Wednesday, August 03, 2011
#171: The Magnificent Seven
Based on the acclaimed Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven was directed by John Sturges and released in US in 1960. John Sturges' reputation with the previously Oscar-nominated Black Day at Black Rock and his handling of the western legend Gunfight at O.K. Corral is said to have helped him in bagging the nod to be the director.
As with most remakes, the movie had all the elements in the right place and yet didn't quite manage to grip me through it's 127 minute duration. The key issue seemed to be the casting. For one, the lead role amongst the seven is essayed by an emotionless Chris (Yul Brynner) whose character does little to excite or for that matter engage. Even someone as exciting as Steve McQueen as Vin, Chris' shadow through the movie, doesn't have much to do except be a trusted right-hand man to Chris and in the process, plays one of the most deadpan roles in his career. In the original the role of Toshiro Mifune was that of a passionate, street-smart but a light-hearted samurai who was a welcome relief from the seriousness of the movie's tone. Here, Horst Bucholz's portrayal of the same character is more of a caricature.
In a movie that had as many as eight key characters, including bad man Calvera (Eli Wallach), the characters seldom touch the viewer with their issues. Although quite of few of them had personal struggles of acceptance and approval that they were grappling with, they never emerged strongly enough to connect. The long shots and action brought to screen would pale significantly compared to some of the other westerns and with due respect to John Sturges, there's hardly anything that Sergio Leone hasn't done better in this genre.
The taut background score is a definite highlight of The Magnificent Seven but apart from that and a few typically crisp lines seen in western movies, I am finding it difficult here to give you more reasons as to why you should watch this movie. In fact, if anything, The Magnificent Seven makes Sholay look even more magnificent.