The Magnificent Seven

magnificent_seven_poster“I’ve been offered a lot for my work… but never everything.”

The Scoop: 1960 PG, directed by John Sturges and starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Charles Bronson

Tagline: They were seven – And they fought like seven hundred!

Summary Capsule: Seven cowboys defend a little town against bandits.

lissabanner

Lissa’s Rating: Yul Brynner was the man.

Lissa’s Review: Between Gender Clash week actually being a good influence on me and a seeming determination to watch older movies recently, I am expanding my horizons. Aren’t you impressed? I hope so, because I sure am.

I’m a little surprised that The Magnificent Seven hasn’t been reviewed yet. Not because it’s a cult movie, but because we have Drew on staff. I can’t believe I’m beating him to this, but hey. Maybe this review will mean more coming from me, because I’m the one who likes princesses and ballet, and Drew is the man’s man. That said:

The Magnificent Seven is an incredibly brilliant movie and completely deserves its classic status.

I know it’s a remake, and maybe one day I’ll watch The Seven Samurai as well. But seriously, The Magnificent Seven is a fantastic movie. Nice tight plot, well-acted, good-looking men, heroes and villains, some funny stuff, some sad stuff… something for everyone, and without the excessive gore and sex and all that. And I’m really starting to get into these 1950’s movie actors.

The plot is, in its way, relatively straight forward. There’s this little town in Mexico that’s being taken advantage of by a group of bandits, led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). The bandits ride in, take the food, and leave. The men in the town have no guns, the bandits do. Obviously, the town is not happy with this particular arrangement, so they decide to get some help. Enter The Magnificent Seven: Chris (Yul Brynner), Vin (Steve McQueen), Harry (Brad Dexter), Bernardo (Charles Bronson), Lee (Robert Vaughn), Britt (James Coburn), and last but not least, Chico (Horst Buchholtz). The seven aren’t John Wayne cowboys, and certainly not all that romanticized. They’re mostly down on their luck, with grim futures and fast guns. But whining pretty boys they ain’t (except maybe – MAYBE – Chico), and so that alone sets it aside from so many movies made these days.

In a strange sort of way, I will now attempt to relate The Magnificent Seven to The Lord of the Rings, because I hate to tell you this, but the similarities are there. Not just in the formation of a fellowship, but in their place in culture. Watching The Magnificent Seven, I felt like I’ve seen this movie before. And I have… sort of. I remember watching The Three Amigos when I was younger, and I’ve seen who knows how many other rip-offs and parodies of it. I almost felt like I’d seen it before, even though I’d never seen the actual movie.

But I’m really glad that I watched the movie. (I’d say original, but them some wise-guy would correct me about how The Magnificent Seven is really a remake of The Seven Samurai, and I’m not in the mood to hear it.) I’m trying to put a finger on exactly why I liked it so much, and having a hard time coming up with any one reason. I thought the acting was good but not the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen, the writing was tight but I’ve seen both tighter, the story was interesting but I’ve seen more memorable twists… no one thing really sticks out to me. (Except the score. No one can say that The Magnificent Seven doesn’t have a memorable score.) I did really enjoy the dynamics between the Seven, and maybe that’s part of why this movie is so popular- it makes you want to be part of a magnificent seven. It feeds daydreams very easily, and I think that’s one of the appeals of any good movie.

That said, I really did enjoy the performances of Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. I’m not terribly familiar with either actor: I know Brynner from The King and I, and I’ve seen McQueen in The Great Escape. But I’m thinking I want to watch more of their movies, especially Brynner’s, because he was an absolutely incredible actor. I’m also finding Steve McQueen growing on me, even if he doesn’t say much in the whole two movies I’ve seen him in. (Duckie’s theory is he couldn’t remember lines.) But there’s a lot to be said for actors outside our generation, not the least of which is they’re memorable. I mean, could you honestly confuse Yul Brynner for anyone else? I think not.

I really wish I had more concrete points to make about this movie, but I don’t. It was just a movie I really, really enjoyed and will probably see again. Like the cowboys, it’s a legend that shouldn’t be allowed to just fade away. (Wow. Was that poetic or what?)

