Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Magnificent Seven


The difference between this and the Japanese source material can be summed up very simply: This is a good action movie. Seven Samurai is a great movie. And one of the main reasons is simple, too. There is no macho posturing in Kurosawa’s masterpiece. Shamada, played by the great Takashi Shimura, and his six sidekicks would never stand out in the open as the bandits ride into the village. When Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen and company stand there and face off with Eli Wallach, it is pure testosterone. And damn foolish. There are a lot of scenes like that, intended to show how cool they all are. James Coburn doesn’t bat an eye as a stupid man fires bullets into the ground on both sides of his legs. What an asshole! Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) would have had the man’s guts hanging out of his belly in a tenth of a second.

The motives of this Seven are not always pure, either. Robert Vaughn has lost his nerve, and Brad Dexter (who?) is motivated by visions of Aztec gold. And Yul and his band stupidly let themselves be captured, disarmed, and run out of town! I had forgotten that!

Okay, it may sound like I didn’t like the film. I did, actually. It is a superior horse opera with an outstanding cast. That it doesn’t measure up to the original is really beside the point. Taken on its own 1960s terms, its lovely. And at that time very few Americans would have seen the original … and most wouldn’t have liked it because of the subtitles.