Monday, December 19, 2016

Movie #383: The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Horst Bucholz, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, and Brad Dexter. It's based on Seven Samurai, which I haven't seen but I presently have out from Netflix. I'm sure everyone thinks it's superior; maybe it is.

Anyway! A bandit named Calvera (Wallach) is terrorizing a tiny Mexican farming village, so a delegation from said village goes looking to buy guns. They run into Chris (Brynner), a gun-for-hire who tells them it's probably cheaper to hire men than buy guns. They agreed and hire him, and he rounds up six other dudes who range in badassery from the "just met him but his heart is in the right place" Vin (McQueen) to the "green and untested firebrand" Chico (Bucholz) to the "holy shit this guy is a badass" Britt (Coburn). They repel Calvera's initial attack, but then the villagers get cold feet when they realize that it's not just gonna take one battle; Calvera's men are starving so they can't just roll on to the next village.

Calvera, not entirely bloodthirsty and fearing reprisals from the Seven's friends, lets them go, and they decide to do the right thing and turn back, killing Calvera and scattering his dudes. In the end, though, only three of the Seven survive (Vin, Chris, and Chico).

I enjoyed this movie right from the beginning. We meet Chris and Vin because they agree to escort the body of a dead man up the hill to a cemetery, which the locals are guarding because the dead man is an Indian. But the only reason he got a coffin at all is because a traveling salesman (Val Avery) paid for it out of the goodness of his heart. So right away this isn't some dirty, corrupt, noir-ish world; there are decent people here. Things are still, kindly put, layered, though - Calvera would probably love to leave the village in peace and cut his losses, but he can't; his men haven't eaten in three days. Many of the Seven would probably love to be able to turn down this gig, because it pays for shit, but they can't, either because they feel moved by the villagers' plight (like Chris) or because while it might not pay much, it pays some (as Bronson's character O'Reilly points out, right now $20 is a lot).

The movie also spends enough time on each of the Seven that they have at least some story arc, and I like casting Coburn (young, lanky, kinda gangly) as the deadly Britt because he's not a square-jawed badass. The discussions of a stable life vs. the life of a gunman is also a pretty stirring bit of acting from Vaughn and Brynner.

All in all, easy to see why this is a classic. I'm kinda interested in seeing the remake.

My grade: A
Rewatch Value: Medium-low

Next up: Major League