I have been watching some of the classic Western movies during the pandemic, including this 1960 film, "The Magnificent Seven" directed by John Sturges. The movie adopts an earlier 1954 film, "Seven Samurai" to a Western setting. With seven gunmen, called the "Magnificent Seven", among its large cast, the film includes many famous and soon to be famous actors, including Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Horst Bucholz among the gunmen and Eli Wallach as Calvera, the villain of the piece and the leader of a gang of outlaws. The star of the show, however, is Yul Brynner, who plays Chris, a tough gunslinger and the leader of the impromptu group of seven.
The movie is set and filmed and Mexico and tells about a large gang of bandits led by Calvera that bullies and intimidates a small village of farmers. Ultimately the farmers have enough of it. They hire Chris to help fight off the bandits. Chris hires six confreres, to help with this dangerous task. Each of the gunfighters has his own character and motivation, and they are all differentiated beautifully in the film. The gunfighters help prepare the villagers to assist them in fighting off the bandits. After many twists and turns and a lot of violence the village is left in peace with Chris observing at the end of the gunfighters, "we always lose".
As with many Westerns, "The Magnificent Seven" contrasts the life of settlement with the free-wheeling, independent life of gunfighters and loners. The gunfighters are shown as a dwindling group before they are gathered together by Chris to help the town. The town, settlement, and community win out with a fond look at the early wildness that helped make it possible.
The story is well-told, absorbing and easy to follow. The movie has a visceral appeal. Among the strongest features of the movie is the musical score by Elmer Bernstein. It is radiant and inspiring throughout, with its famous main theme, and almost defines the West in music.
In addition to its theme of settlement and community, the film speaks of the need to stand up for oneself and one's people in the face of bullying and violence.
This film is widely and deservedly recognized as among the best in the Western genre, and it has been listed by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". I was glad to have the opportunity to see the film during these difficult times.