The Magnificent Seven
|The Magnificent Seven|
Original film poster
|Directed by||John Sturges|
|Produced by||John Sturges|
|Written by||William Roberts
& Hideo Oguni
& Walter Bernstein
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Studio||The Mirisch Company|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||128 min.|
|Box office||$2,250,000 (rentals)|
The Magnificent Seven is a 1960 American western film directed by John Sturges. It is a western-style remake based on Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai. The film stars Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz who play a group of seven American gunmen who are hired to protect a small agricultural village in Mexico from a group of marauding native bandits led by Calvera, portrayed by Eli Wallach. The film's musical score was composed by Elmer Bernstein.
A Mexican village is periodically raided for food and supplies by bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). As he and his men rode away from their latest visit, Calvera had promised to return for more booty and loot the village again. Taking what meager goods they have, the village leaders ride to a town just inside the American border hoping to barter for weapons to defend themselves. While there, they encounter a veteran gunslinger from Dodge, Chris (Yul Brynner); after listening to their tale, Chris suggests that the village hire more gunfighters as they would be cheaper than guns and ammunition. The village men relentlessly try to convince Chris to be their gunman; while at first he agrees just to help them find men, eventually he decides to help them out in person as well as finding six other men to join them, despite the poor pay offered.
The other men include hotheaded, inexperienced Chico (Horst Buchholz); Chris's friend Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) who believes Chris is seeking treasure; the drifter Vin (Steve McQueen), who has gone broke after a round of gambling and is loath to accept a position as a store clerk; Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), a gunfighter of Irish-Mexican heritage who has fallen on hard times; a cowboy, Britt (James Coburn), who joins for the challenge involved; and an on-the-run gunman Lee (Robert Vaughn) in the midst of a crisis of confidence. The group recognizes they will be outnumbered, but hope that when Calvera realizes that the village has brought them aboard, he will move on to a different village.
Arriving at the village, the seven begin to train the villagers how to defend themselves. They all find themselves bonding with the villagers, sharing the meal the women of the village have made them when they discover that the villagers have little food themselves. Chico is fascinated by Petra, one of the village's young women, while Bernardo begins to bond with three of the village's little boys. Lee, meanwhile, struggles with nightmares and fears the loss of his skills. Calvera and his bandits soon arrive, sustain heavy losses, and are run out of town by the gunmen and the villagers working in concert. Chico, who is Mexican, follows Calvera back to his camp, pretending to be one of the gang of bandits. There he learns that Calvera plans to return and raid the village because he is desperate for the food in order to feed his men.
Chico reports this back to Chris and the rest of the men. Though a part of the group believes they should leave, Chris insists that they stay and they ride out to make a surprise raid on Calvera's camp. However, they find the camp empty and, on returning to the village, they find that the fearful villagers allowed Calvera to take control. Calvera spares the gunmen's lives, believing they have learned the lesson that the simple farmers are not worth fighting for. Calvera also fears reprisals from the U.S. Army. The seven are curtly escorted out of the village. The group debates their next move and all but Harry agree to return and free the village from Calvera. Harry believes the effort will lead to their deaths and rides off alone.
A gunfight breaks out, and the villagers, recognizing the courage of the gunmen, soon join in the fight. Bernardo is killed protecting the children he had befriended, and both Britt and Lee die after killing a considerable number of bandits. Harry, who had a change of heart, arrives in time to protect Chris but is fatally shot. Soon, the bandits are routed, and Chris shoots Calvera. Calvera, in his dying breath, asks him, "You came back . . . to a place like this—why? A man like you—why?"
The three remaining gunmen help to bury their own and the villagers' dead. Chico announces he will be staying with Petra, while Chris and Vin begin to ride out. The village elder bids them farewell and comments that it is only the villagers who have really won: "You're like the wind, blowing over the land and...passing on;... ¡Vaya con Dios!" However, as they leave and pass the graves of their fallen comrades, Chris fatalistically observes, "The Old Man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose."
