a decent western. Not great but certainly watchable and enjoyable enough.
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Loose End
date1969-697-3743789 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Capt. Tom Benson played by Randolph Scott had fallen under disfavor with his superior officer and future father in law Col. Kellogg played by Russell Hicks because of his absence from his command at the Battle of the Little Bighorn (not depicted). Col. Custer (referenced only) just prior to the battle had given Benson a verbal order, "Benson, I want you to show the gumption to ride off to Fort Supply and bring back that girl and marry her..." of which he couldn't confirm at the military inquest. Facing the prospect of a court martial he jumped at the chance to lead a detail to recover the bodies of the officers of the 7th Cav. to show he was not a coward. Unbeknownst to him a witness, Cpl. Morrison played by Harry Carey Jr., who also had been ordered from the field prior to the massacre therefor he had survived but had been put on courier detail before the inquiry. After Benson had left the fort and was making his way to the battlefield Morrison returns bearing the good news to Benson's fiancé, Martha Kellogg played by Barbara Hale, but not reporting it to the Col. He instead rides in pursuit of Benson to give him the good news on one of two look alike horses that Custer had ridden. He ends up getting killed by a lone brave which is needed to have the horse gallop to the battlefield riderless just in time to spook some Indians who had surrounded the detail and save the day. But all seems to be forgiven back at the Fort because of Benson's completion of his mission despite the fact that he hadn't proved that a verbal order had been given. But that's Hollywood for you.
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B Movie Drama From Columbia
DKosty12314 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If a viewer were to sit down and watch this one as I just did, the best comparison to another film is to compare it with it's mirror image- Valkyrie starring Tom Cruise. That is because Cruise is a big star in this era much like Randolph Scott was in the era this was made. Cruise's film takes actual history and makes it boring and distorted. This movie takes a fictional story and gives it real life drama. Barbara Hale really does not get a good role/script in this movie and her actions with Scott are pretty shallow. I blame that on the writer here though this writer did better making up a story than the writer of Valkyrie did rewriting history.

Randolph Scott is excellent in this movie. It is not the typical Scott film except for the physical action fight scenes which have the usual contrived action from 1950's era film. Still for a low budget film, it is better shot and better directed than Cruise's film.

Anyone who knows history knows there is no fact to the story. Still the film tells a story. The last half of Cruises film basically has Cruise wringing his hands and mugging in front of a camera. So for once the fiction is better than reality.

In Memory Roger Ebert - 2013
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Cavalry and Indians Again.
Robert J. Maxwell15 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Randolph Scott is Captain Benson, an officer in the Seventh Cavalry who is ordered by General Custer to go fetch his girl friend from Fort Supply. In Scott's absence, Custer leads his men against the Sioux and Custer's own troop is slaughtered, the other two units, led by Benteen and Reno, decimated.

Scott returns to the fort with his fiancée, Barbara Hale, and learns for the first time about the Battle of the Little Big horn. An Army General, Scott's future father-in-law, arrives and conducts an investigation. Scott winds up with part of the blame for making himself absent during the battle.

The general orders him to assemble a handful of volunteers, return to the Little Big Horn, and retrieve the dead bodies of the officers. Scott volunteers all the drunks and scroungers who, like him, had managed to avoid the battle. The problem is that the Sioux now consider the battlefield a holy ground and it all begins to look like a suicide mission.

There are a couple of fist fights and shootings, a horde of silent, watching Indians, and a deus ex horse.

It's impossible to watch a movie like this -- the men marching around in the familiar uniforms of the cavalry of 1872, the ranks of feathered Indians appearing over the hill, the lone rider racing across the dark horizon, the captain saying "Yo-oh!" and waving his detail forward, the surrounded troopers taking cover under the wagons -- without thinking of how John Ford handled all this in films like "Fort Apache" and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon." But there's hardly any comparison. Where Ford's community was a living, breathing organism, what we see here are actors hitting their marks and reciting their lines. The movie lacks élan, poetry, and any sense of conflict beyond the most formulaic. I could never convince myself that the characters actually felt the thoughts and emotions they expressed. There are one or two drunk scenes that are dramatic in a mushy way. Ford would have done with that drunkenness what Hitchock used to do with scenes of eating. The director, Joseph H. Lewis, made one low-budget and curiously involving film noir, "Gun Crazy." The rest of his output was as routine as this movie is.

