Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

First, a bit of business: The Magnificent Seven starring Broadway actor Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, and Eli Wallach is in the Western genre and won an Oscar in 1961 for Best Musical Score for Elmer Bernstein. This is not a “chick flick” by any means, but is truly great fun.

About The Movie

Released to the theatres in 1960 B.C. (i.e. Before Cable), it is easily categorized as an old movie. You could even say that it is “reel” old. (Sorry for the pun.) It was produced at the “beginning of the end” of the era of great western movies. I saw it for the first time at Philadelphia’s Strand just after its nationwide release and have seen it about fifty times since. There haven’t been very many Hollywood westerns made since 1970 and even fewer still that you could call great. In addition to Brynner, McQueen, and Wallach, the list of stars receiving lesser billing included Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Brad Dexter, Horst Buckholtz, as well as Robert Vaughn (who later played The Man form U.N.C.L.E. on TV).

Origins And Plot

Charles Lang Jr - United Artists - The Magnificent Seven - Catawiki
Image Source: Google Images

Although this is a western, The Magnificent Seven, truth be told, is a re-make (or at least a re-write) of the Japanese movie, the Seven Samurai. In the Americanized version, directed by John Sturges, the plot involves the leaders of a village in the Mexican hill country who hire seven gunslingers to defend their town from the ruthless outlaw, Calvera, and his gang of rapists, looters and pillagers who have been plaguing their settlement for a long period of time. The movie tells the story of what happens when these town fathers finally say “Enough!”

Unless you consider Eli Wallach, who plays the Mexican Calvera, there is no great acting in the movie. There ‘s no Richard Burton or Sir Laurence Olivier type performance in this movie, (but then again I don’t think that either one of them could shoot a gun or ride a horse.) But there doesn’t have to be this type of acting—– there’s a lot of action, a universally understood storyline and in various scenes, some great dialogue. One of the best scenes in the movie comes near the beginning when McQueen and Brynner volunteer to drive a funeral hearse containing the body of an old Indian up to Boot Hill against the wishes of most of the town’s citizens (who wish the cemetery to remain segregated from non-whites). On the way up to ‘the Hill’, a sniper takes a shot at the two, narrowly missing McQueen, but hitting the cigar that Brynner is smoking. (Brynner smoked relentlessly throughout his adult life. He died of lung cancer in 1985.)

McQueen: You elected? (meaning “did you get hit by that bullet”)

Brynner: (taking the now worthless cigar and throwing it away) “No, but I got nominated real good!

McQueen, Brynner, Coburn, and the rest hardly do anything but play themselves (in Western garb, of course), the good guys win. The movie is great fun in the best tradition of the Hollywood western and even spun off a couple of (bad) sequels and a very brief TV series later in the sixties. A great way to spend a couple of hours —or 128 minutes to be exact. Get some popcorn and enjoy an old fashioned “shoot ’em up”.

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