Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson, Horst Buchholz, Brad Dexter|
|Director:||John Sturges, Robert E. Relyea, Jaime Contreras|
|Producer:||John Sturges, Lou Morheim, Walter Mirisch|
Based on “Seven Samurai” (Japanese, 1954) and named after that film’s alternate English title, this successful Western in turn generated sequels, remakes, a TV series, and adaptations as far-reaching as the animated “A Bug’s Life” (1998). The core story is a Western in name only; it’s a universal morality play about helping those who need help, not for reward, but just because it’s the right thing to do.
A Mexican farming village is terrorized by a gang of 40 men, led by the bandit Calvera (Eli Wallach), who take their food every year and leave them just enough to survive on. The village elders journey to the U.S. border, seeking to buy guns. While there, they witness a pair of professional gunfighters (Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen) doing a good deed—forcing the town’s racist element to let an Indian be buried in Boot Hill—and decide to hire them instead. Brynner looks up some of his old friends, and eventually there are a total of seven men hired on. Some at first reject the job because they’re used to being paid several hundred dollars for a few weeks’ work, and the fee of $20 for six weeks “won’t even pay for my bullets;” but since it’s all the farmers can afford, they later relent and join up.
Within the film’s limited time frame, the personalities of each of the Mag7 are developed. One (Horst Buchholz) is a “youngster” just starting out; the other six are veterans. Some of them show iron nerve, as in sitting motionless while someone just misses them with gunfire and dares them to react. On the other hand, one (Robert Vaughn) has had a long successful career but has now lost his nerve and has nightmares about the bullet with his name on it.
After some of Calvera’s men have been killed, the captured arms are used to help the villagers prepare to eventually assume their own defense. But first the Mag7 must finish the job they came to do. The only doubt about the outcome is whether some of the Mag7 will be killed. And yes, some are.
Director John Sturges later made the WWII film “The Great Escape” with several of these same men including McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson.
Content: There are a few instances of the use of d* and h*. Of course there’s a lot of gunplay in the film; it’s of the “old style,” low-blood type. The story as a whole is also “old style,” with a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys.
In real life, the world of these old-type Westerns never existed. Even during their lifetimes, many famous Western gunfighters were portrayed in dime novels as noble heroes when in reality they were no better than the people they gunned down. And those myths were later perpetuated in movies and TV. Actually it would have been impossible to go to a little frontier town and find seven men who were good with a gun and were willing to take a suicide job like this for virtually no pay. That brings to mind the following Scripture passage: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 KJV)
Followed by: “Return of the Magnificent Seven” (1966), “Guns of the Magnificent Seven” (1969), “The Magnificent Seven Ride!” (1972)