Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972)

Director: George McCowan

Writer: Arthur Rowe

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Stefanie Powers, Michael Callan, Mariette Hartley, Luke Askew, Pedro Armendariz Jr., Ralph Waite, Melissa Murphy, William Lucking, James Sikking, Ed Lauter, Allyn Ann McLerie, Gary Busey, Robert Jaffe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Brand New Seven -- Doing Their Number! They put their lives on the line and let it ride!

Plot: Forced by personal circumstances, Marshal Chris Adams recruits a writer and five prisoners to help him eliminate a gang of Mexican bandits.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

I have a lot to say about this one.  This picture borders on greatness.  Really.  But it's a few little things that add up to enough to weigh it down with cheapness.  First there's the town where Lee Van Cleef (as Chris) is the marshal.  I shouldn't say it's the town that's the problem but however it was filmed.  It looks a little cheap like it was shot for television.

That screenshot doesn't show it well enough but the town doesn't feel lived in and authentic as how it might in a bigger budgeted picture.  Maybe it was the camera or the film but it just has that cheapness to the sets that I don't dig.  Then you've got the music.  Elmer Bernstein did all four of the Magnificent Seven films and each one uses the same main themes from the first one.  They're great themes but they tend to get stale after a while mostly because they've been used in every film and they're used often.  That problem carries over into this picture but there's the added problem of some of the cues being used inappropriately.  I'm sure it was the fault of the director or studio who wanted to shoehorn those themes in as much as possible despite where the scene needed music or not or needed that theme or a new one.  For example, the rousing main theme (you know the one) is heard when Chris and Noah (Callan) are headed South into Mexico to find the three bank robbers who kidnapped Chris' wife on the way out of town.   MAGNIFICENT SPOILERS AHEAD!!!  Chris and Noah find his wife dead and evidence that she was raped.  Chris is naturally pissed and he's got some harsh revenge to mete out.  They soon find two of the three men they're looking for and Chris, after a brief interrogation, kills them both in cold blood.  Now keep in mind that he's a lawman held in such high esteem that he's on friendly terms with the Governor of his state.  Minutes later he and Noah are riding to find the final bank robber.  Now it's been more than established that Chris is a tough and hard man.  He's a no bullshit kind of guy and his career body count is staggering.  You don't fuck with this guy, see?  So now he's hellbent on revenge at any cost and behind all of that is the rousing upbeat Magnificent Seven theme.  Really?  WTF?  Exactly.  This is just one of a few examples where the music is strangely inappropriately used.  Bernstein does provide some wonderful music that was written for this film once Chris & Co. get to the small Mexican village where they take a stand.

The script in the first hour is sometimes clumsy with the dialogue.  Every once in a while someone will say something forced or just plain dumb.  The priest's entrance is a prime example.  It literally feels like the actor was simply to stand there and not say much but the actor has other ideas and forcibly interjects himself into the conversation.  It's awkward to say the least.  Outside of these gripes (and to me they're big enough to hurt the picture), the movie is fucking fantastic.  At this point in the picture (about a third in) shit gets real.

We're only told and shown just enough of the main baddie, the Mexican bandito know as De Toro (Ron Stein) to serve the film.  He's got a little dialogue and I'm completely OK with that because there's a lot more going on with Chris' revenge plans, the criminals he recruited to help him and the town of nearly all women (because all of their men were killed by De Toro).  De Toro was fleshed out to the right amount needed.  The supporting characters are nicely done, especially Chris' criminal compatriots.  Of the five of them you don't always know who is good (for Chris) and who isn't and the characters say or do things sometimes that change your opinions on them.  Then there's one of the greatest cinema badasses of all time in the form of Lee Van Cleef.  He's so hardcore badass in this movie I felt a vagina growing inside of me and my masculinity disappearing.  And because he's who he is that it's really tough hearing people call him Chris.  He's just not a Chris.  It's too soft for this cat. 

The final half of the picture is about as good as you can get.  It's violent, brutal and fun.  The Seven have a few tricks up their sleeve when De Toro comes a-ridin' into town and they do a fine job of it but not so well that it's going to be easy.  They just even the odds out a little more like instead of 10 to 1 it's 6 to 1.  There's no point in trying to figure out who makes it to the end credits or who snuffs it.  The casualty list is long. 

This is the last of the four Magnificent Seven pictures and I'm very impressed with this series (except for the second one, RETURN).  As they stack up in my book it's the first one, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) (and some of that has to do with being the first and that amazing cast), the third, GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1969), the fourth (this one) and RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1966).  I won't be seeing RETURN again.  The rest will get many replays before I snuff it.

For what it's worth, this is as close to a smile as you get from Lee Van Cleef...

No comments:

Post a Comment