The Japanese film came out in 1954 and the American one 6 years later in 1960. I had not really seen the Seven Samurai till recently but I watched Magnificent Seven very many years ago with my father. It was one of his favorite films. That just goes to show what an impact a western film could have even in those days. The original was also very popular when it was released and not just in the Asian markets. All the people who were involved in the project were very excited to be involved. They had all seen the original numerous times and were also fans of Kurosawa.
Yul Brynner originally purchased the rights to the story and opted to play the lead role. Now Yul Brynner is an awesome name. Just say it. It got balls. But who would have thought a bald Mongolian actor could play the head hancho in a western flick? But he did. The other six cowboys were played by Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Horst Buchholz, and Brad Dexter. All these guys were bad asses. They even did a bunch of other movies together like The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen. This was an all star cast and they did not even know it. In fact all through out the shooting they were prepared to release a flop. The Magnificent Seven is the second most played film on American TV today.
What made this movie stand apart from the ones before it and the ones that came after was the tinge of reality. These men, although portrayed as heroes and saviors, eventually were the losers. They acknowledged that they had no homes, no families, and no friends. They had nothing. In fact they had wanted to integrate themselves into the small Mexican village but were redundant and cast away after the battle. It is kind of like Greek tragedy. The shots were basic and the script fairly simple but yet the scenes seemed to be very powerful. Most of the characters did not have long elaborate lines but they still made more than enough impact to have their performances noted.
Out of all the stars in this film my favorite would have to be Steve McQueen. The guy was a fucking hero. They don’t make them like that no more. You only have to watch his performance in Papillon (1973) to recognize him as a super talented actor. After my double bill feature last night I still could not sleep so I started this off too. It is the true story of a prisoner serving life in a decrepit prison that is determined to escape and alter his destiny. If you have not seen this film you are really missing out. It is even rare these days to see actors put so much heart and soul into their work. Dustin Hoffman co-stars with McQueen in this classic.