Black SplatThe Magnificent Seven (1960)

"We deal in lead, friend."

The Magnificent Seven - Steve McQueen as Vin the gunfighter

Description: Remark made by Steve McQueen as a gun-for-hire named Vin Tanner in the classic western The Magnificent Seven (1960).

After bandits continually pillage a Mexican farming community, the village elders send three representatives North of the Border to buy guns so they can protect their homes against marauding bandits.

Hilario: Even if we had the guns, we know how to plant and grow, we don't know how to kill.
Old Man: Then learn, or die!

As Hilario and his friends search for guns, a gunfigher named Chris Larabee Adams (Yul Brenner) advises the men it would be cheaper to hire gunfighters to solve their problem. The men petition Chris to help them and he sets about recruiting a small force of gunfighters to take on the marauding bandits.

As Chris searches for likely candidates, he comes upon his friend, Britt leaning against a fence post with his hat dipped over his face. Nearby, Wallace (Robert J. Wilke) a loudmouthed braggert hears that Britt can throw a knife faster that a man can draw a gun. Not a believer, he goads Britt to prove his claim and when he does, the boastful cowpoke believe he has won.

The Magnificent Seven - James Coburn prepares to throw his knife

Britt knows he won and had no reason to redo his performance and ignores the man who wants to go again. Irritated, the cowpoke threatens Britt with a gun and wants to do it for "real." He is confident he will be the winner. Consequently, Britt stands, waits and throws his knife into the man's heart as he is in mid-draw. As the man lies dying, Chris approach and offers Britt six weeks employment as a gunmen. The pay: $20 dollars.

Here is the roster of gunfighters hired for the job:

  • Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), an old friend of Chris. He thinks Chris secretly knows about a treasure horde.
  • Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen) who gambled the last of his money and needs a job.
  • Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), an Irish-Mexican gunfighter who is also broke and down on his luck. Chris finds him chopping wood for food at a frontier cabin.
  • Britt (James Coburn), a tall, slim copuncher who is short on words but deadly with a knife.
  • Lee (Robert Vaughn), who is on the run and in search for his courage.
  • Chico (Horst Buchholz), an inexperienced hothead. Chris rejects his help, but Chico follows the men South and soon becomes part of the group. Chico came from a farming commujnty like the one he hires on to protect, but is ashamed of his background and falsely believes a life as a gun-for-hire will free him from his humble roots.

Riding south, Chris and his six recruits arrive at the peasant's village and prepare for battle. When the bandits come riding into their compound, they discover many news walls anf fortifications as well as a small army of gringo gunfighters.

"Generosity... that was my first mistake," says Calvera (Eli Wallach), the leader of the bandits. "I leave these people a little bit extra, and then they hire these men to make trouble. It shows you, sooner or later, you must answer for every good deed."

Clavero tries to convince Chris and his men to leave, but finds that he is the one who has to go. Before he goes, he shares his philosophy about plundering the villagers, saying 'If God didn’t want them sheared, he wouldn’t have made them sheep!”

Momentarily, Chris and his gunfighters have successfully repulsed Calvera and his army of 30 bandits, but Chris knows that they will be back.

Chico: Villages like this they make up a song about every big thing that happens. Sing them for years.
Chris: You think it's worth it?
Chico: Don't you?
Chris: It's only a matter of knowing how to shoot a gun. Nothing big about that.
Chico: Hey. How can you talk like this? Your gun has got you everything you have. Isn't that true? Hmm? Well, isn't that true?
Vin: Yeah, sure. Everything. After awhile you can call bartenders and faro dealers by their first name - maybe two hundred of 'em! Rented rooms you live in - five hundred! Meals you eat in hash houses - a thousand! Home - none! Wife - none! Kids... none! Prospects - zero. Suppose I left anything out?
Chris: Yeah. Places you're tied down to - none. People with a hold on you - none. Men you step aside for - none.
Lee: Insults swallowed - none. Enemies - none.
Chris: No enemies?
Lee: Alive.
Chico: Well. This is the kind of arithmetic I like.
Chris: Yeah. So did I at your age.

Later, when Chris and his men leave the village to access the location and intent of the bandits. a cowardly villager allows Calvera and his men back into the village. He feared an all out attack on the village would have been to dangerous for all concerned and so he makes a deal with the Devil to assuage the situation.

When Chris and company return to the village, they are surprised to find Calvera in control. As a grand gesture and a courtesy to his fellow gunfithers, Calvera lets the men leave the village, but first he takes all of their weapons, which he gives back to them when they are far away from the village.

Calvera: What I don't understand is why a man like you took the job in the first place, hmm? Why, huh?
Chris: I wonder myself.
Calvera: No, come on, come on, tell me why.
Vin: 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?"
Calvera: And?
Vin: He said, "It seemed to be a good idea at the time."

But Chris lets no man take his guns and send him packing and a short time later, he returns to retake the village. Harry Luck feels Chris is foolish to go back and parts company, but, later, in the heat of the battle he returns, but is mortally shot. As he dies, he asks Chris about the treasure. There never was any treasure, but Chris lies to his friend to give him a happy death.

As Bernardo waits in the rocks to battle the banditos, the children of the Mexican villagers, who have become infatuated with the gunfighers, huddle around him

The boys tell Bernardo thay have adopted him and promise, "If you get killed, we take the rifle and avenge you…and we see to it there’s always fresh flowers on your grave.” They also admit, “We’re ashamed to live here. Our fathers are cowards.”

The Magnigicnet Seven - Charles Bronson as Bernardo with Mexican kids

Bernardo takes exception to their claim, smacks one of the boys on the rump, and says,

“Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers because they are not cowards. You think I’m 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.”

In the end, the gunfighters, along with the villagers, who finally rise up against their oppressors, take back the village. Among tThe casualties: Bernardo, Lee, Harry Luck and Britt.

With their job complete, Chris, Vin and Chico prepare to leave, when an old man in the village says:

"Only the farmers have won. They remain forever. They are like the land itself. You helped rid them of Calvera, the way a strong wind helps rid them of locusts. You're like the wind - blowing over the land and... passing on. Vaya con dios. "

At the last minute, Chico decides to stay behind to be with Petra (Rosenda Monteros), a young girl he loves. Chico finally realizes that he is a farmer and puts down his gun for a plow.

Note: The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the classic Japanese motion picture The Seven Samurai (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa. See also Seven Samurai - “What do you think of farmers.”

The film's success inspired three sequels: Return of the Seven (1966), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972).

The magnificent Seven - Movie Poster

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