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Ranch owner MacGregor has seven sons and oldest Gregor leads his brothers to Las Mesas, a small town where they want to sell horses. They get into trouble with local people who are related with evil Santillana. After getting imprisoned and losing their horses they decide to go after Santillana's gang. Written by
SEVEN PISTOLS FOR THE MACGREGORS is one of the finest examples of the middle period of Italian made Spaghetti Westerns, confidently straddling the divide between the earlier Euro Western approach that mimicked the "traditionalist" methods employed by Hollywood and the Spaghetti formula, which emphasized style & attitude over coherent plotting. Genre favorite Robert Woods stars as Gregor MacGregor, the de-facto leader of the MacGregor clan of frontiersmen and horse ranchers who have staked out a claim in the plains between two settlements. With his six brothers Gregor runs the nuts & bolts of the ranch while their parents serve as their moral centerpoint -- a characteristic that makes this example pretty unique amongst the usual Spaghetti fare. The film opens with an uproarious segment where a large gang of horse thieves come a-callin' to the ranch with the intention of just muscling the "old folks" out of the way and making off with the herd.
If only it were that easy, since this quartet of old coots are amongst the most formidable gunfighters ever put on screen, and have jury-rigged their home into a near fortress equipped with multiple gun ports, various triggered windows with descending shields, and fixed gun positions where a series of rifles are cross connected to a central trigger that can be fired all at once. And then there is Queen Anne, a small muzzle loading howitzer than the MacGregor men load with explosives shot, bits of chains, rusted nails ... the opening shootout itself stacks up a body count of roughly 35 dead rustlers to one wounded MacGregor. The meat of the story involves the attempt by the seven MacGregor boys to drive their herd of horses to a nearby town and sell them, where they run afoul of the evil Santillana (played with dastardly relish by frequent Peplum & Spaghetti villain Leo Anchóriz, with Fernando Sancho at his usual boisterous self as his lieutenant) who has the entire region in a grip of fear and extortion. The story then evolves into a very Eastwood-ish tale of Gregor's efforts to infiltrate Santillana's gang and set up their eventual downfall at the hands of his able-bodied clan, who's good hearted nature and sense of humor never fails even when the storm clouds gather and all hope seems lost The film was actually successful & popular enough to spawn a small series of loosely connected films, starting with the sequel SEVEN BRIDES FOR THE MACGREGORS and then UP THE MACGREGORS, which emphasized the more humorous approaches seen in telling this story.
There are also indications in this film of the way that Spaghetti Westerns were evolving towards their classic era form, including a bizarre torture sequence where a corrupt town leader is dragged through a gauntlet of fire and capped off by an even more bizarre final duel between Gregor and Santillana set in, on and around a revolving waterwheel who's sound effects suggest what would become the opening segment of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST with it's squeaking, clunking gears and other found sounds replacing traditional musical cues. The movie also gleefully eschews any sense of logic in favor of a kind of surrealist over the top emphasis on character that would become one of the defining staples of the Spaghetti formula. Nobody in the film is just another supporting character, all are "larger than life" and exude a kind of cartoonish aura that defines who they are as archetypes, the whole film populated by a brilliant supporting cast of names that would later become many of the A-list stars of Euro genre cinema: Alberto Dell'Acqua, George Rigaud, Perla Cristal, Cris Huerta.
The thing that I believe appealed to audiences about the scenario presented was a large family of brothers, each different & individualistic, setting aside their differences to come together and fight against the bad guys. The boys may break out a keg of 20 year old whiskey and have a fistfight to relax but are anything but dysfunctional: We all wish we had families like that. One other aspect about the film that stands out is it's sense of comedy. The reason why this movie makes me laugh where other so-called "comedy Spaghettis" only evoke a forlorn shake of the head is that the comedic aspects of the story (including the slapstick action segments involving the brothers) is achieved naturally without any forced moments that are supposed to be funny but fall flat. Director Franco Giraldi & his writers allow the absurdity of this family of Scottish immigrants and their anachronistic traits be funny all on their own, with the uncharacteristic upbeat choral-tinted Ennio Morricone score giving the film a sort of "road company" feel. One could easily imagine this to be a local stock company enacting a summer theater play, and while Giardi's direction lacks the overt artiness of the Leone/Corbucci approach it serves the film's somewhat traditionalist story very well.
Just don't go into it expecting languid scenes where squinty eyed gunslingers face off while the camera lingers on close-ups of their boots and eyes. This is a different mode of Spaghetti that would soon be abandoned after the success of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, made the same year and an almost entirely different kind of animal than the one on display here. For that matter the film may actually appeal more to non-fans of the genre who aren't preoccupied with the artiness that became the signature of the genre once it had managed to find it's voice. Once you get down to it this is one of the last examples of the Euro Western to make an impression before the Spaghetti approach caught on and remains a popular hit more than forty years later even if it is all pretty silly.
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