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I recently subjected "The Magnificent Seven" to just about the toughest
test imaginable--I watched it just a few days after "Seven Samurai."
And while I'm not going to pretend it's on par with Kurosawa's
astounding masterpiece, I have to tip my hat to Hollywood on this one:
it's good, DAMN good, among the best American Westerns.
The focus of the screenplay is more on post-Bogart-pre-Eastwood cool
banter than the gradual, taciturn character development of "Seven
Samurai," but that doesn't mean that the film doesn't have a heart.
Considering it clocks in at barely over two hours (compared to the
marathonic three and a half of "Samurai"), it actually does a fantastic
and very economical job of fleshing out its memorable cast of
One particularly wonderful scene that stuck in my memory from the first
time I saw the film ten years ago is the one where Lee (Robert Vaughn),
drunk in the middle of the night, confesses his frailties and fear to
two of the farmers. The scene (along with the general story of these
down-and-out heroes) was groundbreaking in that it began the
deconstruction and deromanticization of the Western hero which would be
brought to fruition in Sergio Leone's unparalleled spaghetti Westerns.
The star-studded cast wouldn't hold up doing Shakespeare, but they're
ideal in this gunslinging, cool-talking tough-guy adventure. As if a
lineup of heroes that included Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles
Bronson, and James Coburn wasn't enough, Eli Wallach steals the show as
the Mexican bandit chief, a worthy precursor to his classic role "The
Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." If the screenplay has a major flaw, it's
that his character isn't featured more.
The score is, of course, one of the all-time classics. And while not as
alive visually as the Japanese film that inspired it or the Italian
Westerns it influenced, it's still mighty fine to look at, and the
gunfights don't disappoint.
The pieces add up to one of the great entertaining films of all time,
which still manages to be moving and morally aware despite its
Hollywoodization of Kurosawa's vision.
Tags for The Magnificent Seven Full Movie
, Eli Wallach
, Steve McQueen
, Yul Brynner
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