272 of 309 people found the following review helpful
KUROSAWA IN CHAPS,
This review is from: The Magnificent Seven (Special Edition) (DVD)
Yul Brynner, back in the late 1950's, wanted to direct an American version of the SEVEN SAMURAI, as an western. So he bought up the movie rights. He wanted to cast Anthony Quinn in the lead, as Chris. Brynner had been directed by Quinn in the remake of THE BUCCANEER. Quinn would have been great as Chris, the leader of the Seven; and what a different film it would have been. But, alas, Brynner himself took the part, and put his own stamp of individuality on it. He walked like a cross between a panther and a ballet dancer; light on the balls of his feet. Ironically, as an actor, he was slow on the draw, and not used to Westerns. But artistically, this was never apparent in the finished film.
Many of the Seven's actors had seen the Kurosawa film, and they were very excited about transferring it to the American West. Eli Wallach, as Calvera, in just a few short scenes, found both the humor and the cruelty in the bandit chieftan. His accent and speech pattern were fairly authentic; more so certainly than the young German actor, Horst Buchholz, endeavoring to find a southwestern/Texan/Mexican drawl. Director, John Sturges, had great hopes for Horst; the camera loved him. But it was the trio of studs, Steve McQueen as Vin, Charles Bronson as O'Reilly, and James Coburn as Britt, that dominated the frame.
Steve McQueen, wearing skin-tight leather stovepipe chaps, spent a lot of time finding ways to upstage Yul Brynner. There was a rumor that he would have preferred playing Chico, the Buchholz character. McQueen's manic physical performance, lightning fast with a pistol and a quip, seemed to work well for him, and it gave him more than his share of focus. His Vin emerged as lethal, lean, and hungry; yet weary of the gunfighter's plight, and envious of the simplicity and the honor of the peasants fighting for their families and their homes.
James Coburn, as Britt, was laconic and dangerous, and living on the edge of his blade; competing mostly with himself for the next big thrill. Coburn got the part he wanted, and though he was given minimal dialogue, his deliveries were classic. This set the mold for his future career.
Charles Bronson as Bernardo O'Reilly, half-Irish, half Mexican, was solid as a rock; an experienced stone killer, and yet still a soft touch for the children of the village. His death scene touched us. He found the pulse of his character, and he was both dangerous and decent.
Robert Vaughn, as Lee, seemed uncomfortable and lost. His part had been rewritten, and expanded for him. Yet he seemed ill-suited for the part, and the genre. Even his costume seemed ill-fitting. Part of the problem was that his characters' inability to participate in the first couple of firefights left us with little sympathy for him. Later then, in his scene with the peasants, in which he admitted his fear, the emotions seemed forced and poorly conceived. His last moment heroics and death did little to balance the scales.
Brad Dexter was nearly invisible. He is the one actor in trivia games no one can remember. His character, Harry Luck, with twice the dialogue as Coburn, paled in comparison. Part of it was Dexter himself. He was a bland, middle-of-the-road, B-Movie heavy, and it was odd to cast him, and thrust him in amongst all of those young turks. He did a credible job, but he was completely outshined by the future super stars.
Vladimir Sokoloff, as the village's "old man", gave such a wonderful and touching performance, one did not realize the actor was not Latino. Like Eli Wallach, his talent as an actor transcended ethnic boundaries.
John Sturges, a veteran director of westerns, found just the right balance of action and character. Mexican farmers substituted fine for the original Japanese farmers. And brigands, or bandits, are cut from the same nasty mold no matter what the era, or geography. Kurosawa's classic runs like 3 hours in length, and it gave us much more in-depth character development; so that when these samurai began to die, we cared about them. In 1959, when SEVEN was filmed, three hour westerns were a non-existant species. Elmer Bernstein's musical score was revolutionary, and its pounding stacatto beat has become one of the most recognized pieces of music ever created for film.
