Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers ★★★★½

I've been watching a lot of musicals this month and it strikes me that movies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is basically an old-school blockbuster. The characters are cliches more than real human beings (see the slight variations on mountain men that each of the brothers takes on here, in addition to the "lead" brother who is also stubborn!), and the story often stops for scenes which highlight spectacle over character (or in addition to, in the best of cases). Things almost always follow the same sad-happy-sad-happy wave, and the technical showmanship is often the best element. So yes, the huge dance number and fight scene at the middle of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the 1954 version of 2014 Godzilla (yes, I understand that the original Godzilla also came out in 1954). And that's kind of awesome.

Ok, you know what, there are other songs and even good ones, which is not something to sneeze at, but can we just talk a bit about that dance scene? Here it is, in case you've forgotten it:

That video is a little unfortunate, as it squishes the sides in like the corsets these ladies are probably wearing and messes with the impeccable framing of the scene a bit, but it gets the idea across. Like, just how amazing is that? First, the colors, which matches the brothers with their eventual brides (title spoilers!) and distinguishes them from the boring men of the town at the same time are again highlights. Movies today are often so brown that I wonder if they're being made by colorblind directors/DPs. Those colors are enough for an extra point on their own. And then the choreography, which allows for a playful back and forth between the brothers and their rivals during the dance scene and invites some truly unexpected gymnastic feats in the second half, is pretty much the best thing ever. Not only do they move so impeccably and wonderfully, but they also show off the power of the widescreen framing by director Stanley Donen. I love how the camera placement gives more or less weight to one line of men depending on how much influence they have over the women at that point in time. It's perfect, a match for the cinematic power of Godzilla's battle scenes.

And the rest is pretty cool, too. How many musicals reference Plutarch in one of their numbers which inspires some good old fashioned kidnapping? Not many, I'd wager. That's how you know you're in a really fun movie.