The Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)

Country: United States
Director: Paul Wendkos
Starring: George Kennedy, Monte Markham, James Whitmore, Reni Santoni, Bernie Casey, Joe Don Baker, Michael Ansara, Fernando Rey
Music: Elmer Bernstein

The Guns of the Magnificent Seven is the third movie in the four film series. As with most film series, each additional entry diminishes in quality from the first film. The big difference with Guns, is that George Kennedy plays the role of Chris, taking over from Yul Brynner. I like Kennedy as an actor, and his performance in this film is perfectly acceptable, however his more open style seems at odds with the character – especially when compared with Brynner’s depiction which is cold, clinical and clipped. Chris is a gun for hire – and although he has feelings and morals, he is not one to show them outwardly. Kennedy’s Chris wears his heart on his sleeve. He almost seems the type to apologize after shooting a man who was trying to kill him. This is kind of strange, as Kennedy in other films, such as Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, showed he could play a ruthless cold bastard rather well.

Possibly in an effort to shift this feeling of softness, one of the new ‘Seven’, Levi Morgan, is played by James Whitmore. Whitmore is definitely the old, cuddly father figure, even to the point where one of the children in the film, asks him to be his father until his real father turns up. Morgan, the cold blooded killer, says yes. So this entry for the seven is considerably softer than the other entries.

The story begins with Quintero (Fernando Rey), a revered political leader who is trying to inspire the Mexican farmers to rise up against the corrupt President, being captured by a sadistic Colonel in the Mexican army. Colonel Diego is played by one on the screens great villains, Michael Ansara. In the 1970s, Ansara, along with Henry Silva and John Saxon, had a monopoly on villain roles. Ansara appeared in everything, such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, ChiPs, Vega$, The Rockford Files, Kojak, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five O, The Mod Squad, The Streets of San Francisco, The Man From UNCLE, The Girl From UNCLE … and many more, too numerous to mention here.

Of course once Quintero is captured, one of the would-be-revolutionaries, Max (Reni Santoni) obtains some money from a bandit chieftain and rides off to find Chris (Kennedy) whose deeds have spread throughout Mexico. Max finds Chris and outlines the job, which is to break into Diego’s prison and rescue Quintero. Chris agrees and goes about recruit a band of men to go on the mission.

The new ‘Seven’ consist of Chris – Morgan, the knife thrower – Cassie (Bernie Casey), the muscle bound negro who is an expert with dynamite – Slater (Joe Don Baker), a one armed sharp shooter – Keno (Monty Markhan), a horse thief – P.J. (Scott Thomas), a tuberculosis riddled gunman on his last legs. And rounding out the ‘Seven’ is Max, who wishes to be trained as a gunman.

Of course, Elmer Bernstein’s score is rousing as always, rehashing the themes and musical cues from the previous films. It sounds like I am complaining – but I wouldn’t have the music any other way. When I watch a Magnificent Seven film, I want the theme up front and in my face (or should that be ears?) If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The shootouts and action scenes are all competently handled, but there is not much that is new here beyond the cast. Unless you are interested in the cast – any young Joe Don Bakerologists out there? – then the film does little to add to the mythos of The Magnificent Seven.

The Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969)

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