Great Anniversary For Classic Movie Fans
I can't believe it! Not ONE, but TWO of my all-time favorite movies were both released on this day in history. One was released 58 years ago and the other hit theaters(in the U.S. anyway) 26 years ago.
Let's talk about the older one first. The Year: 1960. The Director: John Sturges. The Star: Yul Brynner. The Movie? "The Magnificent Seven". This classic western that has inspired so many remakes and sequels was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Japanese masterpiece "Seven Samurai". Director Sturges was inspired to remake that movie for American audiences and set it in the Old West. The story? Yul Brynner plays the leader of a group of gunfighters hired to defend an oppressed Mexican village against a band of bloodthirsty bandits.
I'm not sure who was in charge of casting the film, but they did a fantastic job! First Yul as the Cajun gunslinger, Chris Adams. He's the leader. Then you have Steve McQueen as Vin. A drifter, but a good man. Charles Bronson as Bernardo, the pro. He initially becomes part of the seven because he needs the money, but then learns that there are more important things like honor and courage in defending the villagers. How about James Coburn as Britt, the guy who's great with knives. Or Horst Buchholz as Chico, the young Mexican shooter with the fiery temper? Can't forget about old pro Robert Vaughn as Lee. He overcomes his cowardice towards the end, but pays the price. Rounding out the seven, Brad Dexter as Harry, also in it for the money. And then of course, the late, great Eli Wallach as the lead Mexican bandit, Calvera. Eli would go on to another great Western role a few years later playing the Ugly in Sergio Leone's spaghetti western masterpiece, "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly".
"The Magnificent Seven"'s influence can be seen, directly or indirectly, in everything from "The Dirty Dozen", "Battle Beyond The Stars", "Star Wars", "The A-Team", etc. And it was eventually selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2013. Simply a classic western.
Now, onto the more recent film released on October 23. This was only 26 years ago and was(for many of us) our first introduction to Mr. Quentin Tarantino. "Reservoir Dogs", about a group of strangers getting together to rob a jewelry store. The robbery goes sour almost from the get-go, but we the viewer don't really get to see much of it. The movie is more about the before and after the heist gone wrong. The six strangers use color code names for their aliases. And yet again, talk about great casting! Harvey Keitel plays Mr. White, one of probably only two characters that have a conscience. Tim Roth is Mr. Orange, who we assume has a conscience for two reasons. He's dying, and we later find out that he's a "good guy". Steve Buscemi is Mr. Pink. Steve's character hates the nickname and argues against it. He might be my favorite character in the film. Michael Madsen plays Mr. Blonde, who gets off on dealing out pain and torture and Madsen plays it to the hilt. Oh, I almost forgot Tarentino himself plays Mr. Brown, but since he is killed during the botched robbery, we only see him early on. And you may recognize the voice of the D.J. announcing "K-Billy's Super Sounds of the Seventies" on the radio. That's stand-up comic Steven Wright.
Now I realize that when it comes to Quentin Tarentino, the divide could not be more expansive. There are those that absolutely love Tarentino and everything he touches and there are those who simply can't stand him and think he's an egotistical blow-hard. I'm in-between. Some of his movies number among my favorites and there are others I can do without. But I'll tell you this, when I first saw "Reservoir Dogs"....I COULD NOT LOOK AWAY. From first frame to last, that film pulled me in and I was transfixed until the very end. And I immediately wanted to watch it again. And just like "The Magnificent Seven", you can absolutely see the impact and influence of "Reservoir Dogs" on so many subsequent movies. "Empire" Magazine named "Reservoir Dogs" as "Greatest Independent Film of all Time". Not bad for a director's first pic.
Happy Anniversary to two of my fave flicks and hopefully, yours too!