Greatest Film Scenes
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The Magnificent Seven (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

In director John Sturges' very popular, shoot-em-up western, with a memorable, Oscar-nominated score by Elmer Bernstein - it was a westernized, 'updated' remake and adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's Japanese film epic The Seven Samurai (1954) about Samurai warrior-swordsmen that defended a 14th century village.

The box-office "feel-good" hit inspired three sequels (1966, 1969, 1972) and a remake in 2016, and a late 1990s TV series. The sequels were Return of the Seven (1966), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972).

The ensemble film was mostly a character study of the seven demythologized gunslingers, all basically drifters who came together to serve as a vigilante force to protect a terrorized Mexican town and its oppressed peasant villagers from invading and pillaging bandits. The "magnificent seven" group were mostly low-paid, misfit, macho, mercenary gun-slinging American outlaws.

There was a mixed bag of motives for each of the gunfighters to accept the job - greed or fortune seeking (thoughts of a possible treasure), a chance at employment, to seek sanctuary or protection from the law, moral and social conscience issues, and just plain adventurism.

  • in the film's opening, ruthless gold-toothed, Mexican bandit leader Calvera (Eli Wallach) with his 40-man bandito gang, again terrorized and raided the small Mexican town of Ixcatlan seeking food and supplies; they made annual raids at the end-of-season harvest-time and regularly intimidated, plundered and oppressed the poverty-stricken peasant folk; during the marauding attack, one rural peasant villager objected and ran at Calvera with a machete and was shot dead
  • fed up with the latest raid, the village elder (Vladimir Sokoloff) (credited as The Old Man) suggested to a three-man delegation that the village must fight back and purchase or barter for guns for their defense in the nearest American border town; when one of the three peasants, Hilario (Jorge Martínez de Hoyos) pleaded: "Even if we had the guns, we know how to plant and grow, we don't know how to kill," the Old Man responded: "Then learn, or die!"
  • in a border town, the three villagers watched as the undertaker Chamlee (Whit Bissell) explained how no one would drive the mortician's valuable hearse carrying the body of an Indian named Sam to the nearby Boot Hill Cemetery for burial - everyone was intimidated by racist and bigoted individuals in town; two gunslingers - black-clad Cajun leader and veteran Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) from Dodge City, and drifter Vin (Steve McQueen) as his shot-gun partner quickly volunteered for the job; Vin outdrew a shooter from an upstairs window in town, but then they faced a "reception committee" of five men formed at the cemetery; when the two were threatened and ordered to turn around, a brief shoot-out broke out and quick-draw Chris shot two of the resistant men in the arm; six men were quickly selected to carry the coffin into the graveyard, without any further trouble
  • after witnessing the altercation and the impressive performance of Chris and Vin, the three Mexican peasants from the town of Ixcatlan approached him and requested that Chris buy weapons for them to defend their village from Calvera; as a cheaper alternative to guns and ammunition, Chris advised that they hire a mercenary group of gunslingers: ("Guns are very expensive and hard to get....Nowadays, men are cheaper than guns"); the villagers claimed they were too poor to pay anything more than $20 dollars for 6 weeks' work; without volunteering himself to fight, Chris reluctantly agreed to help them recruit a group of "good men" - gunmen
  • [Note: Later Chris described the job simply as: "A gold eagle, room and board. Six weeks gunning for some farmers."]
Six Recruited Men Hired by Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) to Defend Village

Harry Luck (Brad Dexter)

Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen)

Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson)

Britt (James Coburn)

Lee (Robert Vaughn)

Chico (Horst Buchholz)
  • the first individual to be considered was Chico (Horst Buchholz), a young, impetuous vulnerable and hot-tempered man from a peasant family, but was inexperienced as a gunslinger; he was initially rejected after being tested by Chris for his lack of speed, who remarked when Chico failed: "The graveyards are full of boys who were very young and very proud"
  • the next to join was Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), who was skeptically hopeful about what was really being offered - speculating about some hidden benefits: ("Gold? Cattle? Payroll?")
  • in the bar, Vin had just gone broke from gambling on craps, and couldn't support himself on $20 dollars for 6 weeks (with room and board), but quickly added himself to the group when Chris bought him a drink
  • out behind a farm owner's house, Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson) - who had fallen on hard times and was broke - was chopping wood for his breakfast, and felt like $20 dollars was a good deal
  • in one of the film's most impressive sequences, silent but deadly knife-thrower cowboy Britt (James Coburn) was challenged to two knife-versus-gun, fast-draw face-offs with hot-headed, haughty gunman Wallace (Robert J. Wilke); during their second deadly contest, Wallace ended up the loser with a knife in his chest - unable to draw faster than Britt. Immediately afterwards, Chris asked to recruit Britt into their team: ("Can l have a word with you?") and shortly later Britt gave his consent
  • the last of the group of six to join was Lee (Robert Vaughn) who was "on the run" and agreed to participate; Chris told Vin about him: "He's a good gun. And we aren't heading for a church social"
  • in summary, the various members of the group were identified as they joined the team -
    • Harry Luck, a greedy and cynical, jovial treasure-seeker/gold-hunter
    • Vin Tanner, an easy-going gambler/drifter, broke and restless, but refused to work as a grocery store clerk
    • Bernardo O'Reilly, a brawny, Irish-Mexican wood-worker and war veteran, broke, a friend of Harry's; "Mexican on one side, Irish on the other, and me in the middle"
    • Britt, an enigmatic loner, a knife-thrower and cow-puncher
    • Lee, a well-dressed, dapper, destitute and traumatized veteran and fugitive after losing his nerve during the war and becoming a deserter; suffering from nightmares and guilt
    • the resolute, previously-rejected, young and hot-headed Chico (Horst Buchholz) from a peasant family - he followed after the group as they rode toward the village with the three-man village delegation; Chris was impressed by Chico's continuing determination ("won't take no for an answer") and invited him to join the group - making them "The Magnificent Seven"
  • as the group rode into the Mexican village, it was eerily quiet, without any women and children visible; one of villagers in the 3-man delegation accused his fellow villagers of being fearful cowards and the Old Man agreed: "They are afraid of everyone and everything"; Chico also called the villagers "chickens" - "We're ready to risk our lives to help you. And you? You hide from us!"; then he challenged them to join the group: "You prove to us that you're worth fighting for....We'll let you know when to fight and how to fight"
  • Britt and Lee were sent by Chris to apprehend three of Calvera's gang members nearby who were scouting in an arroyo, but Chico botched the plan to bring one of them back alive by killing one of the men; Britt was forced to kill a second man, and then as the third escaped on horseback, he shot him from a long distance, but felt like he didn't deserve compliments from Chico: ("That was the greatest shot I've ever seen") - Britt retorted: "The worst! I was aiming at the horse"
  • during preparations for an upcoming showdown with the outlaws, the 'Seven" trained the villagers to defend themselves; they taught them how to properly pull a trigger on a gun or rifle, and had them build a fortifications-rock wall and an entrapping drop-net
  • Chico discovered the reason for the absence of women when he was being spied upon by one of the local peasant girls named Petra (Rosenda Monteros) as he was mock bull-fighting; he learned the females were deliberately hidden away to prevent them from being raped by the group of seven gunslingers; Chris assured them that they were defending them, and ordered them brought back to the village; soon after, Chico and Petra fell in love with each other although it was frowned upon by her father

The Approach of the Banditos

Mexican Bandit Leader Calvera (Eli Wallach)

Beginning of Shoot-Out
  • in one of the more dramatic scenes, Calvera rode into the village with members of his marauding gang of 40 men (his approach was signaled by sentries along the way); he was undeterred by the sole presence of Chris, Britt and Vin who greeted him and his men in the village square; it was the first of two initial deadly skirmishes (before the final confrontational shoot-out)
  • Chris warned Calvera that the newly-built rock walls were not made to keep them out, but to keep them inside, but the leader was unphased: ("Did you hear that? We're trapped! All forty of us! By these three, or is it four?"); Chris suggested that if Calvera would "ride on" there wouldn't be any trouble; Calvera offered Chris to share the spoils of the town ("Suppose I offer you equal shares?...Everything. To the last grain"), but was soundly rejected; Calvera even insulted the villagers: "If God didn't want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep"; the townsfolk and gunslingers opened fire on the banditos, and used the nets to entrap them; after they fled, shortly later, the bandits counted up eleven of their gang dead
  • after scaring off the marauders, the villagers were exultant about their newfound courage ("There are other villages...that don't sting the way we do"), but prematurely believed the threat was over when other gunfire erupted; Bernardo was told by three young boys that they had adopted him: ("If you get killed, we avenge you. And we see to it that there's always fresh flowers on your grave"); Bernardo became a beloved father figure for the boys
  • while awaiting the next move by Calvera, the gunslingers expressed their envy at the settled family life of the townspeople, and their bonds with the children; they had no homes, wives, families, and were always on the move (renting rooms and eating in hash houses - "Prospects: Zero"); on the positive side, they weren't tied down and they weren't often insulted
  • in a very courageous and impressive move, Chico disguised himself as a bandito (with crisscrossing gunbelts and a large sombrero from one of the dead men), and infiltrated the Mexican camp where he discovered a second attack was imminent because Calvera's men were desperate, starving, broke and out of food (Calvera: "There's still plenty of us here to make them pay")
  • after suffering a nightmare about losing his nerve on the battlefield and deserting his post, Lee discussed his fears with some of the cowardly villagers, who were beginning to doubt their ability to defend themselves ("We know what fear is. We live with it all our lives. Only the dead are without fear")
  • shortly later, Chico reported back to the group that Calvera would attack again; some of the villagers urged the gunslingers to leave so that the killing would stop: "We're surrounded. Outnumbered ....Go away. All of you. Get on your horses and go. Let Calvera have the food. Give him what he wants. At least we'll be alive"; Chris refused to give up because of their "contract" to aid the villagers, and almost everyone agreed with him; however, they realized that they had miscalculated Calvera's determination: "We figured to raise the ante just enough to make Calvera play someplace else. We figured wrong"
  • when Chico boasted to Petra that he was a true gunslinger who would never desert his nomadic pals, her loving looks and kiss softened his bravado - and they began to fall in love
  • the gunslingers went to the banditos' camp to confront them and steal their horses, but found the camp empty; meanwhile, in a second deadly surprise raid, Calvera and his men infiltrated into the village with the help of Sotero (Rico Alaniz) - one of the traitorous and fearful villagers; when the Magnificent Seven returned, they were surrounded at gunpoint by Calvera's men
  • Calvera was ready to bargain and spare the lives of the 'Magnificent Seven' in exchange for leaving the village, hoping that the gunslingers would give up their futile and unwinnable fight for the peasants' plight, and not alert the US Army; he offered to take their gunbelts, and give them back once they departed: ("You go, then I give you the guns back. I know you won't use those guns against me. Only a crazy man makes the same mistake twice")
  • when Calvera asked Chris why they took the job in the first place, Vin cryptically explained why the 'seven' had been motivated to defend the town without any monetary reward: "It's like a fellow I once knew in El Paso. One day, he just took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him that same question: 'Why?'...He said, 'It seemed to be a good idea at the time.'"
  • as Bernardo was packing up his things to leave, he lectured the idolizing children that had befriended him and told them to not be ashamed of their parents' cowardice: "Don't you ever say that again about your fathers because they are not cowards! You think I am brave because I carry a gun? Well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there's nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery. That's why I never even started anything like that. That's why I never will."
  • after being escorted from the village, the gunslingers were given back their guns; Chico was angered that they had been sold out by the farmers, until he was reminded by Chris that he came from a farming family: ("Sure you hate them. Because you come from a village just like that one. You yourself are a farmer"); Chico blamed men with guns for their plight: "But who made us the way we are? Hmm? Men with guns. Men like Calvera and men like you. And now me. So what do you expect us to be?"

Harry's Death in Chris' Arms

Lee's Death

Britt's Death

Bernardo's Death With Three Children
  • except for Harry, most of the gunslingers decided to return for the film's climactic shoot-out; the first to be fatally shot was Harry who had a change of heart and came back - he attempted to save Chris' life and died as he was assured that there were precious stones buried in the mountains that he had fought for ("Gold. Sacks of it"); the next to die was Lee (who saved several captive villagers from their captors but lost his life), and then the heroic Britt; Bernardo died in the arms of three children that he had befriended and reminded them to look at their fathers ("You see? I told you. You see your fathers?") - during the fight, the villagers were emboldened by the group's courage against the odds and joined in with brooms, chairs, shovels and whatever weapons they could find
  • during Calvera's death scene after being shot by Chris, he asked: "You came back - for a place like this. Why? A man like you. Why?" but he didn't receive an answer before expiring; the few remaining banditos fled from the village
  • afterwards, only three of the seven had survived (Chico, Chris, and Vin); as the three gunslingers departed, the village elder wisely observed that only the village farmers had won, not the gunslingers: "Only the farmers have won. They remain forever. They are like the land itself. You helped to rid them of Calvera, the way a strong wind helps rid them of locusts. You are like the wind - blowing over the land and passing on. Vaya con dios."
  • only Chico decided to turn back and remain in the village to marry Petra; the film concluded with Chris' pessimistic words to Vin as they glanced at the gravesites of their fallen companions: "The Old Man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose"

Village Elder (Old Man) (Vladimir Sokoloff)

Worried Undertaker Chamlee (Whit Bissell) in American Border Town

Chris Adams (Yul Brynner)

Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) and Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen) Riding Atop Hearse

Stand-Off of Five Armed Townsfolk at the Entrance to the Cemetery

Three-Man Village Peasant Delegation Asking Chris to Buy Guns For Them

Chico Tested by Chris and Rejected - He Was Found To Be Too Slow a Quick-Draw

Knife-Thrower Britt's Face-Off Against Gunman Wallace (Robert J. Wilke)

Chico Challenging the Villagers to Not Be Cowards

Britt to Chico: "The worst! I was aiming at the horse"

Training the Villagers to Shoot

Petra (Rosenda Monteros) Encountered by Chico

Bernardo Adopted By Three Young Friends

Chico Disguised as a Bandito to Briefly Infiltrate Calvera's Gang

Chico's Boasting Bravado to Petra, Who Was Falling In Love With Him

Calvera's Surprise Infiltration of the Village - Bargaining For the Magnificent Seven to Leave

Bernardo's Lecture to the Children About Their Parents' Cowardice

Chico's Anger at the Farmers

Climactic Shoot-Out

The Lingering Death of Calvera Asking Chris: "Why? A man like you. Why?"

The Old Man's Wise Words As the Three Surviving Gunslingers Departed

The Gravesites of the Fallen


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