Saturday, March 21, 2009

MOVIES: #11 The Magnificent Seven

See, I haven't been playing with the numbers. The Dirty Dozen WAS #12, The Magnificent Seven is #11, not #7. And the reason The Magnificent Seven is #11 is that it distills the best of what the various action flicks (and their stars) were. At least for me.

The 1960 flick was not all that original. It wasn't the first, nor the last, of the offspring of the Japanese movie, The Seven Samurai. The Seven Samurai and Rashomon were the two most obvious gifts to western Cinema by Akira Kurosawa, in terms of generating remakes and slight variations. In this case, I actually like the western version. And by western, I mean Western.

A poor Mexican village gathers what resources it can and sends three of its members out to hire a 'gang' to fight off a band of murderous marauders, led by Eli Wallach at his lip-curlingest best, that regularly afflicts their village. The assembled crew reads like a who's who from movies previously detailed on my list. Steve McQueen from The Great Escape, Charles Bronson from The Dirty Dozen and James Coburn from Harry in Your Pocket. Plus Brad Dexter, Horst Buchholz and Robert Vaughn (mentioned frequently hereabouts for Hustle). AND Yul Brynner. All have their moments as they organize the villagers for the coming showdown with the bullying marauders. I especially cherish Vaughn for moments on the way to the village, and Brynner, once the action starts at the village.

The movie is the perfect distillation of the siege movie. The underdogs should be overwhelmed, but aren't, thanks to pluck and ingenuity. As usual, the underdogs DO come out the other side on top, losing a few heroes along the way. This is no The Alamo or Masada. And it's all done to a wonderful score by Elmer Bernstein.

This is a good movie where the white hats beat the black hats. Simple, straight-forward, feel-good movie-making.

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