Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Magnificent Seven

(Movie Review)

As every film buff already knows, “The Magnificent Seven” is the American remake of the classic Japanese film “Seven Samurai”. And the Japanese are aware of this as well. Given the Japanese fascination with Westerns, combined with the Japanese fascination with themselves and their influence worldwide, it is not surprising that 40 years later “The Magnificent Seven” remains very popular in Japan. Just last week several of my students, including some high school age kids, were telling me how great this film was.

I am sorry to say that I still have not seen “Seven Samurai”, despite having lived in Japan for 5 years now. Or perhaps I should say, because I’ve lived in Japan for 5 years. It’s difficult to find a subtitled version. Several years ago I was given a DVD of “Seven Samurai” by a Japanese friend, and every now and then I think I’m going to put it on for Japanese practice, and then get discouraged and switch it off 20 minutes in.

So for now I’m taking the easy way out and starting with the American version: “The Magnificent Seven.”

Much of the selling point for this film lies in the all-star cast. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Colburn, and Eli Wallach. Pretty impressive, no? Unfortunately, because there are so many stars, nobody really gets a lot of face time, (think the “Ocean’s 11” factor), and especially because everyone is running around in cowboy hats, during some of the wide shots it’s hard to tell who’s who.

Steve McQueen is, as always, the king of cool.
James Colburn, is one of my favorite underrated actors since I saw him in "The Great Escape" and "Hell is for Heroes" (both of which, incidentally, also star Steve McQueen. They must have enjoyed working together) and of course the "Our Man Flint Series". He does a good job as the callous knife thrower in this film, although he’s criminally underused. (Often I think James Colburn and Leonard Nimoy were twins separated at birth).

Yul Brynner gets the headline billing and most of the lines in this film. To the best of my recollection, the only other movie I’ve seen Yul Brynner in is “The King and I”, in which he looked ridiculous. (And what a god-awful film that was by the way. I agree completely with Roger Ebert who said: “It is an exotic escapist entertainment for matinee ladies, who can fantasize about sex with that intriguing bald monster and indulge their harem fantasies. There is no reason for any man to ever see the [movie].”)

In this film Yul Brynner looks a lot cooler. Some of his posturing is tough guy cliche stuff, like ignoring the person who is threatening him while slowly lighting his cigar, but he pulls it off well.

The plot is not particularly remarkable, but nobody ever watches a Western for the brilliant plot. You watch it as a celebration of masculinity, and for the feeling you get of having sand in stuck in your mouth, your shirt soaked through with sweat, your face covered with grime, and no worries in the world.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
While the plot of "Destroy all Monsters" resembles that of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965), this entry is significant in that it showcases 11 daikaiju, a record for the Godzilla series until Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).

Link of the Day
Bush's Fantasy Budget and the Military/Entertainment Complex


Whisky Prajer said...

All good reasons to see The Magnificent Seven, but there's one more: the score by Elmer Bernstein. Man, if that don't make you feel like galloping off into the sunset...

Also: you haven't seen The Ten Commandments? I guess the Easter Sundays of your childhood were more eventful than mine. Vintage Yul, right there.

ジョエル said...

I forgot to mention the score, but you're absolutely right. A great soundtrack on this movie

Never made it through"The Ten Commandments," sorry to say. Although now that you mention it, I think I have seen a clip with Yul in it. He was the Pharaoh, right?