When Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his group of bandits keep raiding a Mexican village, the villagers decide to take matters in to their own hands. The villagers hire seven gunmen in hopes of solving the problem.
Director: John Sturges
Cast: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, Horst Buchholz, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Brad Dexter
MPAA Rating: N/A
Fun Fact: George Peppard and Gene Wilder auditioned for Steve McQueen’s role.
The Magnificent Seven is an Americanized remake from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Both stories are similar with a group of people helping villagers that are being raided from a group of people that feel like the villagers owe them everything. This version makes it out to be a Western and at that point of time Westerns were popular. Yul Brynner was the one that actually went and lobbied for this movie to be made. The studio agreed and hired well known director John Sturges to helm the film and hired on up and coming actors who would go on to be major stars after this film. This year is the 60th anniversary of the film and I decided to take a look at it.
From the opening shot we get to see beautiful desert landscapes and a well-built village set where the story takes place. The cinematography shots are at the right angles to capture the landscape. We get a beautiful looking film out of it. I started to get invested in the opening scenes and wanted to see more. When we start seeing the characters we get transported to the Western world that dominated screens in that era. The action shots are clean and visible as the camera focuses on wider shots to capture all the action. While this is a great start to the film, the technical aspects make it even better. The sound editing of the film is fantastic and makes everything more epic. The sounds of the gunshots have a nice echo to them as they go off. It makes the action scenes bigger with the louder sounds. Elmer Bernstein’s score is legendary as we get the well-known theme to the movie. I went ahead and started listening to the soundtrack after the film was over. What can I say, I love older movie soundtracks.
The script calls for a group of characters that are hired to protect the village. One of my gripes about the film is that the seven gunmen don’t really have much character to them. Most of them besides Yul Brynner’s character are all broke bums that need work. It doesn’t really bring much excitement to the characters that much. The performances by the actors are well done though. Yul Brynner dials in a great performance, but it’s not his best. He’s the leader of the seven and you can tell through his actions that he is the head guy. Steve McQueen wasn’t really well known at this point and he does a lot of heavy lifting in this film. He was known for his stunt work and this is no exception. It looked like he was trying to one up Brynner in this movie to see who was more memorable. I’m a Charles Bronson fan and he does play his typical tough man role in this. It’s what he’s well known for and it works here. Eli Wallach brings in a nice performance as the movie’s lead villain. Every time he’s on screen I was invested and wanted justice brought to his character for what he was doing. I just wish he had a little bit more screen time though. For a two hour film, he doesn’t have much screen time dedicated to him.
We get a nice slow build to the climax. The movie has the perfect setup with the characters forming the group, teaching the villagers how to defend themselves, interacting with the villagers and villains, and on to the climax. While this movie does the setup well, the climax is kind of messy. While it’s the typical shootout that is famous in westerns, there could’ve been so much more. What I really wanted to see was a showdown between Wallach and Brynner as they were both the lead villain and hero respectfully. We don’t get much and it was disappointing to say the least. I was hoping for something extended like an old fashioned western fist fight, but we didn’t get that and it could’ve been better.
Overall, The Magnificent Seven is a film that is over 60 years old and in a way it still holds up today. It’s a technically beautiful movie from the opening shot. We get to see some great locations as we go on this western adventure. The sound editing makes it more epic and Elmer Bernstein’s music is legendary. We get some great acting from a solid cast of actors that helped launched some great careers. My only gripe though is while the setup is done very well, the climax should’ve been grander. What we get is fine with some good clean action, but it felt underwhelming. There is enough great material in this film for me to tell you to take a look at it if you want to see a film that’s considered a classic.