The Magnificent Seven-1960
Starring-Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen
Scott’s Review #961
Reviewed November 22, 2019
The Magnificent Seven (1960) is a western in the classic sense that will satisfy fans of the genre. It features Hollywood stars of the day in heroic roles that give an aura of nationalism and conservative Americana. Other than a wonderful musical score, a pleasant romance, and some male bonding, the film feels quite dated with racial overtones that probably were not as irksome in the 1960’s as they are now. The film is a remake of the 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai.
The bullied residents of a small Mexican village decide to hire seven American gunslingers to defeat a gang of bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach), who terrorize the villager on a regular basis. The gunslingers are led by Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) and feature Vin (Steve McQueen), Bernardo (Charles Bronson), Lee (Robert Vaughn), Harry (Brad Dexter), Britt (James Coburn), and Chico (Horst Buchholz). Each is distinctive in some way- Lee is a veteran while Vin is a drifter, and so on.
The musical score is to be praised for its high energy and adventurous timing especially during key scenes. The introduction of the seven gunslingers is fun and popular for the western genre, especially in television series of the time. Considering most of the cast were handsome leading men this is a treat for audiences. The music also infuses the film with some pizzazz and is perfect for the genre that it is.
A romance between the hot-blooded Chico and gorgeous Mexican girl, Petra also works. An unlikely pairing, the couple has resounding chemistry and a West Side Story style connection. Not supposed to be attracted to one another, or hardly soul mates, the two blessedly share a happily-ever-after roll-up as the entire film does. Westerns in the 1960’s were meant to be crowd pleasing and not especially daring. Chico and Petra are a nice addition and provide a bit of diversity.
The swagger of Brynner and McQueen is filled with machismo that in a different film might be annoying, but in The Magnificent Seven, works. They both look great, are clearly in their prime, and are well suited for a feature meant to satisfy the tastes of men and make the women swoon. They prance around on their horses looking serious, cool and confident. But the film’s target demographic is clearly men and not teenage girls.
The over-arching story is irritating. The viewer is supposed to believe that the Mexican men are so incompetent that they do not even know how to shoot a gun or how to defend themselves. This seems to be a gimmick and a pro-American stance more than a reality. The gunslingers swoop in and take complete control showing the Mexicans how real men fight. It’s silly and trite and an obvious plot device. Contrived and offensive but common for the genre.
During the middle of the film the story meanders and the thirst for the inevitable, climactic finale makes the viewer a bit restless. Finally, we are treated to the battle between good and bad where much blood is spilled and even a few of the gunslingers are slain. Laughable, is how the characters die on cue but still look great while dying. The finale is marginally satisfying but predictable in its outcome.
Made during a time when the western was a popular genre and a box office success, decades later the film feels dated and rather unnecessary. Featuring big stars of the day this is not surprising and better genre films with more grit were soon to be on the way, think The Wild Bunch (1967), and are superior to The Magnificent Seven (1960).
Oscar Nominations: Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture