Directed by John Sturges
Written by William Roberts
Based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film Seven Samurai
Starring: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn, Eli Wallach, Horst Buchholz
When a group of bandits led by the ruthless Calvera (Wallach) begins to terrorize a small Mexican village, the citizens reach out for help. The help comes in the form of seven hired guns, willing to help the peasants defend their homes.
When Akira Kurosawa directed the classic film Seven Samurai, he was paving the way for this Westernized version. Taking that same story, six years later, William Roberts (The Bridge at Remagen) rewrote the story as The Magnificent Seven. Roberts was aided by work previously done on adapting the screenplay by Walter Newman (Ace in the hole) and Walter Bernstein (Fail-Safe). This movie was directed by the Oscar-nominated John Sturges (The Great Escape). The cast is an interesting mix of talented actors, starting with Yul Brynner (The King and I) and Steve McQueen (The Blob). The film also stars Charles Bronson (Once Upon a Time in the West), Robert Vaughn (The Young Philadelphians), Eli Wallach (The Holiday), and Brad Dexter (Von Ryan’s Express). Rounding out the great cast are James Coburn (Charade) and Horst Buchholz (Life is Beautiful).
The story written for this film is an adaptation that takes on a life of its own due to the writing and rewriting involved. Thankfully, the mix of people involved didn’t hurt the overall quality of the story. The dialogue starts off in a rough style of speech that most Westerns use, but gradually transforms into something more thoughtful or even sentimental. The characters are all nicely written, with individual characteristics that play out well throughout the movie. The action and the tension in the film are also good from the very beginning of the film. The major strength of the writing really comes from the introduction of each new character. Instead of making things easy or glossing over things, the movie offers insight into every one of the people. Overall, this is a really good story. If there is any weakness it comes from the shift in style that occurs in the middle of the film. The lack of consistency seems to slow things down a little bit before building back up for the conclusion of the movie.
The acting in this movie is wonderful. Bringing in so many stars, some before their prime, makes for a great combination of characters. Brynner definitely leads the way with his great performance. In addition, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson all give great performances of their own. Some of the supporting characters in the film are great. The task of playing the Mexican villagers without relying on stereotypes was handled well by the cast. It’s also important to mention the great performance of Eli Wallach. His role as the outlaw bandit Calvera is perfectly built for the movie as a whole. Overall, the acting will not disappoint anyone.
The technical aspects of the movie are good. The film uses the locations and sets nicely. The movie was shot entirely in Mexico, even having to adhere to the Mexican censorship standards before release. Of all the aspects of the film, the music is one of the highlights. This score earned the movie its only Oscar nomination. Oscar winner Elmer Bernstein (The Ten Commandments) brought the movie to a new level with his awesome music. Below is a sample of the score.
Today this film is seen as a classic, filled to the brim with legendary movie stars. Interestingly enough, that’s not how things started out for this one. The film was generally panned by critics, who saw this as a weak attempt to recreate Seven Samurai. In the United States the film also failed at the box office, only turning a profit due to the kinder reception of European audiences. Thankfully, this film has seen a resurgence of popularity, becoming the second most televised film ever. The movie was also added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2013.
If you’re looking for a classic Western, this is a great place to start. The film features a great cast, an incredible score, and a nice overall production. I would recommend this to anyone who loves good movies. It’s a treat for fans of the stars, and a great selection for anyone who loves Westerns. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.