Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)    1 Stars


Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)
Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)


Director: Paul Wendkos

Cast: George Kennedy, James Whitmore, Monte Markham

Synopsis: A Mexican revolutionary hires an American gunslinger to organise the rescue of their leader from a brutal army prison.

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The big name cast is no longer available – due presumably to a vastly reduced budget, which also means that nothing remains of the epic sweep of the original Magnificent Seven. Chris, the leader of the seven, has been transformed from a striking, bald-headed, vaguely Eurasian looking man clad in black into an entirely ordinary blonde man portrayed by George Kennedy (The Sons of Katie Elder, Cool Hand Luke), one of those solid, dependable second-strings who never let you down but never surprised you either.

Instead of protecting a village from bandits, the new Seven are hired to free a politician, the leader of a peasant rebel movement, from unjust incarceration so that he can take his place at the head of a rebellion. They’re an ordinary bunch, this seven. Monte Markham, whom we first meet at the end of the rope, has nothing to do and goes into battle wearing a bright orange shirt, so we all know what’s going to happen to him; James Whitmore (Please Believe Me, Across the Wide Missouri) is the older Seven, a master knifes-man who isn’t quite as successful at farming; Joe Don Baker (Cool Hand Luke) is a disabled gunman who feels emasculated by his useless arm; someone else, whose name I don’t know, has a nasty cough with not a bottle of Covonia in sight.

The story is determinedly routine, capturing none of the excitement of the original movie, but it does boast some memorable images: a group of peasants dragged to their deaths by a troop of soldiers riding their horses in circles, another group hanging from telegraph-poles, yet more peasants buried up to their heads in the sand, awaiting a trampling from their captor’s horses. It’s all designed to put the audience firmly on the side of the mercenaries, but Michael Ansara (Road to Bali, The Robe), one of the few bright spots as a dastardly Mexican army officer, manages to do that all on his own.

(Reviewed 22nd February 2012)

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