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The Magnificent Seven is a 1960 American western film directed by John Sturges about a group of hired gunmen protecting a Mexican village from bandits. It is a resetting of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film, Seven Samurai.

Plot

A Mexican village is periodically raided by bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). As he and his men ride away from their latest visit, Calvera promises to return.

Desperate, the village leaders travel to a border town to buy guns to defend themselves. They approach a veteran gunslinger, Chris (Yul Brynner). He tells them guns alone will not do them any good; they are farmers, not fighters. They ask him to lead them, but Chris rejects them, telling them a single man is not enough. They keep at him though, and he eventually gives in. He recruits men, though the pay is a pittance.

The Magnificent Seven (L to R): Brynner, McQueen, Buchholz, Bronson, Vaughn, Dexter, Coburn
First to answer the call is the hotheaded, inexperienced Chico (Horst Buchholz), but he is rejected. Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), an old friend of Chris, joins because he believes Chris is looking for treasure. Vin (Steve McQueen) signs on after going broke from gambling. Other recruits include Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson) (who is also broke), Britt (James Coburn), fast and deadly with his switchblade, and Lee (Robert Vaughn), who is on the run and needs someplace to lie low until things cool down. Chico trails the group as they ride south, and is eventually allowed to join them.

Even with seven, the group knows they will be vastly outnumbered by the bandits. However, their expectation is that once the bandits know they will have to fight, they will decide to move on to some other unprotected village, rather than bother with an all-out battle. Upon reaching the village, the group begins training the residents. As they work together, the gunmen and villagers begin to bond; the gunfighters are enjoying a feast but then realize that the villagers are starving themselves so that the gunfighters will have enough to eat—they then stop eating and share the food with the village children. Chico finds a woman he is attracted to, Petra (Rosenda Monteros), and Bernardo befriends the children of the village. Lee, meanwhile, struggles with nightmares and fears the loss of his gunfighting skills.

Calvera comes back and is disappointed to find the villagers have hired gunmen. After a brief exchange, the bandits are chased away. Later, Chico, who is Mexican himself, and thus blends in, infiltrates the bandits' camp and returns with the news that Calvera and his men will not simply be moving on, as had been expected. They are planning to return in full force, as the bandits are also broke and starving, and need the crops from the village to survive.

The seven debate whether they should leave. Not having expected a full-scale war, some of the seven as well as some of the villagers are in favor of the group's departure. However, Chris adamantly insists that they will stay. They decide to make a surprise raid on the bandit camp but find it empty. Returning, they are captured by Calvera's men, who have been let into the village by those villagers fearful of the impending fight. Calvera spares the gunfighters' lives because he believes that they have learned that the farmers are not worth fighting for, and because he fears American reprisals if they are killed.

Calvera has them escorted out of town and then contemptuously returns their guns and gun belts.

Despite the odds against them, and despite their betrayal by the villagers, all of Chris' group except Harry decide to return and finish the job the next morning (Harry refuses to go back when he learns there is no monetary reward). During the ensuing battle, Harry returns in the nick of time, rescues Chris from certain death, and is mortally wounded. Bernardo is killed protecting children he had befriended; Lee overcomes his fear of death and kills several men before he is killed. Britt is also slain. Seeing the gunmen's bravery, the villagers overcome their own fear, grab whatever they can as weapons, and join the battle. The bandits are routed. Calvera is shot by Chris; puzzled, he asks why a man like Chris came back, but dies without an answer.

As the three survivors leave, Chico decides to stay with Petra. Chris and Vin ride away, pausing briefly at the graves of their fallen comrades. Chris observes, "Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose."

Cast



Robert Vaughn is the only surviving member of the Magnificent Seven title cast.

Differences from Seven Samurai

Although The Magnificent Seven is modeled so closely on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai that they share even some dialogue (in different languages), there are several notable differences:

  • Samurai's villagers are sent to town to hire swordsmen. In this remake, the villagers are sent to town originally to buy guns. Chris tells them that in fact, it will be cheaper to hire gunmen than to buy guns.


  • In Samurai the reason of using a total of seven ronin was based on tactics. In Return of the Seven, Chris says "luck" is why seven gunmen are needed; implicidly its the same reason in all the films.


  • Katsushiro, the aspiring young samurai, and Kikuchiyo, the would-be samurai whose hatred for the farmers hides a painful past, are combined into the single character, Chico. Unlike Kikuchiyo, Chico is not killed at the climax of the film.


  • The combination of Katsushiro and Kikuchiyo opens a slot for the Robert Vaughn/Lee character - a gunfighter who has lost his nerve. His pursuit of perfection in his gunplay does mirror Kyuzo.


  • The Katsushiro and Kikuchiyo combination also opens a slot for the character of Harry Luck, the gunfighter who is convinced there is some financial gain in protecting the village. There is no comparable character in the original (though his first scene mirrors Gorobei's first appearance), all the samurai take the job knowing there is nothing more to gain from the job than what's promised.


  • Another combination of sorts takes place with Bernardo O'Reilly - his first appearance is based on Heihachi's debut (chopping wood perfectly, until he hears about the opposition they face) while his scenes with the children place him closer to Kikuchiyo. Incidentally, Charles Bronson (Bernardo) would later co-star with Toshiro Mifune (Kikuchiyo) in the movie Red Sun.


  • In the original, the samurai make a pre-emptive strike against the bandits' campsite, losing one of their own in the process. Thus, when the bandits attack the village, the samurai are short one man, and three more are killed in the battles. In this version, that attack takes place after Calvera's band are initially driven off, and they find that the camp is abandoned.


  • The bandit leader Calvera plays a much larger role than any of the unnamed bandits in the original.


  • Chico and Katsushiro both fall in love with a farmer's daughter. In Seven Samurai, the farmer's daughter recognizes the impossibility of bridging the class divide and must ignore the samurai once the fighting is over. In The Magnificent Seven, Chico stays behind to be with the peasant girl. As he makes his decision, Chico is shown purposefully rolling up his sleeves in order to start laboring.


  • In Seven Samurai, the village elder is killed by the bandits when he refuses to abandon his house, which is an outlying house that the Samurai determined could not be protected. In The Magnificent Seven, the village elder likewise refuses to abandon his house but suffers no repercussions for it.


  • In Seven Samurai, when Kikuchiyo attempts to impress the other samurai by deciding on his own to infiltrate the bandit camp, he is sharply rebuked. He believes he deserves praise because of the success and daring nature of his mission. But, far from impressed, Kambei instead berates him for failing to operate as a member of the team, which Kambei stresses is paramount in a war effort. In The Magnificent Seven, Chico receives no such reprimand upon returning from his reconnaissance mission to the bandit camp, and in speaking about it later, he says that he is certain that the other gunmen were impressed by what he did.


  • In The Magnificent Seven, neither the villagers nor the gunmen initially expect a battle to the death with bandits, resulting in internal conflict when it becomes clear that such an assault is pending and not all are in favor of risking their lives. This leads to the fearful villagers betraying the gunmen in order to prevent the deadly engagement, thus allowing Calvera to capture the men. Only at the very end of the film, after the climactic battle has already begun, do those villagers who had been against the battle finally take up arms and join in the fight against the bandits. By contrast, Seven Samurai features no such competing factions among the villagers and samurai. Although the villagers in Seven Samurai are also portrayed as frightened of the samurai and momentarily regretful for hiring them, all involved know from the outset that there ultimately will be a full-scale siege of the village. As such, after the initial acceptance of the samurai into the village, the villagers and samurai remain united throughout, with all of the villagers fully participating in the conflict from the beginning.


Production

Filming began on 1 March 1960, on location in Mexico, where both the village and the US border town were built for the film. The first scene shot was the first part of the six gunfighters' journey to the Mexicanmarker village, prior to Chico being brought into the group.

Cinematographic process

The cinematographic process was anamorphic. This process was developed in the 1940s but not widely used until the 1960s. A film with anamorphic aspect ratio appears wider (more panoramic) than when shot and projected at a ratio of 4:3 (width:height), which had been the industry standard until wide-screen formats gained popularity. This change was intended to give the cinema a look that would further distinguish it from - and give a competing edge over - television (which used the 4:3 format).

Sequels, remakes and television series

The film's success inspired three sequels:

None of these were as successful as the original film. The film also inspired a television series, The Magnificent Seven, which ran from 1998 to 2000.

The plot of The Magnificent Seven directly inspired the film 1980 sci-fi Battle Beyond the Stars, which even included actor Robert Vaughn as one of the seven mercenaries hired to save a farming planet from alien marauders.

Score

The film's score along with the main theme is by Elmer Bernstein. The score was nominated for an Academy Award in 1961. The original soundtrack was not released at the time until reused and rerecorded by Bernstein for the soundtrack of Return of the Seven. Instead electric guitar cover versions by Al Caiola in the US and John Barry in the UK were successful on the popular charts. A vocal theme not written by Bernstein was used in a trailer.

From 1963 the theme was used in commercials in the USA for Marlboro cigarettes with Victoria Bitter beer in Australia having a similar sounding but different tune. The theme was included in the James Bond film Moonraker (also from United Artists). Other uses include a passage on an album by the rock band Yes in the early 1970s; in the 2004 documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11; in the 2005 film The Ringer; as entrance music for the British band James, as well as episodes of The Simpsons that had a "western" theme (mainly in the episode titled "Dude, Where's My Ranch?").

The Mick Jones 1980s band Big Audio Dynamite covered the song, as "Keep off the Grass."

The score was listed at #8 on AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores.

References

External links




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