The Magnificent Seven

     The Magnificent Seven“Nobody throws me my guns and says, ‘run’.  Nobody”.   An outstanding western and some debate whether it is the best western of all time.  Whether it is or not may be a question, but whether it is a classic is not.  This is definitely a classic with an all-star cast of Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, and Eli Wallach.  Based on the Japanese movie “Seven Samurai” by Akira Kurosawa, The Magnificent Seven was re-created as a western for American audiences.  Many of the actors and directors were so amazed by the Japanese movie, they had to re-make it for Americans as the story was too compelling.

Plot:  The plot is that a small Mexican village is being terrorized by a gang of bandits lead by Calvera (Eli Wallach).  They send 3 villagers to an American border town to find guns to fight.  They approach Chris (Yul Brynner) about their issue, but he suggests hiring gunmen to fight because they are cheaper than guns & bullets.  They beg Chris to lead them until he finally relents and recruits the other six gunmen, with each being known for their talents.  Knowing they are outnumbered by the gang, they believe Calvera will move on when he thinks he has to actually fight.  Unfortunately, they are mistaken.  Chico (Horst Bucholz), being Mexican, is able to infiltrate the gang and find out they are returning for the fight because they are broke & starving.  The Seven debate leaving because they did not expect the war and the villagers are nervous of Calvera’s rage if they lose.  Instead, The Seven decide on a suprise attack on the gang’s hideout, but no one is there.  The scared villagers have let Calvera in the village and they capture the Seven upon their return.  Fearing an American reprisal by killing them and hoping they see the villagers unworthy of protecting, he takes them out and frees them.  Despite the odds, they return to protect the villagers in an epic battle.  Seeing the courage of the Seven, the villagers take up arms and drive the men out and killing Calvera.  After the battle, some of the Seven didn’t make it.  Chris states that only the villagers won as the realization of the life of a gunman.

Commentary:  The movie is excellent and a must see for any movie fan.  Despite the all-star cast, I couldn’t help but feel the impact of Eli Wallach as Calvera.  Of the great westerns, you’ll find he’s in the better ones…The Magnificent Seven, The Good The Bad & The Ugly, & How the West was Won.  Not to mention, Wallach is in many other great, non-western films as well.  His Mexican bandit/bad guy characters were legendary.  He was believable as ruthless, but was also able to interject comedy & humor with a bit of evilness in it.  Definitely an iconic actor, but you rarely here of his contributions to films.

Trivia:  A bit of trivia in the film was the drama between Steve McQueen & Yul Brynner.  Brynner was the bigger star and felt that McQueen was trying to upstage him by using body movements, shaking bullet shells, and tipping his hat to draw attention to his character while Yul was speaking.  Brynner also tried to appear taller than McQueen, even to the point of building a little mound in the dirt, which McQueen would kick down each time he passed it.  Although Brynner specifically requested McQueen for this role in the film, Brynner later regretted it as they developed a quite contentious relationship on set.  On a positive note, Brynner was married during the filming on the set.  The decorations for the wedding were the same ones used in the fiesta scenes.  Ahhh, love on Hollywood’s dime.

This is an iconic movie and, even though its greatness level can be debated, it is a great film that I encourage you to see.

**  Just click the images to check out “The Magnificent Seven” at Amazon.com **


Young Guns II

     Young Guns II – “I’ll make ya’ famous.”  Not many sequals live up to or surpass the originals, but I have to say that this one pulls it off.  Critics didn’t like it at Rotten Tomatoes only giving it 36%, but fans love this movie giving it 4.5 stars at Amazon.com.  The movie seems bigger with how the shots are done and the action scenes draw you in better.  But, they do make one mistake that so many sequals tend to make….enter the goofy kid.  Why they do this, I’ll never know.  But luckily, the kid is not treated well or turned into some great hero as most others do.  They keep him to reality, so it’s not bad like other movies.  The best part is that Billy is more of a wise-ass now, arrogant, and still twisted.  He feels invincible.  This makes the movie fun to watch.

The plot is the story of Brushy Bill Roberts, who claimed he was Billy the Kid and still wants his pardon.  To prove himself the lawyer, he tells his tale.  The Lincoln County War is now over and they’re dragging back all the criminals for hanging.  Doc Skurlock (Keifer Sutherland) is dragged back from New York, Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips) is already captured.  Billy (Emilio Estevez) is running wild with Pat Garrett (William Peterson) and Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh (Christian Slater).  They break out the old regulators and reunite the gang, but Garrett leaves Billy’s gang while he still has a good name.  The rest try to head for Old Mexico.  However, the powerful men still want them dead and hire Garrett as sherriff to chase them down.  Will he catch them?  Billy big on “pals”.  Or, will he find a way to let Billy slip through.

