THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (John Sturges, 1960)

Here is a tedious, unconvincing relocated remake of Akira Kurosawa’s six-years-earlier Seven Samurai; the latter goes uncredited despite the fact that The Magnificent Seven takes it title from the butchered U.S. release version of the Japanese original!
     It is basically the same plot headed to the same assertion that only the farmers, in this case Mexicans, have won—that is, those for whom “the seven” fought against a band of vicious thieving bandits. Three elements of this selfconsciously “colorful” Western are highly attractive: Edward Fitzgerald’s set design; Charles Lang Jr.’s color photography; above all, Ferris Webster’s fine editing. The famous symphonic score by Elmer Bernstein, though, is too typical of the inflated nature of the entire production.
     However, the principal defects accounting for the film’s artistic failure lie elsewhere: a stupendously silly script by William Roberts (whoever that may be), Walter Bernstein and Walter Newman; John Sturges’s mechanical direction; an almost completely worthless cast. Only Horst Buchholz gives a moderately entertaining performance as the proud, impulsive Chico, the youngest of the seven killers whom the farmers hire to protect them. (A few years older than Buchholz, Steve McQueen appears foolish when his character refers to Chico as “boy.”) Yul Brynner is especially disappointing—a cipher, really—as the leader, a rough facsimile of the role that Takashi Shimura played so wonderfully well in the Kurosawa film.
     Sturges would not repent, perhaps buoyed by the film’s profits. His worst and most profitable film, The Great Escape (1963), starring McQueen, lay ahead.

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