Thursday, August 14, 2008

Seven Women (John Ford, 1966) B

Seven Women starts off innocently enough, acting like yet another The Inn of Sixth Happiness ripoff with American missionaries dealing with Chinese uprisings and invasions. Eventually, however, it evolves into an interesting meditation on religion and how far people will go to save others. Margaret Leighton runs a mission in China near the Mongolian border and when Anne Bancroft, a crass, chain smoking doctor, arrives to help a woman with a tough pregnancy, a subtle power struggle erupts between the two over a young innocent orphan living at the mission (Sue Lyon). When a Mongol barbarian invades the mission, the women are pent up together and Bancroft must sacrifice herself for the sake of the others. This sends Leighton off the deep end and she turns into this scary ass zealot, denouncing Bancroft as "the whore of Babylon." This film is no The Searchers or The Grapes of Wrath, but it's fascinating to see Ford work with this fine ensemble of women (Leighton, Bancroft, Mildred Dunnock, Anna Lee, Flora Robson) and direct a type of film he had never done before. A fitting last film if I've ever seen one.

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