7th Cavalry (1956)

Randolph Scott as Capt. Tom Benson in 7th Cavalry

Not 7th Heaven for Scott

I want to tell you that the "7th Cavalry" is a good movie, something different to your normal 50s western but I can't despite the fact it has the potential to be very different. What I mean is that the first part of "7th Cavalry" sets up this interesting situation where we have an Enquiry into what went wrong at Little Big Horn when Custer and his men were defeated and killed. There are accusations as to who is to blame and whether certain men were basically cowards. But unfortunately that ends up being unexplored and what follows ends up the Cavalry versus the Indians with some brief action and a twist which is corny. Basically "7th Cavalry" starts of so well and interesting but ends up just routine and dull.

Having been given permission to go and collect his bride to be, Captain Benson (Randolph Scott - The Bounty Hunter) returns to Fort Lincoln with Martha Kellogg (Barbara Hale - Airport) to discover that in his absence General Custer and the men of the 7th Cavalry were defeated at Little Big Horn with many dying including Custer himself. But with Benson being absent there are those including Martha's father Col. Kellogg (Russell Hicks) who are suspicious over whether he had permission to leave. Hated by those who survived Benson volunteers to head to Little Big Horn to retrieve the dead despite knowing that the Sioux and Cheyenne will still be close by.

Barbara Hale as Martha Kellogg in 7th Cavalry

So as already mentioned "7th Cavalry" is really a movie of two halves with the first half being far superior to the second. It sets up this interesting situation where Capt. Benson returns to Fort Lincoln and is basically branded a coward as in his absence General Custer lead his men into battle and death. But with Benson being a loyal supporter of Custer he disagrees with all those who say Custer was a glory hunter and went against orders seeking personal glory. And with Col. Kellogg arriving to head an inquiry into what happened we have this almost courtroom drama as Kellogg clearly dislikes Benson and would rather blame others for what happened than Custer. Sadly that's it, we get what could be a firecracker drama about whether Custer was glory hunting whilst Benson clears his name but nope we get none of that.

Instead what follows on from this first half is rather mundane as Benson leads a detail of drunks and scroungers to return to Little Big Horn to retrieve the dead and into danger with the Sioux and Cheyenne who don't want them entering what they now see as holy land. Along the way we get some typical drama from a couple who think Benson is a coward and try to kill him whilst others who do not want to go on the suicide mission try to cause trouble. It's all rather routine with an obligatory fist fight between Benson and one of the men who dislikes him. And whilst this ends up with a bit of a twist it is a twist which is seriously corny, no it really is, and it feels like a complete and utter cop out.

Because "7th Cavalry" ends up such a generic western there is not a single performance which really stands out with actors almost seeming like they are on autopilot. And to be honest whilst there are other characters such as Barbara Hale as Benson's wife to be Martha Kellogg and Jay C. Flippen as Sgt. Bates "7th Cavalry" is really just a Randolph Scott vehicle. And here we have Scott delivering the same sort of upright hero performance you can see in many of his westerns except here it feels like he was just going through the motions, did what he did with out any interest in trying to deliver a real character.

What this all boils down to is that "7th Cavalry" is really just another run of the mill 50s westerns with a couple of moments of action and an obligatory romance. But it is also disappointing as the first half sets up this interesting court room element which could have been powerful and dramatic, except it ends up being completely under explored.