THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) is about the adventures of seven cowboys employed by a troubled native community to save their homeland from the hands of armed criminals from other neighboring towns who harass and attack them from time to time in search of food and who wish to invade their land. The setting is a real local environment with a local language – Spanish and some Indian. Most of the main actors appear to be Americans. It is all about a show of masculine power and superiority.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) is about the adventures of seven cowboys employed by a troubled native community to save their homeland from the hands of armed criminals from other neighboring towns who harass and attack them from time to time in search of food and who wish to invade their land. The setting is a real local environment with a local language – Spanish and some Indian. Most of the main actors appear to be Americans. It is all about a show of masculine power and superiority. Major actors include: Yul Brenner as Chris, Charles Bronson as Bernardo, Steve McQueen as Vin, and Robert Vaughn (Lee). Others are James Coburn as Britt, Calvera, Chico and Harry Luck. The film is a self-explanatory drama, full of lessons on good social and ethical values. Every feeling and message is acted out in a very simple and easygoing manner even though it is action packed. Every move and action can be seen and interpreted with absolute clarity. It gets you wondering what will happen next, and what Chris and his guys are going to display next even during their quite moments. Thus highlighting the mythical Western concept of cowboy heroism or heroic individualism [E.D. Sikov pg 48, #1 (a)]. This myth is burst or broken by the filmmaker when Chris himself cries out towards the end "The farmers won. We lost. We always lose.” Force and brutality will always lose. Fear and distrust will always loose. But love and honor will always win. Thus, this an example, to all those who take the laws into their own hands and who rely on personal efforts to undertake unusual ventures do not eventually have everything under control always. The film begins in an old community setting, which appears like a Native American town. One little boy spots a group of strange horsemen as they approach the village. He cries out for his dad, “Papa”! The men arrive and begin to ransack houses, seizing sacks of food and live chickens, and intimidate the people who feel so helpless as the shout and order them around. The men gather all the stuff, get set to speed away, promising to return. A native Indian runs out in protest towards the gang leader and his men. He is gunned down in cold blood. The men leave and the village is left in fears and disbelief. These are the dreaded armed bandits from the neighboring towns. The body of the man is lifted and dumped inside by a few men. Some of the natives are sighted bemoaning the fate of the village. “We must do something” One says. “But what?” returns another. “We must fight!” An elder. Three men are sent out as Emissaries to recruit some brave warriors that will come and help save the community from their oppressors. They will train and mobilize local peasant warriors. They enter an unknown village and sight a group of gorgeously dressed and tough talking Western gentlemen. The camera focuses on a horse caravan standing by, a little later, a locomotive. A sign of luxury and comfort! At this point, the filmmaker also highlights one important element of Western mentality. And that is the show luxury, tough talking and self-confidence, masculinity and bravery; the display of anger and suppressed anger, and the survival of the fittest. Chris is seen in a chat with the three emissaries who indicate that they are a peasant village with no money or resources enough to pay for such an enormous task. And besides, they have no guns or training, but have able-bodied young men who are ready to go along. Chris agrees to help look for other able hands that would do the job with him. A fee of $20 plus food is agreed on. Six other cowboys are found, making them seven. These are later seen as Vin, Bronson, Vaughn, Dexter, Coburn, Buch as they easily call each other by name at different times. The company is seen heading for the troubled village. As Chris Company rides down to the troubled village; the camera focuses on the beautiful mountainous landscape. It also focuses on the jungle parts, which they have to travel on, as well as the rivers, and streams they have to cross. The journey is long and tiring. The even have to stop and have a night rest in the woods where they are warm themselves near a fire which the have set up. At morning break, the cross a tiny rive and approach the village (music background). They are well received and briefed momentarily by the Elder. The cowboys are seen in a dialogue followed by a traditional ceremony in the village, which is disrupted, or grace with heavy firecrackers. A cowboy is seen practicing some childhood skills with a tiny bamboo stick which attracts the attention of little kids. Chris and Vin sneak into the woods. They spot some horsemen approaching towards them. They shoot and kill three men that appear from the rocks, and another one that is riding in a distance towards them and the village. Immediately, the head back to the village an alert the men – ‘ Three men were sent by Calvera to spy us. It was almost certain they saw us’ They are seen mounting up surveillance and training young men from the community on how to handle guns and other fighting tricks. They teach them how to aim and how to shoot. They set up different types of traps and defenses preparing for a showdown with the invaders. Men are seen bringing stones down to help build barriers and defenses. A brief mention of silver and gold is made at this spot. A native man makes it clear that the village has no silver or gold. “Not in old times; not at any time.” He says. But another man goes on to insist that there is silver and gold, treasures, hidden up there in the hills. According to him, there are “Treasures buried in the hills before the Spaniards came” Here seems to be a pointer into history. It appears this community has been victim of external invasions and lootings from long times past. In my own undestanding, the treasures mentioned here should be seen more in terms