WolfmanOz at the Movies #82


They fought like seven hundred.

The Magnificent Seven (released in 1960) is an American western directed by John Sturges which is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai, which in turn took its inspiration from American westerns.

Seven Samurai is often hailed by film critics as one of the greatest films ever made but I’ll will be upfront in saying I actually much prefer The Magnificent Seven !

Although there’s lots to admire in Seven Samurai I have always found its 200 minutes plus running time a bit of chore to sit through. IMHO it could have done with some editing to trim it down as it tends to be very slowly paced in a number of sequences for an epic adventure film. In addition, I have never cared for the Japanese exaggerated style of acting.

Whereas The Magnificent Seven, at just over 2 hours long, manages to tell pretty much the same story with much tighter story telling; plus it boasts one of the finest music scores (composed by Elmer Bernstein) ever committed to a movie and has a cast of soon-to-be Hollywood heavyweights to die for.

The story is simple enough where seven gunmen are hired to protect a small Mexican village from a group of marauding bandits led by Calvera, played with relish by Eli Wallach, who seems to be fine-tuning his Mexican bandido persona for his iconic performance as Tuco in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

Leading the gunmen is Chris, superbly played by Yul Brynner, which for me, is his finest role. Brynner was a charismatic Russian-born actor who, he is probably best known for his role in The King And I, but I have always found it to be a very stagey performance whereas here he is superlative as the under-stated leader who knows his profession as a gunfighter is disappearing with the Wild West but he doesn’t want to quit yet and finds a new purpose in life in defending the villagers.

Supporting Brynner is a young Steve McQueen, in a scene-stealing role as Vin who becomes Chris’s friend and ally.

There’s a line in the movie where Brynner and McQueen are pondering walking out on the deal, and Brynner says words to the effect “we had an agreement” to which McQueen replies philosophically “not any agreement a court would enforce” and Brynner’s response “that’s just the kind of promise you’ve got to keep”. Its virtue has resonated with me ever since. Words on paper delivered with Brynner’s trademark, authoritative and unique voice make it, for me, unforgettable and just what this narrative is all about.

Its moments like the aforementioned where director Sturges manages to elevate the film above mere Hollywood fodder, and successfully conveys the essence of Seven Samurai into the consciousness of Western audiences. Spurs, holsters and six-shooters translate a very rewarding tale into something we can all appreciate.

The first meeting between Chis and Vin is memorably staged.

https://youtu.be/3BhyY1boI2s

The other cast members completing the Seven are Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Horst Buchholz and Brad Dexter.

Steve McQueen was still on TV making Wanted – Dead or Alive. He was an emerging star but Yul Brenner was the primary draw. Looking back, the majority of the Seven plus Eli Wallach as the villain went on to become very successful actors. McQueen, as well as James Colburn and Charles Bronson became headliners, and Robert Vaughan had a very successful run as The Man From Uncle on TV. When you think about it, there have probably not been too many other movies that have a cast that includes so many future stars early in their careers.

The film ends with one of the great western gunfights as the Seven return to the village for one final showdown with Calvera and his bandits where only three of the Seven manage to survive.

https://youtu.be/oNwWrHTBlwk

Unfortunately the film was only a moderate success on its release in the US, albeit it was a big hit in Europe. Its disappointing box office performance was largely attributed to its rather downbeat ending, something which director John Sturges ensured he did not repeat with his 1963 film The Great Escape (which featured many of the same cast and crew as The Magnificent Seven) which again could have ended on a somber note but Sturges added a final uplifting coda which ensured the film was a hit.

The Magnificent Seven spawned a number of sequels, none of which came close to the original and it was forgettably remade in 2016 with Denzel Washington.

The dialogue, the music, the scenery, the outstanding cast and direction all come together in a perfect alignment me to rate the film as one of my top five favourite westerns of all-time.

Enjoy.

and the tease for next weeks post . . . Tears in rain.


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Louis Litt
Louis Litt
September 7, 2023 7:47 am

Ah Horst Bucholz, now there was an actor, unique, the first German portrayed as a goodie.
BTW Wolfie have you come across the Starman movies from Japan. As children we used to chop the imaginary stars from the palm ? of one’s hand at your nemesis.

calli
calli
September 7, 2023 8:01 am

One of my favourites, Wolfman. All the boys in the family loved it too.

