Giddy up. So when a small farming village continues to get raided by the local bandits, they travel to enlist gunslingers to help take care of their problem. Sound familiar? Well, it should, because this is an American remake of what is largely touted as the greatest Japanese movie ever made, Seven Samurai. It makes sense, too. The two genres share many overlapping tropes: mysterious, wandering fighters who use either guns or blades to solve their problems, heroes battling lawlessness, etc. They are two genres that borrow so much from each other, it is pretty common to see remakes of one in the other’s genre, like Yojimbo being remade as A Fistful of Dollars, or, more recently, Unforgiven getting remade as a samurai movie staring Ken Watanabe (I still have to check that one out). So even though this is treading on hallowed material that was released six years prior, it still has its merits.
Comparing and contrasting, this ends up being expectedly similar because it is the same story, but it does so beat for beat. It’s a timeless story, sure, but I would have liked to have seen them take more liberties with it, as I found it to be a little less engaging than I had hoped, being that I already knew everything that was going to happen. It’s still great material, and it has that macho man movie vibe that would probably double feature great with the Dirty Dozen. This is my first exposure to Yul Brynner, and I’ve gotta say: he is what anchors this. Even with heavyweights like Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, you never at any point forget that this is his movie, and he does a great job at leading his posse.
Getting to differences, this has a memorable villain in Eli Wallach, where with Seven Samurai, the opposition is pretty faceless. But where it gains a point there, it also loses a point in Horst Buchholz playing the role of seventh hotheaded, inexperienced member, as the part is played far better by Toshiro Mifune; Buchholz isn’t terrible, but Mifune plays the part with a lot more personality, so you really develop a more of a connection with him. I will also say that two of the seven gunslingers kind of fade into the background, while in Samurai, you really get to know everybody, but I suppose that is the difference between a 2 hour movie and a 3 and a half hour movie. This is one of the more famous Westerns that I have gone without watching up until this point, and while I’m glad I watched it for the legend building that it does so well, I doubt it’s going to work its way into my cycle of Westerns I watch on a regular basis.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire