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USA 1960
Directed by
John Sturges
128 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Magnificent Seven

Although a box office hit in its day, John Sturges’ Western reworking of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film Seven Samurai is sorely dated by the conventions of 60s Hollywood film-making and cries out for the verve and rigour of a Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah. Instead we get an overlong, sentimentalized and sanitized treatment of a story about seven hired guns headed up by Yul Brynner, protecting a Mexican farming village from marauding banditos led by Eli Wallach. Up-and-comers Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn, along with the today less-well-known Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz, make up the band of brothers who head down Mayheeco-way to protect the put-upon farmers, more for the heck of it than anything else (with the exception of Dexter’s mis-named Harry Luck who can’t bring himself to believe that there ain’t a big pay-off involved).

Whilst the potential is there for something much more (at least in hindsight) Sturges contents himself with staying within the established genre guidelines and the individual characters, despite the charisma of the stars playing them, never develop beyond being stock figures. That Eli Wallach's villain, Calvera, stands out in this respect demonstrates the problem of having seven ensemble players (who remembers Snow White's dwarves?).

FYI:  In the film's immediate aftermath there were three sequels and a spin-off television series whilst there was a remake by Antoine Fuqua in 2016 that managed to be even less rewarding.

Elmer Bernstein's theme music was famously used by the Marlboro cigarette company in their commercials. Yul Brynner who died from lung cancer in 1985 made a series of infommercials before his death warning of the dangers of smoking. Steve McQueen died from cancer in 1980, according to him from asbestos poisoning.




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