Genre Pictures III

film 3 of 4

The Magnificent Seven

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 29, 2015

This probably isn’t relevant, but once when we were watching this I tried to eat a whole can of sweetened condensed milk. By myself.

I failed, but should also add that I stopped before quite making myself sick. So that’s a form of relevance, I guess.

The Magnificent Seven is a cool movie. That’s partly the case because it’s clearly trying, practically straining to be a cool movie. Not necessarily a problem, eh? Remake, or transpose The Seven Samurai, by all means. Make use of Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson and James Coburn. And exploit Vladivostok’s own Yul Brynner, who just doesn’t make any sense here, and who is so overwhelmingly charismatic that he practically registers on the Richter scale.

But there’s a self-regard here, and a stretching-out, and an I’m-not-quite-sure-what—should have said that in French, probably—that pulls at and finally diminishes the production as a whole. That almost certainly has to do with the (also excessive!) length of Akira Kurosawa’s esteemed original. But also, this being 1960, the studios and the Studio System entire are not only in flux, they’re in trouble. Elephantiasis was often one of the symptoms. Aren’t genre pictures supposed to be more modest? Allowing for anomalous operas and aggressive masterpieces—Red River, The Searchers, Rio Bravo—isn’t small and modest the proper proportion for a Western?

Not that John Sturges’ film is without its merits. In fact, you may really love it, and there’s certainly a lot to savour. I’ve seen it several times, and have never forgotten a certain mighty line. These gunslingers are too talented, too formidable for this little job. Until they hear what these impoverished villagers are willing to give them. “I’ve been offered a lot for my work, but never everything.”