- Yul Brynner as Chris Adams
- Eli Wallach as Calvera
- Steve McQueen as Vin
- Horst Buchholz as Chico
- Charles Bronson as Bernardo O'Reilly
- Robert Vaughn as Lee
- James Coburn as Britt
- Brad Dexter as Harry Luck
- Vladimir Sokoloff as The Old Man
- Jorge Martínez de Hoyos as Hilario
- Rosenda Monteros as Petra
- Whit Bissell as Chamlee the Undertaker
- Rico Alaniz as Sotero
- Natividad Vacío as Miguel
- Robert J. Wilke as Wallace
- Val Avery as Henry the Corset Salesman
- Bing Russell as Robert, Henry's Traveling Companion
Producer Lou Morheim originally bought the rights to Seven Samurai, with plans to have Anthony Quinn as lead; according to Variety magazine, Brynner "got the rights away from Quinn" and brought Sturges into the project as director, based on the latter's work on Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In spite of Morheim's involvement, Sturges "insisted on sole producer credit"; both Morheim and Quinn brought suit over the events, with Morheim settling for an associate producer credit and Quinn denied the $630,000 in damages he sought.
Script credit was also a subject of contention. Walter Bernstein, a blacklisted scriptwriter, was commissioned by Morheim to produce the first draft "faithfully" adapted from the original script written by Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni and Akira Kurosawa; when Mirisch and Brynner took over the production, they brought on Walter Newman, whose version "is largely what's on screen." When Newman wasn't available to be on-site during the film's principal photography in Mexico, William Roberts was hired, in part to make changes required by Mexican censors. When Roberts asked the Writers Guild of America for a co-credit, Newman asked that his name be removed from the credits.
Filming began on March 1, 1960, on location in Mexico, where both the village and the U.S. border town were built for the film. The first scene shot was the first part of the six gunfighters' journey to the Mexican village, prior to Chico being brought into the group.
The film's score is by Elmer Bernstein. Along with the iconic main theme and effective support of the story line, the score also contains allusions to twentieth-century symphonic works, such as the reference to Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, second movement, in the tense quiet scene just before the shoot out. (This is a common practice among film score composers.) The original soundtrack was not released at the time until reused and rerecorded by Bernstein for the soundtrack of Return of the Seven. Electric guitar cover versions by Al Caiola in the U.S. and John Barry in the U.K. were successful on the popular charts. A vocal theme not written by Bernstein was used in a trailer.
In 1994, James Sedares conducted a re-recording of the score performed by The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra (which also included a suite from Bernstein's score for The Hallelujah Trail, issued by Koch Records; Bernstein himself conducted the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for a performance released by RCA in 1997, but the original film soundtrack was not released until the following year by Rykodisc (Varèse Sarabande reissued this album in 2004).
- Main Title and Calvera (3:56)
- Council (3:14)
- Quest (1:00)
- Strange Funeral/After The Brawl (6:48)
- Vin’s Luck (2:03)
- And Then There Were Two (1:45)
- Fiesta (1:11)
- Stalking (1:20)
- Worst Shot (3:02)
- The Journey (4:39)
- Toro (3:24)
- Training (1:27)
- Calvera's Return (2:37)
- Calvera Routed (1:49)
- Ambush (3:10)
- Bernardo (3:33)
- Surprise (2:08)
- Defeat (3:26)
- Crossroads (4:47)
- Harry's Mistake (2:48)
- Calvera Killed (3:33)
- Finale (3:27)
Bernstein's score has frequently been quoted in the media and popular culture. Starting in 1963, the theme was used in commercials in the U.S. for Marlboro cigarettes. A similar-sounding (but different) tune was used for Victoria Bitter beer in Australia. The theme was included in the James Bond film Moonraker.
Other uses include in the 2004 documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11; in the 2005 film The Ringer; as entrance music for the British band James, as well as episodes of The Simpsons that had a "Western" theme (mainly in the episode titled "Dude, Where's My Ranch?"). The opening horn riff in Arthur Conley's 1967 hit "Sweet Soul Music" is borrowed from the theme. Canadian band Kon Kan use the opening bars of the theme in their single "I Beg Your Pardon", Celtic Football Club (Glasgow, Scotland) used the theme music whenever Henrik Larsson scored a goal.
The Mick Jones 1980s band Big Audio Dynamite covered the song as "Keep off the Grass" (although this cover was not officially released). In 1995, the KLF also did a drum and bass cover of the main title as "The Magnificent"; it was released under the group alias One World Orchestra on the charity compilation The Help Album.
In 1992, the main theme of The Magnificent Seven came into use on a section of the Euro Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland Paris. Portions of the theme play as the train exits the Grand Canyon diorama tunnel behind Phantom Manor, enters Frontierland, and travels along the bank of the Rivers of the Far West.
The "Main Title" was used as an intro tune on many nights of Bruce Springsteen's 2012 Wrecking Ball Tour. The theme was played as the E Street Band entered the stage, adding to the dramatic atmosphere in the stadium.