Your point about so many actors appearing early in their careers had me thinking of other movies with similar casting, the one coming to mind immediately was American Graffiti.

And that leads on to next week’s choice…another favourite.

Indolent
Indolent
September 7, 2023 11:57 am

Tears in the rain madale me think of Singing in thr Rain. Now there’s a film worth reviewing. Even leaving aside the musical content, it’s one of the best comedies ever made. I remember seeing a revival in the cinema years ago and people were roaring with laughter.

johanna
johanna
September 7, 2023 3:06 pm

Bit of a no-brainer, Wolfie.

Find someone who doesn’t love it.

It does serve as a counterpoint to all those politically correct, CGI enhanced, bits of dross that are churned out nowadays to wash money.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
September 7, 2023 6:57 pm

I think I preferred the Seven Samurai because it was such a different culture. We grew up on westerns, so the Magnificent Seven was in genre, but back then there was no such thing as Japanese or Chinese cinema.

It’s also why I like Bruce Lee and crossover fillums with western martial artists.

Guys like Jackie Chan have done crossover Western films too, which I think work, like Shanghai Noon.

The Magnificent Seven is very good stuff though!

Diogenes
Diogenes
September 7, 2023 7:42 pm

Damn you Wolfman!
You have given me an earworm. Mind you there are worse tunes than the theme to have stuck in your head.

I actually didn’t mind the Morgan Freeman version, thinking of it as a reimagining rather than a remake, as the original was a reimagining of the 7 Samurai (which I struggled with) . Loved the nod the the original right at the end when we get a rendition of the original theme.

Johnny Rotten
Johnny Rotten
September 8, 2023 3:21 am

A Classic Film in every sense of the word(s).

KevinM
KevinM
September 8, 2023 3:27 am

Johnny Rotten
Sep 8, 2023 3:21 AM

A Classic Film in every sense of the word(s).

One of the best and it will stay on top of my list in the genre.

duncanm
duncanm
September 8, 2023 7:21 am

Definite favourite.

Coburn’s Britt was always the baddest bad-arse of the bunch for me. Silent.

His entry by knifing a loudmouth, then a business chat with Chris.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU-paVv6zTk

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
September 8, 2023 8:41 am

I first saw TM7 when I was about 10 and absolutely loved it, but when I saw it as an adult I thought it was just that, a film for children. If TM7 is your favourite western, you haven’t seen enough westerns. It’s not in my top 20 westerns. Hell, even the remake is better.

Roger W
Roger W
September 8, 2023 9:26 am

First film I went to without my parents. Went to a matinee with a friend the same age. We walked home and used the bus fare to buy 6d worth of chips each.
Happy days!

duncanm
duncanm
September 8, 2023 12:14 pm

Tony Taylor
Sep 8, 2023 8:41 AM

definitely in the top ten. Not the best, for sure – that’s reserved for “once upon a time… “

duncanm
duncanm
September 8, 2023 2:15 pm

I think my top 5.. though its touch to whittle them down:
– Once upon a time in the west
– Unforgiven
– The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
– True Grit (latter)
– The Searchers

..and an honorable mention to a couple of left field ones like the horror flick “Bone Tomahawk”, and “Blazing Saddles”

duncanm
duncanm
September 8, 2023 2:15 pm

“touch” -> “tough”

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
September 8, 2023 5:14 pm

My top westerns in no particular order, off the top of my head (after the first two) which I rate higher than TM7:
Once upon a Time in the West
Django Unchained
The Hateful 8
Ride the High Country
Ride in the Whirlwind
The Shooting
Outlaw Josey Wales
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Wild Bunch
The Missouri Breaks
Rio Bravo
The Jack Bull
Unforgiven (which is overrated but still a good film)
Hell or High Water (modern western)
No Country for Old Men (another)
Bone Tomahawk
Pat Garrett & BTK
Tombstone
True Grit remake
The Searchers
One Eyed Jacks
Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean
Blazing Saddles
The Tall T
Winchester 73
Johnny Guitar
My Darling Clementine

Christine
Christine
September 8, 2023 5:49 pm

I think it’s probably the best.

