The Magnificent Seven (1960)

(On Cable TV, June 2017) There’s no denying that watching a 1960 western nearly sixty years later is not as immersive an experience as it was back then—our standards for what we consider naturalistic cinema have changed a lot, and the genre conventions of westerns have evolved accordingly. Many of the actors of the time are now dead, and a few live on as legends. This being said, The Magnificent Seven remains an interesting movie today largely because it was a superlative experience back then. The lavish production values still impress today, and the unusual script (avowedly based on Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai) remains intriguing today. But more than that, the movie stars such acting superstars as Yul Brynner (cool and terrific, even with his hat on), Steve MacQueen (playing up his rebellious persona) and assorted notables such as Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn in smaller roles. From a story perspective, the film isn’t particularly complex—there’s a long and relatively enjoyable first half in which the band of seven is gradually assembled, followed by a first and then a second showdown with the gang holding a village hostage. It’s not much, but it’s enough to get to the essence of the tough-guy western that this is meant to be. Brynner is nothing short of spectacular in the lead role, with MacQueen providing a good foil for him. Even today, The Magnificent Seven can be watched with some interest—although there are more than a few lulls here and there.

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