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The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

original sturges calvera john

1960 – John Sturges –

The most compelling aspect of John Sturges' translation of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai onto the more familiar terrain of the American West is its rich sense of the end of an age. Seven gunslingers band together to help a Mexican village resist the despoiling raids by the bandit Calvera (Eli Wallach), but these men are haunted by the rootlessness brought on by their own violent ways. They also sense, as do the samurai in Kurosawa's original film, the oncoming change to a more modern society where men like themselves will be obsolete. This awareness deepens the characters and gives the film much of its edge. As some children gather around one of the gunman, the stoic O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), one of the boys mentions that the gunmen are braver than his father. O'Reilly immediately grabs the boy and spanks him: “You think I'm brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility.”

The first part of the movie follows its source very closely. Sturges and his screenwriters devote more time to creating a formidable villain when they have Calvera sit with the villagers in his initial incursion and mock their church as well as their village. The scenes that show Chris (Yul Brynner) recruiting the six guns usually stamp each of the men in a memorable way (Bronson's character is even discovered chopping wood, like his prototype in the original). As many critics have said, a good deal of the fun comes from watching actors whose work here helped to launch their careers. James Coburn, for example, is memorable as a fighter whose speed and prowess with a knife excels most men's with a gun; Robert Vaughn plays an outlaw on the run whose outcast status has made him a victim of his own growing fears of capture. He awakens from a nightmare and cringes as the surprised villagers console him. Horst Buchholz appears in the part of the would-be gunfighter (the equivalent of the role played by Toshiro Mifune in the original), and he adds some touches of comedy and romance. The love scene here, however, is completely conventionalized—soft words backed by violin music—as compared to the stunning counterpart in the original when a village girl and a samurai, convinced that tomorrow they will die in the attack of the bandits, meet in mingled love and lust by the campfire that suggests their desperate passions. The last section of Sturges' film may be the weakest, but what precedes it is impressive and enjoyable. A number of sequels followed, none after the first with the original cast: Return of the Seven (1966), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972). A television series also debuted in 1998.

Cast: Yul Brynner (Chris Adams), Eli Wallach (Calvera), Steve McQueen (Vin), Charles Bronson (Bernardo O'Reilly), Robert Vaughn (Lee), Horst Buchholz (Chico), Brad Dexter (Harry Luck), James Coburn (Britt), Jorge Martinez de Hoyos (Hilario), Vladimir Sokolov (Old Man), Whit Bissell (undertaker), Val Avery (Henry), Rosenda Monteros (Petra), Rico Alariz (Sotero), Pepe Hern (villager), Natividad Vacio (villager) Screenwriter: William Roberts Cinematographer: Charles Lang Composer: Elmer Bernstein Producer: Walter Mirisch and John Sturges for the Mirisch Company; released by United Artists Running Time: 128 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1960: Nominations: Score.

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