Sue’s Rating: Finally! A movie older than I am!

Sue’s Review: When I picked up The Magnificent Seven at the video store, I had in the back of my mind that a review of it was posted at MRFH already, but I couldn’t remember who had done it. Drew, man, you’re slipping. This has got to be a must-see for the Western genre inclined. In any case, though I am not adverse to cowboys and horsies and six-guns, oh my, the real reason I picked this up is that it was referenced in a Terry Pratchett book I was reading the other day. If you can tell me which book, I’ll give you a cookie. Well, not really. Possibly a coupon for Oreos or something.

Lissa is right. This is a movie that has a decent story, a fairly decent pace, decent action and decent acting. However, it’s also a movie of its time which means the style of the dialogue is occasionally somewhat over the top. If you can get past that, it’s cool beans and fajitas. If you can’t, turn down the volume whenever someone takes a deep breath, cause you’re in for a monologue. Seriously, maybe it’s me, but after every dramatic pause, I kept expecting someone to break into song.

Also, watch out for Robert Vaughn. I’m guessing he phoned in most of his performance so that he had enough energy stored to gasp and writhe like a weasel in a threshing machine for the length of one embarrassingly overacted scene. Seriously, Anakin Skywalker’s sweaty nightmares had nothing on this. Vaughn had sixteen lines in The Magnificent Seven. That might have been ten lines too many. (Wow, the hate mail is going to come pouring in for that, just as soon as the geriatric set learn how to turn on the computers their adult kids bought for them. I shall warm up my electric power chair for a speedy getaway.)

Anyway, speaking of whiny-boy Anakin “Obi-Wan is holding me ba-ack!” and his equally whiny son, Luke “But I wanted to go to Tashi station and pick up some pooooower converters!” Skywalker, let me introduce you to Chico. Chico, I swear, is the proto-Skywalker. Played by Horst Buchholz, I’m reasonably sure that Chico was supposed to represent the obligatory sex-appeal character for the younger viewer. For whatever reason, he seems to perceive the other gunslingers as 1800’s Power Rangers, and he wants to join them sooooo bad that he just about widdles himself with puppy-like adoration. Of course, he’s too young and not seasoned enough to play with the big dogs, so he has a megawatt hissy fit so dreadfully dramatic that I recommend wearing a hazmat suit to watch it from. And the big dogs, to follow that metaphor, seem to be at a loss as to whether they should tolerate his antics, be amused by his persistence, or just step on him and be done with it. (Vin refers to him as a “chucklehead”. Great word!) I’d have opted for the latter, but since I wasn’t born when the movie was scripted, no one asked me.

On the other hand, the other characters are mostly the stereotypical strong, silent types. This makes them all look very macho and manly, although the evil voice in the back of my mind says that they probably couldn’t get a word in edgewise with Chico hanging around monologuing at them.

It’s entirely probable that my quibbles are unfair and I’m willing to admit that. As I said, The Magnificent Seven is a movie of its time, and the style was somewhat different then. It can still hold its own as solidly fine entertainment and has earned its place among the true classics. And, as Lissa basically said, it manages to be all that without gore, sex, or the sort of language that would still get me grounded if my parents heard me using it.

I don't know about you, but I'd really want to be one of the "kneeling" guys in a firefight.

I don’t know about you, but I’d really want to be one of the “kneeling” guys in a firefight.

Intermission!

  • Yul Brynner was married on the set; the celebration used many of the same props as the fiesta scene.
  • Steve McQueen wanted to act in this film but couldn’t at first because the schedule of his TV series, “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, wouldn’t allow it. He crashed a car and while he was “out sick”, he shot this film.
  • Robert Vaughn reprises his role in the Roger Corman space epic Battle Beyond The Stars, which is a ripoff of Mag Seven.
  • How white the villagers clothes are, despite all the red dust kicking up everywhere? (A result of Mexican censors, actually.)
  • How little Britt and Lee speak?
  • In the first scenes with the Mexican bandits, the leader’s horse has what appears to be cotton stuffed in its right ear. Sue speculates that the horse might have been gun shy.
  • Apparently having a sniper in the trees taking potshots is no reason for little kids not to provide comic relief or for some village bimbo to start making googly eyes and come-hither conversation smack dab in the field of fire.
  • Hey, you can bring a knife to a gunfight!

