A bandit terrorizes a small Mexican farming village each year. Several of the village elders send three of the farmers into the United States to search for gunmen to defend them. They end up with seven, each of whom comes for a different reason. They must prepare the town to repulse an army of thirty bandits who will arrive wanting food. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
What could have been a fairly routine western is lifted into the realm of classic thanks to some smart casting, sturdy direction and a rousing music score. A reworking of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", the story concerns a Mexican village which is constantly pillaged by bandit Wallach and his small army of followers. Three of the villagers hire a mix of gunslingers to come back to protect and defend the town and rid it of the oppressors. Brynner leads the group (seven in total, hence the title) as they teach the farmers how to use a gun and prepare the town for the eventual onslaught from Wallach. The already tough odds are lengthened when some of the villagers begin to lose faith in the power of the seven. Brynner is solid in the lead role (though, unfortunately, his later role in "Westworld" adds an odd shading to his character here.) He, McQueen and Coburn define the word cool as they go about their various exploits before and after they join forces. McQueen and Coburn are men of few words, but of fierce actions when necessary. Bronson (rather young and handsome, though still a little craggy looking) does his best with a pretty mushy storyline involving the youth of the village. Buchholz overacts feverishly as a determined, but inexperienced youth. Vaughn seems a tad out of place and has one major ham moment during a nightmare. Dexter (easily the most often forgotten member of the group) has a few moments, but his character is not particularly defined. Wallach excels in the showy role of the chief bandit. His brash performance is a great counterpoint to the more steely and solemn title gunmen. The villagers come off as hapless and pitiful, for the most part. Along the way, there are several memorable vignettes that showcase the charm of the actors involved. The casting director did an almost miraculous job of using known stars and picking supporting actors who would soon be just as big so that the film now has virtually an all-star cast. The biggest shot in the arm of all is the monumental score by Elmer Bernstein. The instantly recognizable title music is just one of the many great pieces he created for the film. The sometimes laconic story is carried a long way by his score. The concept of disparate characters being brought together for a common cause has been done many times, but rarely with this level of quality. It's sometimes hard to believe that the film was made in 1960 as its look, content and cast make it seem like a later film. It was definitely a touchstone in the development of the western film.
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