GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
The Magnificent Seven are back – and they don’t aim to please!
GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is a 1969 American Western. The director was Paul Wendkos and the film starred George Kennedy, Michael Ansara, James Whitmore, Joe Don Baker, Bernie Casey, Reni Santoni, Scott Thomas, and Monte Markham. The movie is the second sequel to the original MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)following the rather dismal RETURN OF THE SEVEN (1966).
George Kennedy as Chris Adams – he leads as much with his heart as he does with his head.
Monte Markham as Keno – no questions asked and no answers given.
James Whitmore as Levi Morgan – the oldest and wisest of the group.
Bernie Casey as Cassie – Gatling gun or dynamite either way he is explosive.
Joe Don Baker as Matt Slater – the ex-Confederate one-armed gunman.
Reni Santoni as Maximiliano “Max” O’Leary – he risks all for the Revolution and for the Seven.
Scott Thomas as P.J. Scurlock – he proved to be more than man enough for the job.
Michael Ansara as Colonel Diego
Tony Davis as Emilio Zapata
Frank Silvera as Lobero
Wende Wagner as Tina
Sancho Garcia as Miguel
Fernando Rey as Angel Quintero
In the Old West, a Mexican revolutionary hires and then joins six American gunfighters to rescue the revolutionary leader from a brutal Army prison.
In this film the role of the leader Chris Adams was played by George Kennedy – who had just come off winning an Academy Award for his role in COOL HAND LUKE (1967). Yul Brynner was not interested in playing Chris a third time. Kennedy’s full head of hair and white shirt was in sharp contrast to Brynner’s baldpate and black clothes. But the character maintained his steel resolve and penchant for cigars.
Monte Markham’s character Keno served the same purpose as Steve McQueen’s Vin in the original. On top of that he wore McQueen’s clothes from the movie as well.
Bernie Casey made his film debut in this movie and went on to appear in more than forty films.
The movie did well on the international market but unfortunately it was released at the same time as Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH (1969). Peckinpah’s film was considered an instant classic by critics and GUNS suffered in comparison. Personally I prefer GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. But then again what do I know? I’m just the guy who dishes out money to see the films in the theaters.
I wrote an article back in June about the original THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. If you haven’t read it check it out because it’s damn good! If I do say so myself. I said back then that not only is THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN a great movie but it is my favorite western of all time. Perhaps because of that I am a little hard on the sequels and follow-ups that have come since the original was released. I did not like RETURN OF THE SEVEN which was the first sequel and that is why I did not write a review of that movie. I also did not like that last of the sequels THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE! (1972) and will not write a review of that movie either. But I like GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and believe it is a worthy sequel to the original.
What don’t I like about this movie? Let’s tackle that first. It lacks the theme of the original. The original was about warriors who no longer had a war to fight, warriors who had outlived their time. That theme is totally lacking in this movie. In fact this movie could take place at just about any time in the old west. Granted that it deals with a “Mexican revolution” but the actual Mexican Revolution started in 1910 and this movie does not take place in 1910. The young boy in the movie is introduced as Emiliano Zapata. Now, Zapata was an actual revolutionary and if this boy is he then the movie takes place in the late 1880s. However, the original THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN takes place in the late 1890s – which is why they lament about having outlived their purpose. By that time the age of the gunfighter had come to an end. By making this movie take place at least ten years before the original it eliminates the original theme. If anything that makes this movie a prequel and not a sequel. The movie taking place in an earlier time eliminates the original theme and waters down the soul of the movie. That is a major weakness of this film.
I also didn’t like the way the P.J. character got short-changed in this movie. The most fun part of the original is when Chris recruits the seven. Each character gets his own little time to shine and some of the sequences are like mini-movies in themselves. We get that as well in this movie with each character except P.J. He walks in with no backstory – other than he apparently is sick – joins the group and that is it. Now recognizing that they did that the filmmakers tried to make up for it by making him have the romantic relationship in the movie. But it wasn’t enough and I still felt short-changed on this character.
What do I love about this movie? Like the original it has heart. We watch as the people they have come to help embrace them and these seven tough guys melt like butter. This happened in the original and it happened here. It is one of the most endearing things about the seven – warriors with a heart of gold.
I also loved the “gathering” – when Chris recruits the seven. That for me is one of the most fun parts of the original and except for one character – which I already covered – they do it beautifully in this film. Who doesn’t feel for Levi Morgan and his struggles to feed his family? Who doesn’t feel for Slater and his loss of an arm? We are all angry and frustrated with Cassie at the mine. Man I love the gathering and it is something that tends to get glossed over in the follow-ups. But it is here in this movie and I love it!
This is a very strong cast! It is almost as strong as the original and definitely stronger than RETURN OF THE SEVEN and the dismal MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE! The strong cast adds to the enjoyment of the film.
James Whitmore is a veteran actor whose career spanned more than fifty years and he won everything from a Grammy to a Tony to an Emmy to a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Wow!
Monte Markham had a solid acting career spanning stage, films, and television. This includes – for a good or bad – a stint on the show BAYWATCH.
Reni Santoni’s career includes DIRTY HARRY (1971) and COBRA (1986) as well as SEINFIELD. He is still acting at 81.
Joe Don Baker‘s career spans forty years and includes two appearances in James Bond movies. He is also in COOL HAND LUKE with George Kennedy. But he is probably most famous for playing real-life Sheriff Buford Pusser in WALKING TALL (1973).
And of course the film starred the ever-wonderful George Kennedy.
The villain this time out was Colonel Diego played by Michael Ansara. Ansara’s most famous role was as Cochise in the TV series BROKEN ARROW (1979-1981). However he is a most familiar face to us sci-fi geeks having appeared in VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, THE OUTER LIMITS, LOST IN SPACE, TIME TUNNEL, LAND OF THE GIANTS, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY, and BABYLON 5. Not to mention providing the voice for Mr. Freeze in several Batman animated films. Damn! We need to put this guy in a sci-fi Hall of Fame.
While I full admit that this film does not reach the perfection of the original I do believe it is a worthy sequel – or prequel as the case may be. In fact I think it is the only worthy sequel and the others are best forgotten. I am giving this film four gray geeks in our rating scale!
That’s it for now buckaroos! Thanks for letting me take up your time. Until next as always may you ride into the sunset with the one you love. Yeehaw!