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  Guns of the Magnificent Seven Back In The SaddleBuy this film here.
Year: 1969
Director: Paul Wendkos
Stars: George Kennedy, James Whitmore, Monte Markham, Reni Santoni, Bernie Casey, Scott Thomas, Joe Don Baker, Tony Davis, Michael Ansara, Frank Silvera, Wende Wagner, Sancho Gracia, Luis Rivera, George Rigaud, Fernando Rey
Genre: Western
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mexico, and revolution is in the air, but not enough for some of the peasants there. One of the leaders hoping to overthrow the government is Quintero (Fernando Rey), but he has managed to evade the authorities up to this point, so that when he arranges a secret meeting in a village church, he thinks he will be safe. What he does not know is that a prisoner has been tortured into gving away the location, and as the encounter draws to an end a hail of bullets hits the doors, and the call from Quintero's nemesis, Colonel Diego (Michael Ansara) to give himself up...

But does this have to do with The Magnificent Seven? Well, the connection is in the title and the fact that the plot involves a band of mercenaries helping out some menaced Mexican peasants, but otherwise you wouldn't be seeing Yul Brynner making a return as Chris, or indeed anyone from the original movie. Instead, the producers cast an actor who was the spit and image of Brynner in the role, yes, the first person who springs to mind when you say that is, well, it has to be, George Kennedy, with his bald head, exotically handsome looks, muscular physique, and er, OK, Kennedy didn't look much like the actor who had made the role famous.

Which will have you wondering why they called him Chris at all, and it's just as well that the peasant, Max (Reni Santoni), had never seen the character before, which I suppose could have given rise to the excuse that maybe this was a different man we were watching who happened to have the same name, and the same sense of justice, with Max being mistaken but nevertheless making the right choice in who he brought back with him. This Chris has to assemble his own Magnificent Seven, and they include Steve McQueen-alike Monte Markham, who he saves from a hanging, Bernie Casey, who he saves from hard labour, and Joe Don Baker, who he saves from a sideshow.

All the heroes get their own little idiosyncrasies, but Baker gets a few more than the others, being a sharpshooter with one arm (actually he has two, but only one of them works), a racist to generate some antagonism between his character and Casey's (naturally, he liked him all along come the finale), and a schizophrenic, as shown by the sequence where he hears voices in his head which prompt a nighttime freakout culminating in an attempt to cut off his disabled limb. Contrast him with James Whitmore's Levi, who is good with kids and can throw a knife pretty well, and you might well muse over why Baker received the lion's share of the quirks when he's very much in a supporting part.

Other than that this was business as usual, with Americans inspiring the downtrodden Mexicans to throw off their oppression, and making sacrifices along the way: it wouldn't be a Magnificent Seven movie without a spot of the "aw, look who died at the end, he was one of the best guys", in it, after all. Director Paul Wendkos was well aware of the power of the Elmer Bernstein theme, hence the abundance of shots of the goodies riding across majestic landscapes with the famous tune blaring out, and it's true there's something about that music that makes a cowboy look taller in the saddle. But the sentimental addition of a hero-worshipping little boy (Tony Davis) apart, this is too mechanical to be truly inspiring, although it perfectly fine for what it was, and certainly not as by the numbers as the previous sequel; you can see why many regard this as the best of the follow-ups.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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