The Magnificent Seven (1960) UA/Western-Action RT: 128 minutes No MPAA rating (mild language, violence) Director: John Sturges Screenplay: William Roberts Music: Elmer Bernstein Cinematography: Charles Lang Release date: October 23, 1960 (US) Cast: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, Host Buchholz, Eli Wallach, Vladimir Sokoloff, Jorge Martinez de Hoyos, Rosenda Monteros, Whit Bissell, Rico Alaniz, Natividad Vacio, Robert J. Wilke, Val Avery, Bing Russell. Box Office: N/A
With the remake opening this week, I thought it would be fun to revisit the original The Magnificent Seven which itself is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954). While not my favorite western (that would be Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West), it’s nonetheless excellent. With a cast like it has, how could it be otherwise? Check out the lineup- Yul Brynner (The Ten Commandments), Steve McQueen (The Great Escape), Charles Bronson (Death Wish), James Coburn (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), Robert Vaughn (The Man from UNCLE), Brad Dexter (99 River Street), Horst Buchholz (“the German James Dean”) and Eli Wallach (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). WOW! Bad asses all! You just don’t get a power line-up like that anymore.
Wallach plays Calvera, a Mexican bandit who periodically raids a poor farming village for food and supplies for his small army of bandits. Deciding they’ve finally had enough, some of the villagers scrape together what few valuables they have and ride to a border town to buy guns to defend themselves. They meet Chris (Brynner), a gunslinger who tells them it would easier and less expensive to hire gunmen for protection. He agrees to help them find men but later decides to take the job himself. He recruits others to help him- down-on-his-luck gambler Vin (McQueen), Irish-Mexican gunslinger Bernardo O’Reilly (Bronson), knife expert Britt (Coburn), treasure-seeking Harry Luck (Dexter) and veteran gun-for-hire Lee (Vaughn) who’s being hunted by the law. Also joining them is Chico (Buchholz), a young inexperienced hothead determined to prove himself.
They all ride to the village where they teach the farmers how to defend themselves. The outsiders start to settle in a bit. Bernardo bonds with three boys who promise him to always put fresh flowers on his grave should he be killed. Lee admits to losing his nerve and suffering from nightmares. Chico falls for Petra (Monteros), a young woman who’s initially afraid of him and his compadres. Before they arrived, all the young women in the village were hidden by the men for fear of being raped by the gunfighters. Eventually, Calvera and his men return to find that the farmers are no longer afraid of him. A shootout ensues and Calvera flees with his remaining men. It’s only a matter of time before he comes back.
I have nothing bad or even remotely negative to say about The Magnificent Seven. I think it’s great! It has plenty of action and violence. An early scene has Brynner and McQueen driving the body of a dead Indian to the graveyard when the undertaker (Bissell, The Time Machine) refuses out of fear of reprisal from Indian-hating townspeople. The shootouts are well-orchestrated. There are also some great dramatic scenes like when the gunslingers share their dinner with the villagers after learning they’re going hungry in order to feed their guests. Directed by John Sturges (The Great Escape), The Magnificent Seven has a great storyline. It’s a fine adaptation of Kurosawa’s outstanding film. The actors all do a terrific job not only in terms of performance but in sheer bad-assery. I’ve long been a fan of McQueen and Bronson. You don’t see tough guys of their caliber anymore. Only Jason Statham comes close. Wallach makes a great bad guy. The Magnificent Seven is the very epitome of a guy movie. Even the love story isn’t too gooey. As a card-carrying guy and action junkie, watching it is always a pleasure. This time, I watched it with a friend who had never seen it before and he enjoyed it very much. This movie is rightfully regarded as a classic of the genre. Not only is it a cool action flick, it makes a bold statement about bravery in the face of certain death. If you claim to love movies and haven’t yet seen The Magnificent Seven, see it ASAP. You won’t be disappointed.