film fatales #45 and #46: the ascent (larisa shepitko, 1977) and the spy who dumped me (susanna fogel, 2018)
music friday: 2012

the magnificent seven (john sturges, 1960)

A manly piece of entertainment based on Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. A lot of the men at the factory where I worked in the 70s and early 80s could name all of the Seven, just as they could name all of the dirty Dozen. (For the record, the Dozen were played by John Cassavetes, Tom Busby, Jim Brown, Donald Sutherland, Ben Carruthers, Clint Walker, Charles Bronson, Colin Maitland, Stuart Cooper, Al Mancini, Trini Lopez, Telly Savalas.) The Dirty Dozen was much more of a guy movie than was The Magnificent Seven ... the female characters in The Magnificent Seven were just as insubstantial as those in The Dirty Dozen, but the men in the Western were more than just the embodiment of masculinity, which you can't really say for the Dozen. I know my wife was happy to watch The Magnificent Seven with me, and I doubt she's ever seen The Dirty Dozen, or even wanted to.

The Magnificent Seven is expansive. The cinematography is often pretty, the Seven are distinguished from each other in fairly interesting ways, the other characters are stereotypical but mostly fun to watch, and, of course, there's the music. If you're old enough to remember cigarette commercials on television, then you'll recognize the theme from The Magnificent Seven in an instant:

Elmer Bernstein's score earned the picture it's only Oscar nomination ... it lost to Exodus.

The casting was also interesting. I was going to say it comes from a less-enlightened time when ethnicity was cast in unusual ways, but then I remembered we still suffer from this problem in 2018. Yul Brynner, a Russian, played the leader of the Seven, a Cajun (I think this was supposed to explain his accent). Charles Bronson, of Lithuanian descent, played "Bernardo O'Reilly". ("Irish on one side, Mexican on the other... and me in the middle.") Bronson was the only actor to play both as one of the Dozen and one of the Seven. The German actor Horst Buchholz played "Chico". The Russian Vladimir Sokoloff played a wise old Mexican. And Eli Wallach was the head bandido.

The story, of a village needing the help of gunslingers to fight off bandits, is hard to screw up, and if The Magnificent Seven isn't as good as The Seven Samurai, at least it doesn't embarrass itself. And it has the immortal Whit Bissell!

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