Howard Thompson of The New York Times called the film a "pallid, pretentious and overlong reflection of the Japanese original"; according to Thompson, "don't expect anything like the ice-cold suspense, the superb juxtaposition of revealing human vignettes and especially the pile-driver tempo of the first Seven." According to Variety magazine, "Until the women and children arrive on the scene about two-thirds of the way through, The Magnificent Seven is a rip-roaring rootin' tootin' western with lots of bite and tang and old-fashioned abandon. The last third is downhill, a long and cluttered anti-climax in which The Magnificent Seven grow slightly too magnificent for comfort."
At the 33rd Academy Awards, the score was nominated for Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, losing to Ernest Gold's score for Exodus. The Magnificent Seven was listed at No. 8 on the American Film Institute's list of the top 25 American film scores.
The film has grown greatly in esteem since its release, largely due to its cast (several of whom would go on to become superstars over the decade following its release) and its music score. As of 2012, it has a freshness rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is the second most shown film in U.S. television history, behind only The Wizard of Oz. The film is also ranked No. 79 on the AFI's list of American cinema's 100 most-thrilling films.
Sequels, remakes and adaptations
None of these was as successful as the original film.
The plot of The Magnificent Seven directly inspired the 1980 sci-fi film, Battle Beyond the Stars, which included actor Robert Vaughn as one of the seven mercenaries hired to save a farming planet from alien marauders.
"I sette magnifici gladiatori" (1983) aka "The Seven Magnificent Gladiators" was a Sword & Sandal variation on the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven theme starring Lou Ferrigno and Sybil Danning.
The 1986 comedy Three Amigos directly parodies many aspects of The Magnificent Seven, from the hiring of a team of Americans to defend a small Mexican village, to the training of the villagers by the mercenaries, to the megalomaniacal over-the-top character of the Mexican gang leader.
The film also inspired a television series, The Magnificent Seven, which ran from 1998 to 2000.
The plot of Stephen King's 2003 novel Wolves of the Calla is loosely based on The Magnificent Seven. In the story, gunslinger Roland Deschain and his allies defend a small village from a raiding party that steals children once a generation. The village's name, "Calla Bryn Sturgis", is a nod to Sturges and Brynner, and the similarity in plot leads Roland's allies from 20th century New York to realize that they are taking part in a similar story. The novel also includes the misquoted epigraph "Mister, we deal in lead."
Robert B. Parker's 2001 novel Potshot borrows heavily from the film's end for the final confrontation between Spenser's group of seven outlaws and the Dell, the story's antagonists, going so far as to acknowledge it in dialog between characters and having one of them say the line, "We deal in lead, friend."
Roy Thomas from Marvel Comics wrote a 4-issue story arc (issue numbers 7, 8, 9 & 10 from the original Marvel series) Star Wars story based on the Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven plot. In the comic, Han and Chewie recruit five other aliens from different backgrounds to help defend a city from a band of marauders called the Cloud Riders.
- Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 p194
- "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
- McGee, P (2007). From Shane to Kill Bill: rethinking the Western. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 262. ISBN 1-4051-3964-1.
- Rand, Y (2005). Wild Open Spaces: Why We Love Westerns. Maverick Spirit Press. p. 208. ISBN 1-932991-44-1.
- Transcript of script. Accessed 1 May 2012.
- The film's memorable closing lines closely echo the last words of the source film Seven Samurai, spoken by the character Kambei: "Again we are defeated. The winners are those farmers. Not us."
- Robert Koehler (May 8, 2001). "The Magnificent Seven (MGM Home Entertainment release)". Variety. Retrieved 2011-08-01.
- p.14 Billboard 27 Feb 1961
- p.226 Cusic, Donb The Cowboy in Country Music: An Historical Survey with Artist Profiles 2011 McFarland
- Thompson, Howard (November 24, 1960). "On Japanese Idea: Magnificent Seven, a U.S. Western, Opens". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-01.
- "Magnificent Seven". Variety. Retrieved 2011-08-01.
- URL: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1013077-magnificent_seven/ . Accessed Sep 26, 2012
- Mirisch, Walter (2008). I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History (p. 113). University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin. ISBN 0-299-22640-9.
- Snieder, Jeff. Tom Cruise attached to MGM's 'Magnificent Seven'. Variety (May 21, 2012).
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- The Magnificent Seven at the Internet Movie Database
- The Magnificent Seven at AllRovi
- The Magnificent Seven at Rotten Tomatoes