Pick of the Week: The Magnificent Seven (1960)
A remake of the legendary Kurosawa film, Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven is possibly one of the greatest Westerns to grace the screen. It holds up right next to John Ford’s The Searchers, Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and possibly the Coen Brothers’s remake of True Grit.
From here on out, all movie plots where heroes are recruited to save a small village from villainous bandits were all inspired by this film. The Magnificent Seven set a classic Western cliche that would later inspire such parodies as Three Amigos and A Bug’s Life.
The Magnificent Seven did something that was rarely heard of in those days. It gathered an ensemble cast of already well-established actors. Not only was this a big box-office draw, but it meant that the film wouldn’t be another generic studio pipeline Western. Although this practice was also done with the Rat Pack’s Ocean’s 11 (released that very same year), this was the first time that such a diverse cast from various backgrounds was assembled. It paved way for future blockbusters like Ocean’s Eleven (the Soderbergh remake) and The Avengers.
What makes this movie so great, however, was the interaction between the characters, all of whom had different personalities and traits. Yul Brynner was the cool leader, Steve McQueen was the loner, James Coburn the knife expert, Horst Buchholz the hot-headed rookie, etc. Despite the on-set rivalry between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, their characters’ friendship is a testament to their strong acting abilities.
As most Westerns do, this one ends with a gunfight. This is a big shootout; all the characters have equal screentime and all of them are featured. Everyone and everything is gunned down. And the great thing about this gunfight is that not all of the protagonists come out of it unscathed. There are casualties and they serve the narrative extremely well.
This movie is an epic, simply put. The scale of the film intensifies the drama and the suspense. Everything from the locations, the shots, the quiet little moments between the seven gunslingers, and especially Elmer Bernstein’s great American score, enhances the powerfulness of the film.
If there was one phrase to summarize The Magnificent Seven, it would be "men being men".