The best scene has neither action nor romance. It's the general's investigation of the reasons for the massacre. It's a talky scene, but for once the talk is interesting. Benteen and Reno both offer their reasons for not being at Custer's side during the final moments, and both are roughly accurate as far as history goes. Scott defends Custer's character, but the others, without rancor or apparent prejudice, place the responsibility on Custer himself. Reno makes a mistake in saying they were up against the Sioux nation and thousands of Cheyenne. Only seven Cheyenne were present. (One was named Two Moons. I interviewed his descendant some years ago.) But the history, accurate or not, is a secondary consideration. What the movie needs is a unifying vision, and it doesn't have it.
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Grandly staged, well acted and inventively directed!
JohnHowardReid28 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Associate producer: Randolph Scott. Producer: Harry Joe Brown. A Scott-Brown Production for Columbia. Copyright 1956 by Producers- Actors Corporation. No New York opening. U.S. release: December 1956. U.K. release: 14 October 1956 (sic). Australian release: 29 March 1957. Sydney opening at the Victory. 6,757 feet. 75 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Captain Tom Benson, a protégé of General Custer, is accused of absenting himself without leave prior to the Little Big Horn massacre.

COMMENT: Although action fans may be a bit disappointed, this is a grandly staged, inventively directed, well acted and tautly scripted historical piece, filmed against some impressively picturesque natural locations.

Of its very nature, the main thrust of the script is to eschew action (though Leo Gordon has opportunities to uncover his usual villainy, and even has an extended punch-up with Randy in which he uses no doubles -- whereas Randy does!). Although it deals rather interestingly with the aftermath of Little Big Horn rather than the battle itself, there is still plenty of suspense right from the Beau Geste opening though the court of inquiry to the impressive line-up of war-painted Indian braves filling the screen from one end to the other.

The script also provides interesting conflicts between the Scott character and his fellow officers, as well as his men — Dirty Dozen "volunteers".

Scott as usual is excellent in the lead, and receives convincing support right down the line from Russell Hicks' prejudiced colonel through Jay C. Flippen's prevaricating sergeant to Frank Faylen's diamond-in-the-rough trooper. Michael Pate, as a biased adjutant, is effective too.

Lewis' direction is remarkably astute, a text-book model in fact for everything that strong, vigorous direction should be. Lewis for the most part keeps the film editor at bay by using long takes (though Havlick does interrupt a 360 degree pan by repeating a close-up of Scott) and is not afraid to ask his producer star to keep his back to the camera in scenes where the support player is dominant.

All in all, a top western.

OTHER VIEWS: The story has a neat twist, is powerfully constructed and filled with tautly antagonistic characters... Stunning color photography, impressive outdoor locations, enough action and spectacle to satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty fans. - J.H.R. in "Photoplayer".
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"General Custer was a great human being, Sir."
classicsoncall9 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
You know, if you think about it, digging up and retrieving the bodies of dead soldiers would be a pretty grisly task, wouldn't it? But the bigger question I'd have here is 'who would have buried all those dead soldiers to begin with'? Pretty quickly too I might add, since Captain Benson (Randolph Scott) and his men were going out to the battlefield a day after Custer's disastrous defeat at Little Big Horn. Oh well, so much for history.

Like many other Western movie fans on this board, I wasn't too impressed by this picture. I consider myself a Randolph Scott fan but at fifty eight years old he looked like his age was catching up with him. There was no way he would have knocked the tar out of Leo Gordon in a real life dust up, even without the age differential. If you kept a close eye on both of them during their fight, there's a brief moment when Gordon's character Vogel has a fresh looking face when only a second before and after it was sweat and dust covered.

The most interesting element in the story for me had to do with General Custer's 'spirit horse' and how it frightened the Sioux from interfering with Benson's mission. The idea was mentioned early in the story that Custer had two look alike horses, but how Crazy Horse or any of his warriors might have spent time observing what Custer was riding in the heat of battle seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. But it made for a clever gimmick.

With a relatively compact run time of seventy five minutes the movie will likely appeal to most fans of the lead actor but it's no "Ride The High Country". Keeping that in mind you'll probably do OK.
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much, much better than you'd expect...
grizzledgeezer19 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Sourpuss pessimist that I am, I tend to see the glass as half-empty. In this case, I'm going against most of the other reviewers and seeing it as half-full.

"7th Cavalry" appears to be the first "revisionist" film about the brave and daring George Armstrong Custer. Though there are a few fist-fights, and soldiers threatening/attempting to kill their commanding officer, it's basically a drama about the causes of Custer's defeat. (The facts are stated clearly, but the issue is never resolved.)

The fictional "Tom Benson" (Randolph Scott), supposedly Custer's best friend, claims to have been relieved from duty by Custer so he can talk his girlfriend (Barbara Hale) into marrying him. He has no proof, and is considered a likely deserter. It doesn't help that he vigorously defends Custer as a fine human being, while the investigating officer (Hale's father, of course), holds a low opinion of Custer, and frankly doesn't want Benson around his daughter.

It sounds pretty lame, but the script treats this material seriously, and in depth. (The inquiry scene is a model of how to write expository dialog without putting the audience to sleep.)

