|The Magnificent Seven|
Original film poster
|Directed by||John Sturges|
|Produced by||John Sturges|
|Written by||William Roberts
Walter Newman (uncredited)
Walter Bernstein (uncredited)
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||United States:
October 23, 1960
|Running time||128 min.|
|Followed by||Return of the Seven (1966)|
The Magnificent Seven is a 1960 American western film directed by John Sturges about a group of hired gunmen protecting a Mexican village from bandits. It is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film, Seven Samurai.
A Mexican village is periodically raided by bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). As he and his men ride away from their latest visit, Calvera promises to return.
Desperate, the village leaders travel to a border town to buy guns to defend themselves. They approach a veteran gunslinger, Chris (Yul Brynner). He tells them guns alone will not do them any good; they are farmers, not fighters. They ask him to lead them, but Chris rejects them, telling them a single man is not enough. They keep at him though, and he eventually gives in. He recruits men, though the pay is a pittance.
First to answer the call is the hotheaded, inexperienced Chico (Horst Buchholz), but he is rejected. Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), an old friend of Chris, joins because he believes Chris is looking for treasure. Vin (Steve McQueen) signs on after going broke from gambling. Other recruits include Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson, a half-blood of Irish-Mexican descent who is also broke), Britt (James Coburn), fast and deadly with his switchblade, and Lee (Robert Vaughn), who is on the run and needs someplace to lie low until things cool down. Chico trails the group as they ride south, and is eventually allowed to join them.
Even with seven, the group knows they will be vastly outnumbered by the bandits. However, their expectation is that once the bandits know they will have to fight, they will decide to move on to some other unprotected village, rather than bother with an all-out battle. Upon reaching the village, the group begins training the residents. As they work together, the gunmen and villagers begin to bond; the gunfighters are enjoying a feast but then realize that the villagers are starving themselves so that the gunfighters will have enough to eat—they then stop eating and share the food with the village children. Chico finds a woman he is attracted to, Petra (Rosenda Monteros), and Bernardo befriends the children of the village, although he can never imagine himself as one of the villagers themselves.. Although these paternal tendencies will have fatal consequences, the villagers come to respect and even admire him. Lee, meanwhile, struggles with nightmares and fears the loss of his gunfighting skills.
Calvera comes back and is disappointed to find the villagers have hired gunmen. After a brief exchange, the bandits are chased away. Later, Chico, who is Mexican himself, and thus blends in, infiltrates the bandits' camp and returns with the news that Calvera and his men will not simply be moving on, as had been expected. They are planning to return in full force, as the bandits are also broke and starving, and need the crops from the village to survive.
The seven debate whether they should leave. Not having expected a full-scale war, some of the seven as well as some of the villagers are in favor of the group's departure. However, Chris adamantly insists that they will stay. They decide to make a surprise raid on the bandit camp but find it empty. Returning, they are captured by Calvera's men, who have been let into the village by those villagers fearful of the impending fight. Calvera spares the gunfighters' lives because he believes that they have learned that the farmers are not worth fighting for, and because he fears American reprisals if they are killed.
Calvera has them escorted out of town and then contemptuously returns their guns and gun belts.
Despite the odds against them, and despite their betrayal by the villagers, all of Chris' group except Harry decide to return and finish the job the next morning (Harry refuses to go back when he learns there is no monetary reward). During the ensuing battle, Harry returns in the nick of time, rescues Chris from certain death, and is mortally wounded. Bernardo is killed protecting children he had befriended; Lee overcomes his fear of death and kills several men before he is killed. Britt is also slain. Seeing the gunmen's bravery, the villagers overcome their own fear, grab whatever they can as weapons, and join the battle. The bandits are routed. Calvera is shot by Chris; puzzled, he asks why a man like Chris came back, but dies without an answer.
As the three survivors leave, Chico decides to stay with Petra. Chris and Vin ride away, pausing briefly at the graves of their fallen comrades. Chris observes, "Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose."
Filming began on 1 March 1960, on location in Mexico, where both the village and the US 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.
Samurai's villagers are sent to town to hire swordsmen. In this remake, the villagers are sent to town originally to buy guns. Chris tells them that in fact, it will be cheaper to hire gunmen than to buy guns. Howard Hughes in Stagecoach to Tombstone says that the original screenplay for The Magnificent Seven followed Seven Samurai on this point, but was changed on the insistence of the Mexican censors.
The cinematographic process was anamorphic. This process was developed in the 1940s but not widely used until the 1960s. A film with anamorphic aspect ratio appears wider (more panoramic) than when shot and projected at a ratio of 4:3 (width:height), which had been the industry standard until wide-screen formats gained popularity. This change was intended to give the cinema a look that would further distinguish it from - and give a competing edge over - television (which used the 4:3 format).
The film's success inspired three sequels:
None of these were as successful as the original film. The film also inspired a television series, The Magnificent Seven, which ran from 1998 to 2000.
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.
The film's score along with the main theme is by Elmer Bernstein. The score was nominated for an Academy Award in 1961. The original soundtrack was not released at the time until reused and rerecorded by Bernstein for the soundtrack of Return of the Seven. Instead electric guitar cover versions by Al Caiola in the US and John Barry in the UK were successful on the popular charts. A vocal theme not written by Bernstein was used in a trailer.
Starting in 1963, the theme was used in commercials in the USA 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 (also from United Artists). Other uses include a passage on an album by the rock band Yes in the early 1970s; 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.
The Mick Jones 1980s band Big Audio Dynamite covered the song, as "Keep off the Grass."
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.