Western Watchins #66
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai must be the most ass kissed piece of film ever produced. Besides The Magnificent Seven it would go on to inspire every other thing you have ever seen in your life. I’m sort of not kidding. That original was set in Japan right after we bombed them and all they had was swords and straw hats to respectively fight each other and the radiation poisoning with. I’m guessing because I’ve never seen it but that’s probably what happens. I can however tell you exactly how the literally and figuratively Westernized remake went. And it went like this!
The plot is pastorally plain and simple: seven hired guns get hired…to gun! And gun it up they do, all over not-as-old-as-it-is-nowadays-but-still-not-new Mexico. Seems some poor peasants (also literally and figuratively) are getting bullied by Eli Wallach and his gang who see fit to ride into town whenever they want to wave their dicks around and steal corn. But then Yul Brynner shows up with seven dicks of his own! I mean he doesn’t have seven dicks (that I know of) but among his collected entourage I am fairly certain that at least more than six and assuredly less than eight dicks could be found. So the good dicks (seven), the bad dicks (more than forty) and the ugly dicks (I don’t know I didn’t actually see any dicks goddamit!) are all headed for a showdown. How many dicks is that Eli Wallach?
A lot! But remember this amigos, no matter how many dicks are headed your way you keep swinging you hear me? Never let anyone put you down or if they do never let them keep you there. Bullies exist because people do not stand up to them. Bullies exist because of the ease of bullying. Mouths can spout off time and again about what’s best for you and how you should keep yours fucking shut. But knock a few teeth out or break a few jaws and all that talk grows quiet right quick.
One of the central themes of The Magnificent Seven is to be assured of who you are and what you’ve set yourself about doing. It’s a beautiful message and there are numerous scenes that express it beautifully. When Charlie Bronson can make you cry, goddamn, that’s one memorable message. And so much of this movie is memorable, so many scenes rank among the finest ever put to film. One in particular finds most of the main cast both lamenting and relishing the dangereous lives they’ve chosen and as they sit calculating what their combativeness has brought them you realize that you’re on to something special here. Something really damn special.
I challenge you to watch this film and not be changed. The frank discussions of fear, mortality and self-worth are among some of the most effortlessly written moments I know of across any medium and the characters who wear their flaws on their sleeves are all the more noble for it. There’s a young guy and a funny guy and that one inexplicably unnerved guy along with some cocky guys even though most of them are unsure guys. The Seven are someone you know, or someone you want to be, or the person you are right now. They take the easy and all too often seen banality of the Western genre and envigorate it with comedy, courage and compassion. There are few times when “cool” has looked this approachable. And fucking cool!
It’s one thing if you watch The Magnificent Seven and aren’t motivated to alter the course of your life in some major way, each his own I reckon, but if you watch this and don’t think it is, without a doubt, one of the fucking coolest movies you’ve ever seen then you can go fuck yourself this many times:
Now, like many eventual “classics” this one was not too terribly well recieved back when it first hit theaters in 1960. It floundered stateside but made up for it overseas spawning a number of sequels and homages including Battle Beyond the Stars which I watched no less than 4.9 quadramazillion times during my elementary school years. Little did I know then that one day I would whole-heartedly embrace the wild and western roots of that silly sci-fi flick.
Looking back to the days like those portrayed in The Magnificent Seven has helped me a great deal to imagine what my own future will hold. I used to set so many limits on myself whether by ignorance or design but embracing the responsibility of self determination…man…that’s real liberating. I can see past the deadwood now and I see my destiny. For me that’s the desert. It’s what I want and what by God I shall have. For you it’ll be something different, but when you find something worth fighting for you’ll have found it. Might be a person or a place or both but you’ll stand up, maybe for the first time in your life, and you’ll fight for it. Realizing that the strength to do so is within you will rock your face off!
Oh Yul, you kill me! Or at least you’ll try when you go crazy. Like I did for this week’s movie. 5 rounds in the cylinder for this most Magnificent Seven. Almost a perfect film that could have benefitted from a little more enunciation and dialogue volume (particularly from Mr. Brynner) and a few, very few, pacing issues. The set-up comes slowly then you’re rushed into the finale but wanting more is always better than being bored. And any sound quality or time sensitivity issues are miniscule in comparison to the heroic effort this film puts forth on the whole. It’s a bad-ass and bittersweet ride, we should all be so brave and fortunate in our own lives.
And I’ll tell you what…you ride true and you will be. See ya soon amigos.