The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The Magnificent Seven, a Western remake of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, is a good movie, but hardly the classic that many people would make it out to be. The simplistic plot delivers exactly what it should, but the film falls short in its character development, possibly because of the limits of a 2-hour running time.
A small early 1900s Mexican farming village has been pillaged for years by a group of bandits lead by a man named Calvera (Eli Wallach). When the bandits come through, the villagers are left with hardly enough food to feed half of them; but since they are a group of farmers, they have no way of protecting themselves from Calvera and his men. After consulting the village elder, they decide to look for a group of gunfighters to protect them.
Enter Chris Adams (Yul Brynner), a drifter through the plains of the Old West, with nothing to lose, and not much to gain except respect for himself. Three representatives from the village seek his help, and, having nothing better on his plate at the moment, he agrees and assembles a group of seven men to protect the village.
The cast is a veritable who's who of 1960s tough guy actors: Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn among others. All of these men can act, but there's just not enough time to give full weight to all seven of the gunfighters, and the film feels incomplete because of this.
Also, The Magnificent Seven has not aged particularly well since its initial release almost 45 years ago. It's hard to believe that around the turn of the century in a small farming village in Mexico, all of the people would be bilingual, and not only that, but some of them speak English so well that the only way we can tell that they are supposed to be Mexican is by their bodily characteristics.
Of course, any discussion of The Magnificent Seven is not complete without mentioning Elmer Bernstein's legendary score. It is the true star of the film, and it does not disappoint at all. All of this is not to say that the film does not have its merits - it's a very enjoyable popcorn-type movie - but, for me, it does not live up to its lofty billing.
February 5, 2005