Friday, November 11, 2011

The Magnificent Seven

     Suppose you were in charge of the world, and you wanted the next crop of youngsters to be the spiritual successors to “The Greatest Generation”, here is what you would do: When kids are in health class, and they separate the boys and girls so that girls can learn about their periods and boys learn about the boys The Magnificent Seven instead and afterward, just say, “Pick one.”
     It seems as though the Western is rife with nothing, if not archetypes that embody the Teddy Roosevelt, “Speak softly and carry a big stick...” quote. The king of all these is The Magnificent Seven, and that is no accident... as it was smartly remade from the feudal Japan masterpiece, Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. The personalities, quirks, and Achilles' heels of the titular Seven transcend language, era, and preferred method of fucking shit up (guns, swords, etc.).
     There is so much manliness crammed into this movie that lesser folk have been known to curl up into a fetal ball, cowering from the overpowering radiance of masculinity coming from these cowboys. Actually, that's not true. But if it were true of any movie, it would be this one.
     Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen are introduced to us first, and, just describing their initial scene will put hair on your chest. It seems as though a transient Native American met with an untimely demise and, due to the racism of the locals, they are threatening death upon anybody looking to bury him in Boot Hill. Yul Brynner says, essentially, “fuck that noise”. He borrows a shovel and the hearse and heads towards the cemetery, despite having no attachment to the injun. McQueen sees this and his reaction is to take someone's shotgun and jump onto the hearse to shoot anyone who gets in the way of the coolest damn funeral of all-time.
     Brynner and McQueen are contracted by a Mexican village to defend against a despotic bandit and his bandit army. Against dozens of men, the plan is to raise an army of six. The thinking is that the testicular fortitude of these six will substitute for the other fifty-plus men realistically needed to even the odds.
So, joining this crew is a knife-toting James Coburn. And get this, he signs on, not because the money is even close to decent (because it's not), but because all he cares about is proving that he's the best... at killing people. Charles Bronson is conscripted because he essentially has nothing better to do with his time. And then you have Harry, played by Brad Dexter (yeah, I haven't heard of him, either)... who is convinced that there is some sort of con to be had on the other side of killing nearly a hundred ruthless Mexicans. Robert Vaughn's character is a little on the precious side, but that almost makes him more cool. For instance, he doesn't take off his dandy gloves, even when smoking fools. And then there's the impetuous seventh, played by one Horst Buchholz, who is out to impress the rest of the cowboys. While the eager puppy routine is a bit grating, it does lead to some of the most heroic/awesome antics in the movie.
     When you take the time to tally up all the key ingredients of the movie, there's no mistaking it for anything other than Man Movie Royalty...the kind of movie that 50 years of celluloid testosterone is built on the hairy and ripped back of. Watch this movie and try not to smile or clench your fist in an appreciation of its awesomeness, I dare you.

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