As mentioned before, the movie is bigger than life.  The filming is better and the music fits perfectly.  The action scenes seem more realistic and Billy’s character is over the top.  Being an outlaw on the run, you would expect some of the antics he pulls off.  Also, many of the actual historical aspects are included such as his conversation with the Governor, his capture and escape killing Bob Ollinger, and the capture with Pat Garrett.  While many liberties were taken as all films do, the dialogue during the escape with Bob Ollinger is supposed to be 100% accurate.  One interesting fact is the cameo of Jon Bon Jovi getting shot in the escape from the pit.  As the musical artist who did the soundtrack, he requested to be included in the movie….and he wanted to get shot rather than just some bit part on screen.  I like that attitude.

So, the critics hate it, but what do they know?  People who watch the movie enjoy it and that’s what great movies are all about.

**  Just click the images to check out “Young Guns II” at Amazon.com **


Treasure of the Sierra Madre

     Treasure of the Sierra Madre – OUTSTANDING FILM !!!!  I’ve said before that Westerns aren’t my main movie genre to enjoy, but good is good is good.   This movie was made in 1948 and had I not researched for the best films, I might have never seen it.  Some of the best movies are lost on the modern generation because we’re always looking at today’s movies.  That’s why I look and go back to find these absolute gems.  Ironically, this is the film that includes a couple of the most famous movie lines in history.  Bogart’s famous, “Hey Mister, would you stake a fellow American to a meal?”.  I heard this line numerous times in Bugs Bunny cartoons and never knew it was a parody of a classic movie.  And finally, “Badges, we ain’t got no badges.  We don’t have no badges.  I don’t need to show you no stinkin’ badges.” is practically known by everyone.  The best parody of this line is seen in Blazing Saddles, which is also reviewed here.  Listed as #30 on AFI’s top movies of all time, a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an underrated 4.5 stars on Amazon.com, you know this movie’s a hit.

The plot is that Fred Dobbs (Bogart) and Bob Curtain (Tim Holt) are down on their luck in a small Mexican town.  Offered a job by a scoundrel, they work to make money.  When the guy tries to stiff them, they have to fight to get their money.  Ending up in a bunkhouse for the poor, they meet Howard (Walter Huston) who is an old prospector.  With no other promising future, they pool their money and set out prospecting for gold.  Howard warns them about what gold does to a man.  As their luck should have it, they strike it rich, but as they start accumulating the wealth, Dobbs starts wondering if he can trust his partners.  Bandits and a stranger force them to work as a team and calms the fears temporarily, but as they begin back down the mountain those thoughts start creeping back in.  Howard has to leave Dobbs & Curtain to see some indians that he helps.  He doesn’t have a choice in the matter.  Unfortunately, the desert heat gets the minds wondering again.  I won’t spoil the ending.  You’ll have to watch this classic to see if they make it back down rich men.  The ending was perfect and likely not what you would expect…..I didn’t.

The movie is an absolute classic and is “dirt cheap” (pun intended) at Amazon.com.  Highly rated by every movie site and in 1990, it was selected for preservation by the United States Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically, or esthetically significant.  Finally, our Congress got something right.  It also won several oscars for performances and directing, but lost best picture to Hamlet by Lawrence Olivier.  This movie is one for the ages.

** Just click the image to see “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” at Amazon.com **


Young Guns

     Young Guns – I’ve mentioned before that Westerns are not my favorite movie genre.  But, I do have a deep interest in famous criminals regardless of where or when they operated.  In 1988, Young Guns came out and was considered the most historically accurate film of Billy the Kid.  Well, it is a loose adaptation of Billy the Kid, but don’t count it as too accurate.  But, this is a fun movie with tons of action, comedy, and intense moments to keep you entertained.  The main reason I enjoy this movie is the carefree way the characters interact.  It’s over the top….guns blazing…fun from the beginning.

The plot, as mentioned, is the basic origins of Billy the Kid and his early adventures.  Billy the Kid (aka William H Bonney), played by Emelio Estevez, is a petty thief when taken in by John Tunstel, a British cattle rancher and store owner.  Billy joins up with his band of “Regulators” to protect Tunstel’s assets.  But, the Lincoln County war is about to begin as Tunstel has enemies with the well-connected Irish cattle rancher and store owner named Murphy.  In the American Old West, men solved things with guns (well, in the movies anyway.)  After Tunstel is murdered in an ambush by Murphy’s men, the “Regulators” become deputies to serve warrants against the ones behind it.  Billy can’t wait for arrests and courts and begins to administer justice on his own.  Unfortunately, this turns them into outlaws and they’re on the run.  But, Billy isn’t stopping until Murphy, the main person guilty in Tunstel’s murder, is delivered justice.

