I was recently watching a 50th Anniversary showing of “The Magnificent Seven” and felt this classic western film still deserves a review. The movie was directed by John Sturges and distributed by United Artists in 1960; it is based on the 1954 film, “Seven Samurai”. The film holds fond memories for me, when I was nine years old my dad took me to see the movie on a Saturday evening when it originally came out.
The film has an excellent cast with Eli Wallach playing the bandit leader Calvera. A common trivia question is to the name the actors that played the “Magnificent Seven”; listed below are the players and their roles.
1. Yul Brenner (Chris)
2. Steve McQueen (Vin)
3. Charles Bronson (Bernardo)
4. James Coburn (Britt)
5. Brad Dexter (Harry)
6. Robert Vaughn (Lee)
7. Horst Buchholz (Chico)
The movie starts off with Calvera and his men pillaging a Mexican village; the villagers gather all of the wealth to head north to buy guns. Shortly after they reach the town there is an incident where the funeral director is refusing to bring a corpse up to boot hill. As the scene continues, a traveling salesman had paid for the funeral but there is an element in the town that will not allow the burial because the deceased is an Indian.
The funeral director tells the salesman that his drivers are afraid to ride the Hearse up to the cemetery. This conversation is taking place in the street and in ear shot of many people; Chris offers to drive the Hearse. Vin then borrows a shotgun and rides along with Chris to boot hill; the entire town wants to see the show. After a cautious ride to the cemetery, Chris and Vin are met by a group of armed men. Chris superficially wounds several of the men and the confrontation is over.
The Mexican villagers observed the altercation and later approach Chris to assist them in buying guns. Chris convinces them to hire gunmen instead. The villagers did not have much wealth but they offered everything of value they had. Chris responsed, “I have been offered a lot for my work but never everything.”
Chris first recruits Vin and then sets out hiring other gunmen; although the money is not good most of the hired guns seem to be down on their luck and they take the job. Chris initially rejects Chico because he is green and untested. The villagers and the six gunmen head out towards the Mexican village with Chico following them. Chico is persistent and he is later welcomed into the group.
Once in the village, Chris has defenses and walls built, establishes guards and a warning system. The gunmen start training the men of the village to use weapons. The villagers are at first apprehensive of the gunmen and have hidden their women. Chico has an encounter with one young lady and the women are brought back to the safety of the village. A sense of trust and respect develops between the villagers and the gunmen; Chico develops a romance with the young lady he met.
Sturges skillfully develops relationships between the villagers and the seven; Chico falls for the young lady, Bernardo bonds with a group of village boys, Chris and Vin develop a friendship with the old village philosopher.
A three man team was sent by Calvera to scout the village and they are killed by Britt and Chico. A few days later, Calvera and 40 of his men ride into the village. A colorful dialogue takes place with Chris demanding that Calvera and his men leave their guns and ride on. Calvera refuses and the first major battle takes place with the bandits fleeing. As the villagers are celebrating their victory they come under sniper fire.
Some of the village men are afraid and talk about giving in to Calvera: Chris demands to know who is for giving up and threatens to kill the first man that talks about surrendering.
Chico infiltrates Calvera’s camp and finds they have no supplies and are planning to come back to the village; armed with this information Chris plans a raid on Calvera’s camp. The seven find Calvera’s camp empty and return to the village and are ambushed after being betrayed by one of the villagers..
Calvera is confident that they will not return for a poor village and fearing friends of the seven might avenge them , he allows them to leave. Calvera demands their guns and tells Chris they will be returned to them at the border. Calvera has them escorted to the border and their weapons are thrown on the ground.
Britt is the first to dismount to retrieve his firearms; he states, “Nobody throws me my own guns and says run. Nobody.” Vin is next and one by one with the exception of Harry they decide to go back to the village. As the six sneak into the village the second major battle starts. As the battle rages, the villagers join the fight against the bandits. Chris gets trapped and Harry who did not come back with the others rides in and saves him. Harry, always thinking there was a treasure in the village is mortally wounded and as he is dying asks Chris what the treasure was. Chris lies and tells Harry it was gold.
The battle continues and in the end Calvera and his men are wiped out; Chris, Vin and Chico are the only survivors of “The Magnificent Seven.”
In the last scene Chris, Vin and Chico say their goodbyes and ride out; Chico has a change of heart and rides back to the village to be with his love.
Fifty years later, “The Magnificent Seven” is still a wonderful movie and a true classic. I enjoyed the film on that Saturday night in 1960 and I have enjoyed it a number of times since.