“Open Range” with Robert Duvall is my favourite.

Pogria
Pogria
September 8, 2023 6:55 pm

I adore The Magnificent Seven. Being a horse mad girl from a very early age, Westerns were compulsory viewing because it was a great way to see lots of horses on the small screen. Good times. Wolfman, I quite like the remake. I also like the remake of True Grit.

Next week’s hint, “Tears in the Rain”. I reckon I know what it is, but I will only post a line of dialogue from the film I think it is.

“Do ya think I’d be working in a joint like this if it were a real snake?”

I don’t think it is word perfect, but I believe you will know the scene and film Wolfman. 😀

So happy you have the Movie thread running again. I don’t always comment, but always read it and the comments.

Pogria
Pogria
September 8, 2023 6:58 pm

Tony Taylor,
Bone Tomahawk is a seriously scary and unsettling western. Excellent film that was made on a very small budget. Also, highly original considering how repetitive most films are now.

Added appeal, Kurt Russell. sigh…swoon… 😀

Pogria
Pogria
September 8, 2023 6:59 pm

:D. A favourite of mine also.

Pogria
Pogria
September 8, 2023 7:00 pm

oops, smiley face didn’t show. 😀

Pogria
Pogria
September 8, 2023 7:04 pm

Tony,
I like your list, but I would add The Long Riders and Comes a Horseman.

The Jack Bull is a very obscure little western. I have never met anyone who has seen it, or even heard of it.
Very sad ending.

Just remembered, I watched a midday movie about 12 years or so ago named Alien Western. Surprisingly good little film. No CGI and the storyline actually made sense.

duncanm
duncanm
September 8, 2023 8:42 pm

Tony:

No Country for Old Men (another)

ooh yeh…

Bone Tomahawk certainly is an oddball, its got some great comedic moments.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4Y8dB2tg8o

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
September 8, 2023 9:02 pm

My top westerns in no particular order

I can’t help notice you don’t include Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday.
Lee Marvin and Oliver Reed couldn’t disinter it, some funny scenes but.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
September 8, 2023 9:14 pm

A year after Great Scout was when the greatest western of all time came out.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…

Tony
Tony
September 8, 2023 9:41 pm

Pogria
Sep 8, 2023 7:04 PM

The Jack Bull is a very obscure little western. I have never met anyone who has seen it, or even heard of it.
Very sad ending.

TJB is HBO, so a downbeat ending was a given. LQJ was an excellent black hat.

Tony
Tony
September 8, 2023 10:10 pm

WolfmanOz
Sep 8, 2023 7:17 PM

Top list Tony.

Others I’d add include (in no particular order):
Hombre
The Ox-Bow Incident
The Professionals
Pale Rider
Tombstone

Hombre is pretty good. I actually watched it a few months ago.
Ox-Bow is too great for my tastes.
The Professionals I enjoyed but haven’t seen it in near 50 years.
Pale Rider is a bit too Shane/High Plains Drifter.
Tombstone I have on the list.

Tony
Tony
September 8, 2023 10:39 pm

Great Scout I rate along side the likes of The Man who Loved Cat Dancing, Bite the Bullet, There was a Crooked Man, Rancho Deluxe and their like, which, although I haven’t seen them in ages, probably have that dopey harmonica stings and ropey comedy that whacked a red line through western funding. And then there’s the Soldier Blue, Man Called Horse, Little Big Man message snores.

I just remembered a couple of westerns I liked, Breakheart Pass, Duel at Diablo and Ulzana’s Raid. And I don’t hate Heaven’s Gate.

mc
mc
September 8, 2023 11:36 pm

Pale Rider is a bit too Shane/High Plains Drifter.

Pale Rider is one of my favourites. I get the High Plains Drifter link, but I find High Plains Drifter a bit disturbing.

For recent movies, I thought “Old Henry” was very good. It still surprises me that it was made.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
September 9, 2023 7:17 pm

For recent movies, I thought “Old Henry” was very good. It still surprises me that it was made.

I liked it up until the reveal; thereafter I found it a little hard to swallow.

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