Two bands battle the odds in this pair of Western essentials.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: John Sturges's remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 classic THE SEVEN SAMURAI has become an influential film in its own right. A small Mexican village that makes involuntary donations of its harvest to a gang of bandits led by Calvera (Eli Wallach) decides to hire a group of professional gunmen, headed by gunslinger-for-hire Chris (Yul Brynner), to protect them. Despite the meager pay, Chris and Vin (Steve McQueen) sign on after the Mexicans see them confront some racist thugs. As they ride to the village, Chris picks up some other gunmen, including Bernardo (Charles Bronson), Lee (Robert Vaughan), Britt (James Coburn), Harry (Brad Dexter), and aspiring gunslinger Chico (Horst Buchholz). The Mexicans, who are at first ambivalent about having gunmen hanging around their town, finally let down their guard and allow their visitors to teach them how to shoot and how to reconfigure the town to defend against Calvera. When the bandits return, they find harvesting the crops a little more challenging. This rousing, perfectly cast action film launched the careers of Bronson, McQueen, and Coburn. It also benefits tremendously from the unforgettably polyrhythmic score by Elmer Bernstein, among the most famous in film history. So popular was the film's theme that it was used to sell Marlboro cigarettes for years afterward.
THE ALAMO: John Wayne directs (with the uncredited help of his friend and mentor John Ford) this flag-waving spectacular about the courageous struggle by 182 American heroes to defend a small Catholic mission to the death and eventually win Texas with the help of Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston. The restored, widescreen edition of Wayne's epic is at the original length and includes the theatrical trailer. Academy Award Nominations--seven of them, including Best Picture and Best Song ("Green Leaves of Summer")--and an Academy Award for Best Sound.