Sunday, July 4, 2010

DVD Review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (United Artists/Mirisch, 1960)

OK, I admit it, I was one of only 23 or so people in the U.S. who had never seen this movie before Nicky put it in her Netflix queue. It's excellent entertainment, though I think that the accompanying documentary assumes too much when it claims that the classic tale of "disparate soldiers of fortune sticking up for the little guy" (which was itself a shifting of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai [1954] to a Western setting) was the "pivot point" that heralded Western movies' transition into the more nihilistic era of the "spaghetti Western" and its kin. Yes, the seven gunmen all are portrayed as anachronisms of sorts, with star Yul Brynner's concluding line about the poor Mexican farmers "winning" while The Seven and evil bandit Calvera (Eli Wallach) both "lost" driving the point home with a ball-peen hammer. Yet, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) of The Searchers (1956) was a far more forbidding character than any of these fellows. The Seven, for all their tics, are at heart pretty honorable men in their own way, and the subtext of this film is rather less serious, with its superfluous romantic scenes and somewhat self-conscious humor (the bit with Chico [Horst Buchholz] playing matador seemed to come from out of nowhere and didn't seem to fit the notion of Chico as a young punk desperate for glory). Even Calvera has his own peculiar code of ethics, which makes him, if not a villain you love to hate, then certainly a villain you hate but understand. The Magnificent Seven is good, rollicking fun with just enough extra material to "make you think"... but not too deeply.

I have to admit that I was surprised to learn that Brynner's character was named... Chris? And his compadres have names like Vin, Lee, and Britt? "What did you expect," Nicky asked me, "the Waco Kid?" Well, not necessarily, but I was expecting names more representative of gunfighters than male figure skaters.

1 comment:

Joe Torcivia said...

Glad to see the movie DVD reviews return. Why not tell us more, beyond the movie, about the DVD set. Its good and bad points, features, etc. I’ll be having a few myself (movies, TV, and animation – a wide variety for me) – as July is “DVD Review Month” at TIAH Blog! Got seven of ‘em written, that I’ll parse out over the month.

Remarkably few “CONS” in these reviews – except for one set. You’ll see…