Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Seven Alone (1974)

During the ’70s, kids-in-the-wilderness pictures like Seven Alone were plentiful and largely interchangeable, because most movies of this ilk offered the same milquetoast mixture of hardship and homilies. In Seven Alone, for instance, seven kids become orphans as their family treks from Missouri to Oregon, but the story is really about how the family’s oldest boy, John Sager (Stewart Petersen), emerges from adolescence to become his siblings’ protector. In other words, the picture is like a Sunday school sermon come to life, complete with a theme song performed by Mr. Wholesome himself, Pat Boone. Films this edifying and gentle serve a function in this world, but the function isn’t necessarily entertainment. And while it may seem petty to pick on Seven Alone, good intentions are not sufficient to compensate for amateurish acting, dull storytelling, and mediocre production values. The narrative begins on a Missouri farm, where patriarch Henry Sager (Dewey Martin) and his wife, Naome (Anne Collings), live with their brood. Henry wants to head west, but Naome fears the trip will be too dangerous. Turns out she’s right, because neither parent survives cross-country travel, leaving John in charge. Yet John is a rascal who causes all sorts of destructive mayhem until circumstances force him to take responsibility. Seven Alone has the usual travails—harsh weather, Indian encounters, starvation, wagon accidents, and so on. There’s even the requisite famous Wild West figure, Indian fighter Kit Carson (Dean Smith), who briefly travels with and helps the Sager children. Not a frame of Seven Alone is surprising, and the picture’s content is so unthreatening that the worst insult anyone hurls is “you’re as stubborn as a five-year-old in a bathtub!” Seven Alone is harmless, and the filmmakers deserve some credit for having the integrity to include two major deaths in the storyline. Nonetheless, Seven Alone is subpar in every other regard.

Seven Alone: LAME

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