Monday, April 18, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1969)

"....And that boy grew up to be ZAPATA!"
Note: Since DYE!DYE! is specifically geared towards movies, I'm going to attempt to do 10 Statements for all the movies I've seen, including those I watch on DVD.

1) It occurred to me as I watched this that The Magnificent Seven films are pretty much super-hero films. Each member of the team has a specialty that is sometimes portrayed as a super-power, each one has a specific uniform, etc. Even the number of heroes becomes the generally agreed upon ideal number of members for super-teams. That being said...

2) This is one of those American Westerns that tried to reflect both the changing political and cultural mores and the popularity of Spaghetti Western...and all the stuff which seems to address racial inequality and post-traumatic stress disorder seems weird in the context of this as a gigantic comic-book-y adventure.

3) This 'changing with the time' attitude results in a strange, downbeat ending of the climatic gunfight....which is then made even stranger when George Kennedy is given the typical 'thank you,'re tops' coda.
4) I to believe that little Emil, played by Tony Adams, grows up to be legendary political icon Zapata? 'Cause I ain't buying it much....

"...and for my next trick, I'm gon' blow up like a balloon
and start showing up in any ol' movie that'll pay me."
5) Man, does Joe Don Baker, playing the stressed out, one armed Civil War vet, look weird without all that body fat.

6) George Kennedy seems an odd choice to replace Yul Brynner as Chris (he was apparently cast off his Academy Award win for Cool Hand Luke). But I think a lot of people forget how tough Kennedy could come off as before he started taking any old goofy assignment for cash. Plus his gentler, comedic talents works in the scenes where Chris uses guile and intelligence to get what he needs.

7) Boy, does James Whitmore look like he's having a ton of fun.

8) It's really funny how, even though the script struggles with relevance, it still embraces racial stereotyping when it comes to the noble Mexican rebels. Every time Reni Santoni's Max opens his mouth with another Mexican saying like 'A cat wearing mittens never catches the rat,' it set my teeth on edge.

"...and for my next trick, I'm also gon' blow up like a balloon
and start showing up in any ol' movie that'll pay me."
9) Boy, does the whole subplot involving Scott Thomas' consumptive gun-fighter and the hot peasant chica seem tacked on and arbitrary. It's almost like the script felt the character had to have some sort of story arc to justify his tragic end at the climax.

10) Given that this is a movie about seven men aiding Mexican rebels, the actual Mexicans are given only the sketchiest of dimensions. Outside of Max's Charlie-Channing it with all these aphorisms, no one is really gone into in depth--Hell, even the villain, Michael Ansara's Colonel Diego, isn't given much character.

In short...there's stuff here to enjoy if you like Westerns, especially in Kennedy's nuanced performance, but it certainly serves as a textbook example of how the original concept of the American western was doomed when Leone and his ilk started hitting our shores with their ambigious morality plays painted in shades of grey....

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