This western, always listed in the top 50 best westerns, is a must-see. And the DVD version, in widescreen, is crisp and clear and colorful, and it helps us to recapture that magical feeling we had the first time we saw this film in a movie theatre.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 7, 2014 6:17:22 AM PDT
Posted on Feb 11, 2015 10:28:59 PM PST
Thank you for mentioning Horst Buchholz as he plays a major role but isn't listed in the "Amazon instant video" credits. You wrote a good review of an excellent movie.
Posted on Jun 11, 2015 4:00:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 11, 2015 4:22:05 PM PDT
Favorite movie of all time by my brother and me. We were about 13 and 10 years old when this movie came out and we went nuts after seeing it in the movie theater. BTW, 55 years later, we rank it No. 1 among all westerns, with not the slightest reservation.
The DVD version, with the commentary by Eli Wallach and Horst Bucholz, is excellent and so revealing. Wallach making fun of his own terribly slow draw and inability to put his gun back into his holster without "looking it" into the holster, is priceless. And, of course, his analysis of young Steve McQueen's persistent and not too subtle efforts to upstage the established star, Yul Brynner, also priceless. Without Wallach's explanation, how many of us would have realized that McQueen - sitting quietly on his horse next to Brynner, twirling his hat - was purposely drawing attention to himself?
Long before video recorders came out, the only way to see a favorite movie was to wait for it to come on TV. Which often meant a lot of commercials, on a smallish screen, in B&W for us, with small TV speakers. VCRs came out and we rushed to see it on VHS with no commercials. We added sound systems to our VCR's. We were in our glory.
Your review was thoughtful and this movie encompasses a huge subject, so I'm not being overly critical, just adding my two cents.
I don't agree that "Robert Vaughn, as Lee, seemed uncomfortable and lost. His part had been rewritten, and expanded for him. Yet he seemed ill-suited for the part, and the genre. Even his costume seemed ill-fitting. Part of the problem was that his characters' inability to participate in the first couple of firefights left us with little sympathy for him. Later then, in his scene with the peasants, in which he admitted his fear, the emotions seemed forced and poorly conceived. His last moment heroics and death did little to balance the scales." That's a thoughtful analysis, but I think the fact that his character was, in fact, lost and a hunted man, made his portrayal convincing. The late-night nightmare we liked also.
In the way in which movie lovers love to analyze their favorite flicks, frame by frame and not in an unkind way - like Sonny Corleone's horribly pulled punches when beating up brother in law Carlo in the street - my brother and I found these minor faults with Mag7. 1. Truly, the single most unbelievable scene in a spectacular movie was when Chico went up into the hills and - affecting a deep, phony voice - stood a foot away from Calvera, lighting his cigar for him and helping identify the men from Calvera's band who had been shot down hours earlier in the town. It was just a fun piece of fantasy but it did detract some from the believability of a masterpiece. 2. When Harry lay dying inside one of the buildings, Chris took way too long reassuring Harry he hadn't been a chump for believing the town had riches to be shared - as the bad guys were trying to break down the doors. No more sense of urgency than that, huh? 3. When Calvero humuliated one of the towns men, his two slaps to the man's face were very weak. If I were the director and even if there were several takes, I'd want Calvera (Eli Wallach) to really slap the guy hard, to make it convincing. 4. We both thought the Chico's girlfriend, Petra, played by Rosenda Monteros, was too plain, in fact downright homely.......just kidding. What a knockout! ......Here's a bit of a perspective; this is one of the greatest westerns, with the greatest cast and incredible music ever made - far superior to High Noon, IMHO, and for years it didn't get its due. Hack TV critics for years gave the movie a lukewarm reception.
The test of time is movies we watch over and over - Tombstone, the original Die Hard, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile - and with my brother and I, Magnificent Seven tops that list.
One that stuck in my head forever was a rating of two out of five stars, maybe 2.5 with a comment. "Run of the mill oater" (slang for cowboy movie). This reviewer must have been drunk when he viewed the movie, or he/she never saw it.
Posted on Jul 14, 2015 11:41:01 PM PDT
Dana Boian says:
This movie sucks!
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