On a quiet Friday evening we debated what to watch before agreeing on The Magnificent Seven. Released in 1960, it is an adaptation of Kurosawa's Shichinin no Samurai (1954), and was directed by John Sturges, also responsible for The Great Escape .
The cast is simply, well, “magnificent":
Yul Brynner plays Chris, the main character. He is best known for his role of the king of Siam in The King and I. He is also remembered as Rameses II in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments
Steve McQueen is Vin. He does not know Chris at the beginning but very quickly the two emerge as the leaders. Steve McQueen is the definition of cool. He appeared in Bullitt and The Great Escape, among others
Charles Bronson is Bernardo O'Reilly and also played in The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen Robert Vaughn is Lee
Brad Dexter is Harry Luck
James Coburn is Britt – I did not know him before but after researching him realised he is Mr Waternoose’s voice in Monsters Inc
Horst Buchholz is Chico
The story is basic: 7 mercenaries, led by Yul Brynner, are recruited to watch over a Mexican village, threatened by bandit Calvera (Eli Wallach who also played in The Holiday and Wall Street 2).
The movie is full of excellent quotes. For once I prefer to develop more on those and not put a video.
Chris: There's a job for six men, watching over a village, south of the border.
O'Reilly: How big's the opposition?
Chris: Thirty guns.
O'Reilly: I admire your notion of fair odds, mister.
Miguel: It's that I get excited!
O'Reilly: Well don't get excited! Now this time squeeze. Slowly, but squeeze. All right now, squeeze.
O'Reilly: *Squeeze*! I'll tell you what. Don't shoot the gun. Take the gun like this, and you use it like a club, all right?
Chris: What about him?
Vin: Well, as he was falling people on each floor kept hearing him say, "So far, so good." Tch... So far, so good!
Village Boy 1: If you get killed, we take the rifle and avenge you.
Village Boy 2: And we see to it there's always fresh flowers on your grave.
O'Reilly: That's a mighty big comfort.
Village Boy 2: I told you he'll appreciate that!
O'Reilly: Well, now don't you kids be too disappointed if your plans don't work out.
Village Boy 1: We won't. If you stay alive, we'll be just as happy.
Village Boy 2: Maybe even happier.
Village Boy 1: Maybe.
Vin: You know the first time I took a job as a hired gun, fellow told me, "Vin, you can't afford to care." There's your problem.
Chris: One thing I don't need is somebody telling me my problem.
Vin: Like I said before, that's your problem. You got involved in this village and the people in it.
Chris: Do you ever get tired of hearing yourself talk?
Vin: The reason I understand your problem so well is that I walked in the same trap myself. Yeah. First day we got here, I started thinking: Maybe I could put my gun away, settle down, get a little land, raise some cattle. Things that these people know about me be to my credit - wouldn't work against me. I just didn't want you to think you were the only sucker in town.
The movie goes through the inner feelings of all seven men: their fears, their motivation, their past and their hopes for the future. Each of them has an occasion to express his personal views: Brynner about duty and the price to pay (loneliness), McQueen, about his hopes and dreams, Coburn, about his code of honor, Bronson, about responsibility, Vaughn about his fears, Buchholz about his frustration, Harry about (absence of) purpose. Wallach’s mistake is to attach his own beliefs and values to the other seven men.
To be frank, it should be the “magnificent 3”! Brynner, McQueen and Bronson leave a real impact, whereas I found the other characters were not as developed. Buchholz is in between, he had more lines and a more important role than Vaugh, Coburn and Dexter, but for some reason that character did not appeal to me. As I found out, behind the scenes, things were less pleasant. Steve McQueen and Brynner hated each other – that certainly does not show on screen: I found the strong bond between the two made the film great – it is almost as if they can read each other’s minds.
The bittersweet ending is perfect more this film: saving all mercenaries and having them settle down nicely would have been just too mushy.
Chris: The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.