of intangible possessions of value and character, which the visiting cowboys even confessed that they did not have more than the peasants. As Chris himself put it: “You think I am brave because I carry a gun. Your father is braver because he carries responsibly. Family………..responsibility is bravery. My respect also goes to the young Spanish cowboy who is being seduced by his ‘captured’ girl. He says: “Go back home now before your father knows you’re here” That is so kind of a lonely young boy of our day! The movie reflects on the fact that it is not by guns and masculine force; it is not by silver and with gold but by the inner qualities of love and kindness that the greatest wars are fought. When the battle with Calvera is won, the boy is still forced to go down the slope, back into the hall because of the greater treasure, which he could not leave behind. He rides down the slope. This is a sign of humility, condescension and submission, as captured by the camera focus. Other cowboys wait on their horses while he takes of his arms in front of the girl and even all others (another sign of humility and submission). Thus, the girl (woman) is depicted here as the ultimate winner in the war of culture and cultural values. I believe the film writer’s momentary focus on the earlier encounter between the same boy and girl far away in the woods is another great insight into the moral and ethical values of this movie. The girl out of reflex attacked the boy who showed so much restraint and good discipline. For many a lonely man in his position, that will have resulted in a case of rape. However the aspect of that encounter that requires a greater mention is the picture of how the boy freely lifts her onto his shoulders and on his horse and takes her to the camp as a trophy for his bravery. Right from unknown ages, men count it their ultimate aim and right to have a woman submit or fall under their masculine abilities. They see the woman as an object of pleasure and a creature they must ‘conquer’ in everything. Thus, masculinity and ego are seen as another element of the Western societies, even though it is as old as creation. Chris and Vin appear to be strangers brought together by shear co-incidence. They turn out to be Chris and Vin. These two look like they belonged to some radical groups of tough daredevil terror mongers. But after all, it appears they operated alone in their own worlds for maybe same reasons. They seem to be fighting for people’s rights and not against. They hate to see anyone cheated or brutalized by the other. They will immediately shoot and kill the person and tuck back their guns as if it’s their God-given assignment. The two men are seen atop the hills again looking out and strategizing. Bandits appear suddenly. They are sighted by one of the servants who runs uphill and gives signals. Boys take position. Chris stands out bold and tall confident as always. He and two others step out now to meet Calvera and his men who now approach the village in a troop. I should have guessed. When my men did not come back, I should have guessed.” He says, as he sights Chris. As both exchange tough word together, there is a rain of bullets. Chris and his men kill the bandits in their numbers. The rest flee. No quiet in sight yet. Villagers are seen exchanging smiles and celebrating with momentary exchange of views. They toast with the cowboys for life and for friendship. Shooting erupts again and ceases. The Spanish cowboy is seen again alone in a hideout, waiting to kill. This character seems to be a truant person in this film. He is the same person who, on his own goes out to spy on Calvera and his gang. The mere mention of this surprised Chris and everyone. Three innocent kids approach him from the village. He runs and pulls away from danger line. Again, the ‘captured’ maiden girl appears beside him, he persuades her to leave and get back home. Calvera is seen in his own camp threatening hell and brimstone. One of Chris’ men has a bad dream and reflects. There is a moment of chatting and reflection by many. The spy boy comes in: “I’ve been there!” And brings news of the eminent attack from Calvera. Chickenhearted men begin to panic. There is now a division among the villagers and the fighters. Some say, “Give him what he wants” At, least, to them, this will secure their lives and village. Chris and his true men are not ruffled. “Who is for going, and who is for giving up?” Shouts Chris! One man comes out bold: “We have started this war, and we gonna finish it.” The truant boy is seen flirting with the girl again (Usual thing though), while others plan inside. Cowboys are sighted heading to the woods to lay ambush again. Some climb, others comb the bush. They stumble into where could have been Calvera and Co.’s hideout. It is like they have left and gone. But alas, the village is under siege. Now the cowboys turn back to the village. Boom, Calvera and his men are everywhere. Chris and his men are in the midst of it all. Their guns and horses are seized from the. Calvera talks tough. He threatens and makes offers for Chris and his men to join his own gang and save their lives. Or better still, leave the village in peace and go elsewhere to pursue some other vocation better than fighting for a cause that will pay the no dividend. The camera shows entire assembly of villagers, some peeping from outside. Chris sits down reflecting. All the cowboys seem t be reflecting on their dangerous mission and their future in it. Calvera and his men take them out to the boarder, gives them back their horses and guns and urges them to go. Chris and his men stop somewhere. They reflect aloud and decide to head back to the village for a final showdown. One or two are concerned about “the odds.” But they all go, anyhow. Chris is sighted atop the village wall. He sneaks into the compound. Vin follows. Two horses are seen anchored outside. Shooting starts by Vin. One cowboy is hit on the leg by enemy fire. One runs out of bullets. One is killed. Cowboy holds and interviews wounded gunman. Chris spots Calvera and shoots him down. Villagers join with all kinds of weapons. Many are killed. Calvera (face filled with blood) speaks and then succumbs to his wounds. Chris shines as star. ‘The fighting is over. Your work is done……Elder” gratitude pours out to the cowboys. “You helped the sweep away Calvera…..” “Adios.” Elder.