There wasn’t one main thing about westerns that made me dismiss them when I was younger. In fact, I remember watching Stagecoach sometime in elementary school and liking it. But I hated John Wayne. When I first knew he existed I didn’t know why he was famous; when I found out he was an actor I felt like I got the joke – ohhhh right, that guy’s a HORRIBLE actor, ha ha! The fact that John Wayne seemed to be the epitome of a western actor did not bode well to me. Then I saw The Searchers in a summer camp film class the summer after 9th grade and my fears were confirmed: westerns are long, westerns are boring, women are property in westerns, and John Wayne sucks. That was the last time I wasted time on a western for a while.
In my defense, it would have helped to see cool westerns with cool guys like For A Few Dollars More or The Magnificent Seven. And in fact, The Magnificent Seven combines a lot of movie tropes that I’ve always loved: a good guy posse, male friendships, meeting each member of the posse individually, an unexpectedly bad bad guy, and sexy cowboys.
I admit I sort of laughed when I found out Eli Wallach was the bad guy. Eli Wallach? Of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly AND Keeping the Faith? Right, okay. He even acts jolly! Until he murders a man in front of his whole town for no reason. With that he enters different bad guy territory: an unexpectedly bad bad guy, the scariest kind. Wallach and his posse are terrorizing a Mexican village, pillaging it whenever they need supplies. The men of the town decide to hire guns to defend themselves. Then they meet Chris (Yul Brynner), a very casually sexy cowboy who tells them their money will go further if they hire gunmen instead of buy guns. Chris looks around at the villagers, sees their level of attractiveness, and realizes he must be the one to recruit the gunmen.
It doesn’t happen exactly like that but because of one of my favorite parts of the movie, he may as well have. Along with the main 7 and the bad guys, there are villages and posses full of extras throughout the movie. In any of these larger scenes with lots of characters, any of the 7 stick out like a sore thumb. Why? Because they are gorgeous and no one else is. It’s not even a case of the extras being made to look dirty or grimy; it’s straight up attractiveness. The 7 all look like movie stars, and even though there are ranks of attractiveness within the 7, all of the extras just look like normal people. The contrast was so stark I made up a subplot that included sexy radar that all of the 7 must have had in order to find each other.
Chris, who looks like this:
picks up Vin, played by Steve McQueen, who looks like this:
Together they gather Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), who looks like this:
Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson), who, no joke, looks like THIS:
Britt (James Coburn), who looks like this (cute butt added for good measure):
And Lee (Robert Vaughn), who looks like this:
The six men start to get followed around by Chico, a local villager played by the hilariously German-named Horst Buchholz, and they have no choice but to take him along because he looks like this:
Anyway, each of the 7 has a niche skill that they bring to the good guy posse. I expected there to be one big, final showdown between the 7 and Wallach and his posse, which the 7 would win, which made me think I sort of knew how the whole thing was going to end. There is a big showdown, which the 7 win, but it doesn’t end there. Chico infiltrates the bad posse and finds out that they’re coming back, and soon, because they’re out of food. The 7 ride out to meet the posse and deal with them there, but find the camp abandoned. When they come back to the village they find it overtaken by the bad posse. Knowing they’ve won, the bad posse lets the 7 go, figuring the 7 have just found out that this village isn’t worth dying for. After the bad posse leads the 7 out of the village and gives them back their guns, Britt is immediately ready to go back, pissed off that they were bested. Everyone but Harry agrees to go back and fight; Harry rides off on his own just to come back to the village in the nick of time to save Chris from being shot. In the end, Chris shoots Wallach and all but he, Vin, and Chico of the 7 are killed trying to save the village. The 7 technically win, but as Chris says in the last lines, “We lost. We’ll always lose.”
So, The Magnificent Seven was not only not boring but it was actually cool and full of eye candy in tight jeans. I’m annoyed with myself for not watching this sooner, but I also just blame John Wayne. If this dude was instead the ultimate face in cowboy badassery:
instead of the lumbering, eternally-an-old-man-who-can’t-act John Wayne, I probably would have wanted to watch this a lot sooner.