The next-to-last review of the films seen from my 2016 list of 10 Classics is THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960).
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is a Western remake of Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI (1954), as acknowledged in the opening credits.
I haven't yet seen SEVEN SAMURAI, but I thoroughly enjoyed THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It's one of those films which easily separates "classic" from "ordinary"; there are so many charismatic performers, good moments, and memorable touches, particularly the score, that it pretty much defines classic.
Some of the villagers round up what little they have of value and head north of the border hoping to buy guns, though the farmers have no idea how to use them. Instead, after meeting Chris (Yul Brynner), the villagers hire men...exactly seven of them, to go up against an army of 40 guns. In addition to Brynner, the hired guns are played by Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz. Each man has his own motivations for wanting to sign up for the challenge of such a low-paying, foolhardy job.
And yet...he's only the top of the list. There's also McQueen, who hooks up with Chris early in the film, determined to see an Indian receive a proper burial in Boot Hill. It's a great sequence, funny, exciting, and immediately telling us all we need to know about the characters; they're instinctively a perfect team, and they'll brave danger to see justice done without any expectation of receiving something in return -- which is important given that they're going to receive the not-so-princely sum of $20 apiece to defend the village.
One of the other ways the film illustrates that the fearsome gunfighters are good men is in their interactions with children, whether it's Vin (McQueen) and the others sharing their food with the little ones or Bernardo (Bronson) spending time with three young boys, whom he protects to the very end. Was it just me, or did Bronson's "Bernardo O'Reilly" make anyone else think of another Irish-Mexican Western character, Richard Martin's Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty from RKO's Tim Holt series?
Even the smaller roles amongst the "seven" are good. Vaughn is memorable as a man of paradoxes, an educated dandy and a gunfighter who's lost his nerve. And how neat to see Dexter, a villain in so many films, have a role as one of the heroes.
Coburn, of course, is always good in Westerns, and Buchholz is interesting in perhaps the film's most difficult role, as a young hothead who might be a little bit crazy and also a little bit of an idiot genius, whether he's rousting the timid locals out of their homes or infiltrating Calvera's camp. Buchholz also handles the movie's romance.
While I had some trouble with composer Elmer Bernstein's previous scores for THE TIN STAR (1957) and SOME CAME RUNNING (1958), finding them overly bombastic and obtrusive, I had no such issues with his very memorable score for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. It's definitely "out in front," almost a character in itself, but unlike the previous films I found the music completely suited to the movie, in the manner of a Korngold or Williams. It gives the film that special "something extra."
Bernstein's score was the film's lone Oscar nomination; knowing how it's stood the passage of time, it's rather surprising to realize it didn't win. That award went to Ernest Gold for EXODUS (1960).
John Sturges in the past, which are linked below; I encourage exploring his films, which with rare exceptions are entertaining and sometimes outstanding. His work here was certainly as good -- and probably better -- than any of his other films I've had the pleasure of seeing thus far.
Incidentally, I'll be taking a fresh look at Sturges' BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955) in the very near future thanks to the new Warner Archive Blu-ray release.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was filmed by Charles Lang Jr. It runs a well-paced 128 minutes.
I watched the 2001 Special Edition DVD release. It's also available on Blu-ray.
There's a trailer available at IMDb.
If I had any trouble at all with the film, it's simply that there was some inevitable sadness at the end. But yep, I'm really glad I finally saw this one.
There's just one film left to review from my list of 10 Classics to see in 2016, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962). I hope to have that review posted in the next few days.
Previous reviews of films directed by John Sturges: THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948), THE WALKING HILLS (1949), MYSTERY STREET (1950), RIGHT CROSS (1950), THE PEOPLE AGAINST O'HARA (1951), THE GIRL IN WHITE (1952), JEOPARDY (1953), ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953), BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955) (also here), UNDERWATER! (1955), THE SCARLET COAT (1955), BACKLASH (1956), SADDLE THE WIND (1958) (uncredited), THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (1958), and ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968).