Groovy Quotes

Lee: Yes. The final supreme idiocy. Coming here to hide. The deserter hiding out in the middle of a battlefield.

Britt: Nobody throws me my own guns and says run. Nobody.

Chamlee: I’m sorry, friend, but there’ll be no funeral.
Henry: What?
Chamlee: Oh, the grave is dug and the defunct there is as ready as the embalmers ought to make him. But there’ll be no funeral.
Henry: What’s the matter? Didn’t I pay enough?
Chamlee: It’s not a question of money. For twenty dollars, I’d plant anybody with a hoop and a holler. But the funeral is off.
Henry: Now how do you like that. I want him buried, you want him buried and if he could sit up and talk, he’d second the motion. Now that’s as unanimous as you can get.

Robert: He’s prejudiced too, huh?
Chamlee: Well, when it comes to a chance of getting his head blown off, he’s downright bigoted.

Chris: Job for six men, watching over a village, south of the border.

O’Reilly: How big’s the opposition?
Chris: Thirty guns.
O’Reilly: I admire your notion of fair odds, mister.

Chico: Ah, that was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen.
Britt: The worst! I was aiming at the horse!

O’Reilly: Well don’t get excited! Now this time squeeze. Slowly, but squeeze. All right now, squeeze. *Squeeze*! I’ll tell you what. Don’t shoot the gun. Take the gun like this, and use it like a club!

Old Man: They are all farmers. Farmers talk of nothing but fertilizer and women. I’ve never shared their enthusiasm for fertilizer. As for women, I became indifferent when I was eighty-three.

Village Boy 1: If you get killed, we take the rifle and avenge you.
Village Boy 2: And we see to it there’s always fresh flowers on your grave.
O’Reilly: That’s a mighty big comfort.
Village Boy 2: I told you he’ll appreciate that!
O’Reilly: Well, now don’t you kids be too disappointed if your plans don’t work out.
Village Boy 1: We won’t. If you stay alive, we’ll be just as happy.
Village Boy 2: Maybe even happier.
Village Boy 1: Maybe.

O’Reilly: Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery.

Chris: The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.

Calvera: Last month we were in San Juan. Rich town. Sit down. Rich town, much blessed by God. Big church. Not like here – little church, priest comes twice a year. BIG one. You’d think we’d find gold candlesticks. Poor box filled to overflowing. Do you know what we found? Brass candlesticks. Almost nothing in the poor box.
Sidekick: But we took it anyway.
Calvera: I KNOW we took it anyway. I’m trying to show him how little religion some people now have.

Hilario: Very young, and very proud.
Chris: Well, the graveyards are full of boys who were very young, and very proud.

Harry Luck: [Dying words] Well, I’ll be damned.
Chris Adams: Maybe you won’t be.

Henry: This man needs to be buried. And soon. He’s not turning into any nosegay.

Vin (Referring to Chico): Riding out there in all that dust and heat. What a chucklehead.
Chris: Yep. Not smart like us.
Vin: Yep.

Calvera: Generosity. That was my first mistake. I leave these people a little bit extra, and then they hire these men to make trouble. It shows you, sooner or later, you must answer for every good deed.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The Searchers
  • The Seven Samurai
  • The Three Amigos
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1 Comment

  1. If you choose to seek out Seven Samurai, a word of warning. It’s really loooong, at a little over three hours. Though both largely follow the same plot, there are a couple of important differences. The bandits in Samurai are pretty faceless and are only seen when they attack the village. But more important is that the relationship between the samurai and the peasants is much more antagonistic. The latter being dropped in Magnificent makes sense, as you don’t really have the caste consciousness of feudal Japan in the Old West.

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