This movie is given 4 stars by Amazon, so saddle up and get your pistols ready.  The beauty of this western is its light-heartedness.  There are serious moments, but even the most intense moments are usually broken up with some good one-liner humor or comical statements.  Emilio Estevez plays Billy the Kid with a youthful charm with mean streak that seems to sneak up on you.  Honestly, he’s so good that I can’t picture the real Billy the Kid being much different.  But, his loyalty to friends is refreshing.  The ending is pressure packed as it is the Regulators against the world.  But, they’re not giving up without a fight.  Will justice be done?  Will our heroes escape?  You’ll be pulling out your own 6-shooters trying to help.

** Just click the image to check out “Young Guns” at Amazon.com **


The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

      The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly – This Italian western classic is a must see.  Widely considered top 10 on any great western movie list you can find, you can not go wrong with this film.  This movie is the 3rd and final installment of “The Man With No Name” trilogy.  A collection of westerns where Clint Eastwood’s character did not really have a name.  The best thing is that they were all great movies.  When it initially came out, critics were not too impressed though.  However, this movie has stood the test of time and is now  considered a classic…just like the other 2 (A Fist Full of Dollars & For A Few Dollars More…reviews are here of these 2 as well.)

The plot is that the American Civil War is going on.  Clint Eastwood, who is sometimes called “Blondie” in this film (The Good), is teamed up with Tuco (The Ugly), who is a wanted man.  Blondie turns him in to collect the reward money.  As they try to hang Tuco, Blondie shoots the rope and they escape together to split the money.  Well, they part ways in an unfriendly way and Tuco is seeking revenge.  In the process, they discover the location of Confederate gold treasure.  However, Tuco knows the location and Blondie knows the exact spot in that location.  So, they are forced to go together.  On the way, they stumble into a Yankee prison camp run by Angel Eyes (The Bad) and he’s after the treasure as well.  They manage to escape and work their way to the treasure….Now, our 3 gunslingers must figure out who gets what……BANG!!!

You’ll discover over time that I’m not a huge western fan, but this is an excellent film.  There are twists, turns, and violence on every level.  There is drama as we follow our heroes on their journey.  There is comedy with the relationships between Tuco & Blondie as the one liners flow back and forth.  Any of the movies in the “Man With No Name” Trilogy is excellent and I have the collection.  This trilogy is not sequels, but stand alone movies involving the same character.  My list of western movies that you’ll find here will be somewhat limited, the ones that I do enjoy are outstanding with a great script, action, and suspense.

**  Just click the image to see “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” at Amazon.com **


For a Few Dollars More

 For a Few Dollars More – The second installment of the “Man With No Name” series is called “For a Few Dollars More”.  Honestly, I enjoyed this movie even better than the first movie, A Fist Full of Dollars.  Both are excellent, but this one had a better story to me.  Clint Eastwood is at his classic best in this western.

The plot is that Eastwood teams up with another bounty hunter to take down “El Indio”, a ruthless, psychotic killer that is very cunning, and his band of outlaws.  Indio has a watch that chimes that he stole from a woman that killed herself while he was raping her.  Indio intends to rob a bank and Eastwood’s character infiltrates the group.  After the robbery, the treachery begins for the gang, Eastwood, and Indio.  Eastwood & his bounty hunter friend get caught and savagely beats them.  Indio sets them free and has the gang chase as he tries to get away with the money.  That’s when our bounty hunters go to work on the gang and sets up the ultimate showdown.

This movie is more tense and more intelligent than the first movie to me and is much more entertaining.  If you like the old American style westerns (although this is actually an Italian film), you can’t go wrong with this movie.  It’s intense, full of action, and full of intrique that will keep you engulfed in the story.  I have all 3 films of the “Man With No Name” trilogy and all are outstanding, but this one just might be the best.

**  Just click the image to see “For A Few Dollars More” at Amazon.com **


A Fistful of Dollars

A Fistful of Dollars – Clint Eastwood was young, sexy to the ladies, and was as cool as any actor out there.  This 1967 classic western is considered the first of the “Man with No Name” trilogy.  Clint epitomized what every man wanted to be.  As he approaches the bad guys, he tells the undertaker, “Get 3 coffins ready.”  POW POW POW POW  “My mistake, 4 coffins.”  Obviously, Americans love their westerns and the heroes of the genre.  Eastwood delivers in several classic films.

The plot is that a mysterious gunman appears in a border town that is terrorized by rival smuggling groups. The gunman joins both groups to maximize his money and ultimately take down both groups of ruthless bandits.  Of course, Eastwood gets all the money.

Controversy haunted this film as the this movie was accused of stealing its concept from the Japanese movie Yojimbo from 1961.  While I haven’t seen that film, I can attest that this movie a great western and Eastwood’s cool delivery and sarcastic wit is critical to the feel and suspense of the movie.  When you watch this movie, you’ll be on the edge of your seat almost the entire time.

** Just click the image to see this movie at Amazon.com **