Wednesday 10 June 2020

7 Women for the MacGregors

Dir: Franco Giraldi


With 7 Guns for the MacGregors one of the highest grossing westerns in Italy during 1966 and the project sold successfully in America it should come as no surprise that a sequel was rapidly planned and put into production as soon as possible.  It should also come as no surprise that the sequel followed very similar lines to the original and was, for the most part, less successful.

Picking up almost directly where the first film left off we follow the MacGregor boys as they hunt down the stolen family gold which was taken by bandits during the eldest son's engagement shindig.  Things are complicated by the jealousy of the fiance and the occasional threat to the daughters of family friend Donovan until the final showdown is finally reached and an all out fight for the treasure can ensue.

Despite the success of the first film, it's star, Robert Woods, declined the offer to be involved in the sequel. Apparently Woods didn't enjoy working with female co-star Agata Flori who he found unprofessional.  This was a touchy subject as Flori was the girlfriend (and later wife) of one of the producers, Dario Sabatello, so Woods bowed out.  This was probably a wise move on his part as a quick glance at Flori's filmography shows that nearly all her film appearances were in projects produced by Sabatello. I suspect this would not have been a battle Woods could have won.  So in his place as Gregor MacGregor we have fellow American actor and future regular of daytime soap Another World, David Bailey.  Whether he enjoyed working with Flori any more than Woods had we'll never know but this did turn out to be his one and only Italian western.

In truth, Bailey is fine in the role but lacked the screen presence to really stamp anything onto it. Not that he has a great deal to work with here. The film is clearly not constructed with the characters particularly in mind.  It is a series of action sequences strung together one after the other with a loose plot designed to give some semblance of reason why we get from one to the other.  In many ways this was a facet of the first film.  With the sequel they just ratcheted it up another gear.  We already had a large family of rambunctious Scots boys riding, shooting and fighting all over the place.  Now we have more of the same plus a large family of Irish females thrown in to dilute things even further.  Not that the girls have any real importance to the thing.  Despite the common title, the seven women are not necessarily for the MacGregors at all and are really only there to pretty things up on occasion.  Apart from an opening scene barn dance and a potential kidnapping by the bandits they hardly feature at all.  For once, the UK release title of Up the MacGregors! is the most accurate.

In essence it is clear the film was made with the message "more of the same please". But, as with so many sequels before and since, this brief often proves much harder to accomplish successfully than you might think. Even with something as lightweight and undemanding as this. The first film was similarly full of all out action sequences played in a largely light-hearted mood but it benefited from a couple of stand out scenes which gave it a bit more focus. This one really doesn't have any.  There's potential here to utilise the female characters much more but it's not developed.  Even the music is lifted straight from the first film with the only change coming from re-hashed use of elements from an even older Morricone soundtrack; that of A Fistful of Dollars.  It sounds great of course but it's just plain lazy.

So what they have done is take an action-packed but largely light-weight original and tried to make it even more action-packed and even more light-weight.  The result is inevitable.  A weaker copy of the original which is inoffensive and entertaining to a point but, ultimately, disappointing.

Contemporary audiences obviously thought so too.  7 Women didn't do half the business that 7 Guns did which, with an even bigger budget being spent, meant that another sequel was never going to happen.  No great loss really.  Two MacGregor films were probably enough.

The only available DVD release of this film that I am aware of (and the one which I viewed) is the Ripley Home Video edition from Italy.  It presents the film very nicely in English and Italian and the picture quality does real justice to the cinematography of Allejandro Ulloa; one of the real highlights of the film.  It also features an interview with director Franco Giraldi which also has English subtitles.  An unexpected bonus for an Italian release.  Finally, the extras include some outtakes of scenes which suggest that Spanish character actor Jose Manuel Martin was originally lined up to play the bandit leader Maldonado instead of Leo Anchoriz. And with a hunchback too. Why that didn't eventuate I haven't been able to discover but I can't help but think the film would have benefited from his always stellar presence.

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