Watch 52 musicals, one every week, in 2015.
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954)
I knew nothing about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers going in, and now that I’ve seen it, I don’t know what I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. So, I won’t even try: what the fuck, movie?
To hell with spoilers, this is a film where hillbillies kidnap a bunch of women and they fucking love it.
NEXT WEEK: South Pacific (1958).
Much like a date with a men’s rights activist, Seven Brides doesn’t start with the kidnapping right away. The film opens with macho manly backwoodsman Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) moseying into town and browsing for a wife, not unlike the way one selects a frozen pizza. (While singing, that is.) A young woman named Milly (Jane Powell) decides this is definitely a good idea and accompanies him back to his completely isolated cabin, only to find that he has six brothers (a fuckload of actors I won’t list) that she’s also expected to cook and clean for.
Being one man’s housekeeper is a fairy tale marriage come true, but seven?? Right out!
Milly tries to turn them into charming gentlemen à la what I assume the plot of My Fair Lady is. (Never seen it, check the blog premise.) They head into town and try their best to be nice guys and it’s a lot of fun, but the movie becomes instantly bored with this idea and Adam convinces the boys to capture six screaming women, load them onto a wagon, and drag them back to their rape shack.
Rated G for cartoon violence and cartoon, uh, sexual assault…
This should have been a roleplay fantasy at best and a horror movie at worst. But it is a cheerful musical made by real human beings.
First off, I didn’t even catch that burly mountain man Adam Pontipee was played by the same guy as boring-ass cheeseball Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun, so kudos to Howard Keel for his range. He’s firm but charismatic, a persuasive combination that would be less terrifying if one of his bright ideas wasn’t to put women in bags.
“Who’s up for a six-way? I literally won’t take no for an answer.”
Jane Powell’s Milly starts off fairly naive but she brings the ruckus when the brothers start shit. Her performance is still sweet, though; you get the sense that she genuinely cares for and wants to help these woodland dipshits instead of abandoning them like she absolutely should.
Don’t make her come in there! (Mostly because she should get the fuck out of there.)
I’ll review the brothers as one group because they’re fairly indistinguishable from each other, but here’s the IMDb cast list if you want it, you whiner. The Pontipees are actually really fun when they’re being rough-and-tumble idiots. They hilariously beat the shit out of each other over anything and this is treated as an everyday occurrence. Oops, I just thought too hard about how that violence translates to their relationships with the women they eagerly abducted!
This movie actively ruins itself at every turn!
And then there’s the brides. Oh, the brides. So they’re all sufficiently and realistically traumatized by the kidnapping, something I thought the film would gloss over because of the deplorable subject matter they tried to make cute. But no, their performances convey pure shock… until a scene transition, at which point they’re having cheeky snowball fights and getting sopping wet at the sight of their captors’ beards.
Ladies, I’m over here…
Wait, I just made that joke about abductees.
YOU MAKE EVERYTHING HORRIBLE, MOVIE.
THE SONGS AND DANCES:
What really surprises me is that you’d think a movie on such an uncomfortable topic could only solidify its baffling popularity with amazing songs. And yet, honestly, a good chunk of them are mostly forgettable. Adam’s first number is “Bless Your Beautiful Hide,” a mildly creepy love song about the currently nonexistent woman he’s going to marry that he croons while inspecting all the local ladies like cuts of meat. It’s just kind of okay.
Could have done without the scene where he makes violent love to a mannequin, though.
Once Milly agrees to be Adam’s sex maid, she sings a song about how happy she is to be married titled “Wonderful, Wonderful Day.” I remember the gigantic fake backdrop more than I remember a single line of this boring, boring tune.
The hills are alive with the smell of Glidden.
The yawns keep coming when Milly performs another mundane love song, “When You’re in Love.” She sings out a window and the camera zooms in and then back out. That’s the whole thing. This movie is leaving me hurting for some actual choreography.
Please tell me Busby Berkeley is in that tree somewhere.
We finally get some energy with “Goin’ Courtin’,” in which Milly explains to the boys more sophisticated methods of wooing women (for the ’50s, anyway, but more on that later). The lyrics are mostly sweet, the melody’s catchy, and there’s some nice dancing.
Sadly, there’s no “Goin’ to Court” that covers how to beat kidnapping charges.
My prayers for choreography are answered during a huge instrumental dance scene that breaks out at a barn-raising. It’s bright and colorful and fantastic, while still packing in some gags involving our lunkhead brothers.
This raises my barn!
After a reprise of one of the lame songs, there’s “I’m a Lonesome Polecat.” If you throw out the context that it’s being sung by a bunch of woman-capturing psychopaths, it’s a wonderfully somber tribute to loneliness. The brothers chop wood in time to this solemn ode that’s performed in one unbroken take.
What more could you AXE for? (Follow me on Twitter for more top-notch lumber laffs!)
Who’s ready for an upbeat ditty about lady-snatchin’?! Adam kicks off “Sobbin’ Women,” a hot number based on a classic Roman rape story! Fun! This is how they get the idea for the terrible second half of this film! Whee!
Sing along, kids!
Once the brides have gone full Stockholm, they sing “June Bride,” a song about the joys of being married in that particular month. In their underwear.
I feel dirty.
And finally, after a winter of being completely brainwashed, the gals emerge into the bright outdoors and everybody sings “Spring, Spring, Spring” together. Aww…
…shit. As in, “Aww shit, people actually find this endearing.”
I THINK THIS LINE’S MOSTLY FILLER:
Oh, I can’t pick just one bad lyric in Seven Brides! Time for the CRINGE-WORTHY LYRICS LIGHTNING ROUND: MISOGYNY EDITION! Sixty seconds on the clock… go!!!
“I don’t know your name, but I’m a-stakin’ my claim…”
“You cuddle up, she moves away,
then the strategy comes into play…”
“Suppose she up and slaps your face?”
“Just remember, blessed are the meek.
Don’t forget to turn the other cheek…”
“Seems they cried and kissed and kissed and cried
all over that Roman countryside,
so don’t forget that when you’re taking a bride…”
“They never did return their plunder,
the victor gets all the loot…”
“Someday womenfolks’ll have rights!”
“Now, let this be, because it’s true,
a lesson to the likes of you:
rough ‘em up like them there Romans do…”
Leonard Maltin gave Seven Brides four stars and somebody should check his basement. You could try to enjoy it for its sheer tastelessness, but without any self-awareness, it’s more frightening than fun. I’m going to go take a shower and write an apology letter for, just, everything men have ever done.
Oh, and the songs suck, too.
South Pacific (1958)