"The Magnificent Seven" is a western from 1960, starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, and several other well-known actors. It begins in a small Mexican village which is being victimized by a local bandit named Calvera and his men. They periodically ride into town and help themselves to whatever they want- food, money, and even the contents of the village church. The men of the town- mostly poor farmers- talk to the village elder, who tells them the only way to put a stop to this is through force. The problem is, the bandits all have guns, while the villagers have none, and wouldn't know how to use them even if they did. However, made desperate by the situation, they decide to scrape together as much money as they can and send a few men over the border into the States to buy guns.
They enter a border town where a drama is under way. A man has died, and his body is laid out for burial in the horse-drawn hearse. However, an argument is taking place between the undertaker and a man who is attempting to pay for the burial. The undertaker says that he can't bury the man in the graveyard because he was an Indian, and a few of the townsmen are threatening to shoot anyone who attempts to bury him there. Yul Brynner's character, Chris Adams, who has been watching this public argument along with a lot of other people, volunteers to drive the hearse to the grave site. As he climbs onto the seat, another man- Vin Tanner- tells Chris that he'll ride shotgun for him. As Chris calmly drives up the street to Boot Hill, a man shoots at them from a window but is taken out by Vin. When they reach the graveyard, they are met by a group of men, one of whom attempts to draw his gun, but is shot and wounded by Chris. The others lose their taste for the fight after this, and back down. After this, Chris and Vin go their separate ways.
Among those watching are the Mexicans, who settle on Chris as someone who can help them. They approach him and explain their situation, and he tells them that they'd be better off hiring gunmen than buying guns. Although the money they can offer for the job is paltry, Chris, at loose ends, agrees to take up the challenge. As he sits with them in the saloon discussing what is to be done, Vin walks in. Chris buys him a drink, and Vin tells him with grim humour that he's been offered a job as a clerk in a grocery store. Chris asks him if he'd prefer to join his team of hired guns and Vin asks him how many men he has lined up. Chris holds up one finger. Given the choice between minding a store and getting shot at by bandits, Vin chooses the latter option, holding up two fingers.
The next portion of the movie details Chris and Vin assembling the rest of their team. This eventually includes an old friend of Chris', Harry Luck; Bernardo O'Reilly, an Irish-Mexican gunman; Britt, a knife and gun expert, and Lee, also an acquaintance of Chris. The seventh member of their team is Chico, a brash young Mexican would-be gunfighter. He desperately wants to join them, but they are reluctant to accept him because he is inexperienced and undisciplined. He persists in trailing after them, however, until they finally give in and let him come along.
When they reach the village,Chris and the others begin to train the men in the use of guns, and also instruct them on how to fortify their town's defenses. In spite of themselves, they find that they're forming a bond with the people of the village. Bernardo acquires a posse of admiring little boys, and Chico meets a girl who begins to turn his head.
When Calvera and his men inevitably show up, the seven face them down and violence erupts. They gun down a number of the bandits, who are forced to retreat, to the delight of the villagers. They assume that the bandits will conclude that their village is more trouble than it's worth. That night, however, Chico follows the bandits to their camp in the hills, and as a Mexican, is able to pass himself off as one of Calvera's men in order to learn his plans. It turns out that the bandits are getting desperate for food, and so cannot afford to just give up and go away. They are determined to take back the town.
Chico reports back to the seven and the men of the village. Some of the villagers, dismayed by the violence and the probability that the situation has actually been escalated rather than diffused, want to call the whole thing off. They urge Chris and his men to leave town before they make things even worse than they already are. Others urge them to stay. Chris decides that they will ride against Calvera in a surprise raid. Unfortunately, when they get to the bandits' camp, there is no one there. The bandits have staged a sneak raid on the village where, finding themselves badly outnumbered, the townspeople surrender without a struggle.
When the seven ride back into the village, they're captured and disarmed by the bandits. Calvera decides to spare their lives, mostly because he fears that if he had them killed, the U.S. army would get involved. He has his men escort them away from the town and give them back their guns, convinced that they've learned that dirt poor farmers aren't worth defending. The seven debate what they should do, and all of them except Harry decide to go back and take on the bandits. Harry says that they're all going to get themselves killed, then rides away.
The other six ride into town, guns a-blazin'. And soon Harry, thinking better of his decision, joins them. They fight fiercely, but are badly outnumbered. Seeing the gunmen losing ground, the villagers reach their breaking point. They rush at the bandits, using whatever they have for weapons, from machetes to chairs. The tide of the battle turns in their favour, and ends when Chris guns down Calvera. As he dies, Calvera says in bewilderment, "You came back, to a place like this... why? A man like you... why?"
As the dust settles, it becomes obvious that the bandits have been vanquished, but the cost has been high. Of the seven, only Chris, Vin, and Chico are still alive, and a number of the men of the town have also been killed. As they prepare to leave, Chico tells them that he's decided to stay with Petra, the girl he has fallen in love with. The village elder tells Chris and Vin that it is only the villagers who have won, and that they are like "the wind, blowing over the land and passing on..." As they ride out, the two pause to look back at the village and Chris says ruefully that the old man was right, that only the farmers won: "We lost. We always lose."
** Coming July 28: My Review of "The Magnificent Seven". **