Monstrous Question: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WESTERN? (2 of 4)
MONSTROUS QUESTION: Favorite WESTERNS
(Monstrous Question created by Michael Arruda)
Tonight’s question from L.L. SOARES:
What are our favorite westerns?
Our panel responds:
My favorite western has always been THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960). Directed by John Sturges, who also directed THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963), it stars Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn. The impressive cast alone makes it a great movie for me. It has plenty of action but is at times understated in its tone, focusing on the motives of the characters for agreeing to help the Mexican villagers against the bandit Calvera (Wallach). There’s also a sentimentality to the movie….I first watched it with my Dad, who loves westerns and growing up I was daddy’s little girl. My dad is also responsible for my love of James Bond films, but that’s for another column. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI (1954), so close a remake that the two movies share some dialogue, but that’s never really been a factor as to why it’s my favorite western. Yes, I love Kurosawa, but when I first saw THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN I had never heard of him.
I must give honorable mention to Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) as a very close second, which stars Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, and Jason Robards. WEST is an epic film dealing with the changes that were occurring in the western part of the United States with the arrival of the first railroad. It plays out like an opera and has some very beautiful and amazing cinematography.
What I love about both of these films is that there isn’t necessarily a strict black and white/good versus evil storyline. I mean, of course there are obvious good guys and bad guys, but there’s also a grey area. In SEVEN, the motives of some of the characters aren’t very noble. In WEST, Jason Robards plays a bandit who comes through as a good guy as the story moves along. There are no singing cowboys or an idealization of the American West in either of these movies and that’s part of what makes them so good. I’m not generally a fan of westerns, but I love THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.
© Answer copyright 2011 by Colleen Wanglund
Tune in next weekend for more responses!