Until the women and children arrive on the scene about two-thirds of the way through, The Magnificent Seven is a rip-roaring rootin’ tootin’ western with lots of bite and tang and old-fashioned abandon. The last third is downhill, a long and cluttered anti-climax in which ‘The Magnificent Seven’ grow slightly too magnificent for comfort.
Odd foundation for the able screenplay is the Japanese film, Seven Samurai. The plot, as adapted, is simple and compelling. A Mexican village is at the mercy of a bandit (Eli Wallach), whose recurrent ‘visits’ with his huge band of outlaws strip the meek peasant people of the fruits of their labors. Finally, in desperation, they hire seven American gunslingers for the obvious purpose.
There is a heap of fine acting and some crackling good direction by John Sturges mostly in the early stages, during formation of the central septet. Wallach creates an extremely colorful and arresting figure as the chief antagonist. Of the big ‘Seven’, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Steve McQueen share top thespic honors, although the others don’t lag by much, notably Horst Buchholz and Brad Dexter. Bronson fashions the most sympathetic character of the group. Coburn, particularly in an introductory sequence during which he reluctantly pits his prowess with a knife against a fast gun in an electrifying showdown, is a powerful study in commanding concentration.
Elmer Bernstein’s lively pulsating score, emphasizing conscious percussion, strongly resembles the work of Jerome Moross for The Big Country.
1960: Nomination: Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture