The Magnificent Seven
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Spectacular gun battles, epic-sized heroes and an all-star cast that includes Academy AwardÂ(r) winners Yul Brynner* and James Coburn**, together with Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach and Charles Bronson, make The Magnificent Seven a legend among westerns. Spawning three sequels and a successful television series, and featuring Elmer Bernstein's OscarÂ(r)-nominated*** score, thisstunning remake of The Seven Samurai is "a hard-pounding adventure" (Newsweek) and "an enduringly popular" (Leonard Maltin) cinematic classic. Merciless Calvera (Wallach) and his band of ruthless outlaws are terrorizing a poor Mexican village, and even the bravest lawmen can't stop them. Desperate, the locals hire Chris Adams (Brynner) and six other gunfighters to defend them. With time running out before Calvera's next raid, the heroic seven must prepare the villagers for battle and help them find the courage to take back their town or die trying!
- 2001 documentary: "Guns for Hire: The Making of The Magnificent Seven" (47 min.)
- Still gallery: Behind the Scenes, Off the Set, Portrait Art, Classic Production Art, Poster Art
- Collectible booklet
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There is something very magical about this film. This is different from every other Western that came before it. I believe it is the nature of the seven gunfighters, their motives for that one chance at gallantry and redemption. That combined with the way the story is visually told makes for its greatness. It teaches us something about nobility, dignity and devotion. The hearse-ride taken up to Boot Hill with Yul Brynner driving and Steve McQueen riding shotgun sets the stage and tone for the entire film. Images such as when Charles Bronson, is bent over with a bullet inside and the three little Mexican boys clutch him crying out his name while in his death throes bring a tear to the eye. In another the viewer reflects along with Yul Brynner as he takes the lifeless James Coburn's knife out of the adobe wall and folds it gently in his hand. These are heart rendering and indelible images. Even Eli Wallach as the bandit Calvera gets his moment of pathos. After being mortally wounded by Yul Brynner's bullet, Calvera can not believe that the seven came back to save the village even after the villagers told them that they did not want their help anymore. "You came back. A man like you. Why?" asks Calvera as he dies. Yul Brynner has no answer for him. It was as if Brynner had committed some sacrilege.
Director John Sturges captured the ambiguities of the human spirit in this film. Just as he directed "The Great Escape," Sturges' directorial style is so smooth that his own storytelling glosses right over the depth and complexity of his own work. The ultimate shame is that all Sturges' profoundness is all right up there on the screen. He literally outdoes himself along with a little help from Elmer Bernstein's score and William Roberts' script. Bernstein's insertion of quick tempo snippets here and there into the score advances the film and pulls the viewer right into the narrative with an emotional fervor along with his unforgettable main title theme. William Roberts' script is so full of memorable and engaging dialogue that it too smoothly advances the story with ease and shear magnetism playing on our emotions.
For me Yul Brynner was the epitome of `cool' and aplomb. From his dark gray and black outfit down to the tip of his thin cheroot he was the kind of man others look up to but keep their distance. Yul Brynner as Chris, was a man of few words and often communicated by the mere gesture of the hand. Of the seven, he was the cohesive element that drew them together simply by his demeanor. The aura of his worldliness beckoned them all to the place he was heading. It was the same place they were all going. He was just the first to recognize it. Brynner too was the cohesive element that kept them all together. Brynner was the one who followed some unwritten code of honor that is only alluded to in a few passages. McQueen was perfect as the gunfighter who was "just drifting" and signed on with Brynner. The levelheaded McQueen represents the other characters' realizations one by one as they join. James Coburn was perfect, as the stoic knife throwing Britt, who lived only for the thrill of the moment. Charles Bronson as O'Reilly played his stoically rugged but sympathetic role better than any actor could have. Bronson had a unique visual presence whose kind facial expressions counterbalanced his pockmark face and strong physique. Bronson was a conundrum unto himself and perfect for the role. Brad Dexter's performance as the unlucky fortune hunter has gone unrecognized. He was the least noble of the seven and died the mercenary that he was, yet there is some nobility to one's profession in that. Still, he gains our sympathy after returning in the clutch and saves his friend Chris and in turn is killed. Dying in the arms of his friend, Chris lets him go to the grave with a lie. Robert Vaughn's character was probably the most interesting of the seven. His enigmatic portrayal of Lee the tormented soul and not really the coward he labeled himself somehow never stood out. Only his act of redemption, his gunplay and death during the finale lingers. Vaughn's portrayal is a success because as he said he was "the coward hiding out in the middle of a battlefield" and at that he succeeded. Horst Buchholz gave an energetic and bravura performance the only one of the seven that had not yet been corrupted by the world. At the end he symbolically hangs his guns up and roles up his sleeves. Brynner and McQueen say that "only the farmers have won" and they lost. As they ride off into screen immortality I think we all won.
This is the Special Edition to get. Better extras on this edition when compared to the 2-Disc edition.
If you are a fan of Spaghetti Westerns and all the modern remakes of the genre (Unforgiven, 3:10 to Yuma, etc.) then you really owe it to yourself to see where the revival began. Thanks to Kurosawa and the various remakes of his movies, the Western took on a new life, with a darker, more modern feel and a far more complex story line. This is not the simple scenario with the hero in a white hat defeating the man in black. Instead, the film creates an entirely new hero mythology. If you're looking for "reality" you won't find it in this movie, but if you're looking for the enduring myths and values that continually draw us to the "frontier", and all the fascinating characters that populate that landscape, then this is your film. The director, John Sturges, explores the complexity of a series of flawed heroes as they struggle to redeem themselves by saving others. We see many of the stock characters of modern movies--the restless macho men who can't settle down (Brynner and McQueen), the gunman who has lost his nerve (Vaughan), the perfectionist who can't rest until he's sure he's mastered himself (Coburn). Many of these characters are richly drawn and unforgettable, which is why this film is a classic. If you've never seen it before, you're in for a real treat.