Perhaps the most-remarkable thing about this film is Benson's confrontation with the Indians when he goes to retrieve Custer's body. One of the Indians (who'd been raised by whites) explains to Benson their belief that the spirits of the dead soldiers have become part of the Indian community, and the bodies must not be disturbed. When Benson suggests that the young man knows better, that this is merely superstition, he replies that the white man's religion is equally superstitious! (Had HUAC still been active, the filmmakers would no doubt have been called to testify.)

This scene might be philosophically inaccurate, but it's intelligent and well-written. It's probably taken from Glendon Swarthout's short story, "A Horse for Mrs Custer".

The story has an implausible "equus ex machina" ending.

Oh, one other thing... This film looks as if it had been shot in 3D -- which would have been odd for a film released long after the 3D bubble burst. People who are experts on 3D films say this is not the case --there is no record whatever of "7th Cavalry" having been shot in 3D. It appears the director framed the scenes as they would have been in a 3D movie, because the liked the effect.
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Where in California was the film made?
gmwedding110 June 2005
Does anyone know where in the 'California pine country' this film was made? Of course, the otherwise beautiful locations don't do a credible job of passing for The Great Plains where 'Custer's Last Stand' actually occurred. However, they are interesting and quite beautiful, never-the-less.

Since I live in Northern California, I wonder, where these scenes were shot.

For instance, in the scenes of the impressive 'Fort Lincoln' set, a majestic mountain is depicted in the background. Unless this was added as a matte shot, it looks real enough. Does anyone know which mountain was depicted or does anyone have more precise info about where this scene (and the rest of the movie) was filmed?
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Bringing Back Custer's Cadaver
bkoganbing15 July 2010
7th Cavalry finds Randolph Scott as a captain in same who was given an order to go back for supplies by General Custer himself before the Little Big Horn. Problem is no one heard the order and when he returns to his post and finds out about the massacre, he's shunned like a pariah even by his fiancé Barbara Hale.

Well nobody can prove anything so Scott's still in good standing as a soldier with only his reputation trashed. He then gets a detail to go out to the Little Big Horn battlefield and bring back Custer's body. And he gets a picked of guardhouse regulars as his command because no one really wants to risk any of the good soldiers on the post.

As you can imagine this is one tension filled detail with solid character actors like Jay C. Flippen, Denver Pyle, Leo Gordon, Frank Faylen along for the detail.

Though it's a technically competent film with a great cast, 7th Cavalry in the end is a strangely actionless film. Not quite up to the standards Randolph Scott had during the Fifties with his series of high quality B westerns for Budd Boetticher and others.

I will say this compared with Randolph Scott, Chuck Connors as Jason McCord in Branded was given the key to the city.
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hysterically inaccurate
ts_wickens18 January 2014
Should have watched the entire movie but after the first few minutes of COMPLETE NOT EVEN REMOTE INNACCURACY I gave up. Why? They showed Fort Lincoln as a remote outpost with snow capped mountain peaks and evergreen forests in the near distance.

The reality. Fort Lincoln was and the Historic Site is, located approximately 10 miles south of Mandan, ND and along the Missouri River. Bismarck, ND the Terrirorial Capitol was located across the river and again less than 10 miles away. The Fort was a large complex generally without the log stockade walls, but with several scout towers and residences/barracks.

The area is Missouri Coteau, or rolling prairie with a few cottonwoods along the river and oaks in the draws.

At NO TIME would it have been completely deserted if for no other reason than Custers wife Libby as well as the wives of the other officers and men lived at the fort! Until little Big Horn the leading causes of death were venereal disease, pneumonia and drowning. All from consorting with prostitutes in Bismrack or falling in the river trying to get to and from the prostitutes. All of this was available at the time of the movie production. There was no excuse for such silly fiction.
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could be much better, blame the screenplay.
Warning: Spoilers
This film had everything to be excellent, nice colors, the cavalry like in the films of John Ford, Scott at his best, great fistfight, a great chase with horses, but then all goes wrong! And you can only blame that on the screenplay. After seeing the movie I started philosophizing, is it worth seeing a film if it has very good scenes but messes it up at the end? For people who like westerns as I do, I think it is. Real facts:There was a Court of Inquiry held in 1879 to determine whether Major Reno, Custer's second in command, had been guilty of misconduct at the Little Bighorn, There was a last message from Custer to General Frederick W. Benteen asking him to"come on and be quick" and to "bring the packs." Both Reno and Benteen,fictionalized, are part of this film, which raises many questions about why should a man with the experience of Custer fall in a battle where they had no chances of surviving.
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TankGuy14 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of the worst films ever made, its a disgrace to the western.

I bought the DVD, but its a complete waste of money, the quality is absolutely horrific, the screens all blurred and you can hardly hear a word the character is saying.

There is no action whatsoever, and a battle is substituted by some indians running away in fear when they think General Custers spirit is hiding in his horse. How stupid can you get.

Warning, stay completely away from this, is a rubbish film, a waste of time and money.
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