Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews. I have now launched a podcast about the making of Westerns and the overall filmmaking process. Click here to listen.
Week 160: Return of the Seven (1966)
It will most likely be considered blasphemy to most Western fans but I think Return of the Seven is just as good if not a little better than the original Magnificent Seven. I have never been a huge fan of the first film, finding it to be an overrated star-studded fun movie. What Burt Kennedy’s sequel lacks in comparison is the iconic cast, especially the presence of Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn. Their replacements are not nearly as charismatic with the exception of Claude Akins and Warren Oates who are quite good in their parts. However what this follow up lacks in the casting it makes up for in other ways.
The script is stronger this go around and that’s no surprise as it was written by Larry Cohen, who would go on to write/direct many of his own terrific films. It’s a smart screenplay with a focus on character over action. It provides each of the seven key moments but especially gives Yul Brynner more to chew on this go round. His performance here has more depth and layers than before. I may also prefer this script because one gripe I’ve always had with The Magnificent Seven is how weak it looks in comparison to Seven Samurai. The remake falls short in nearly every way it both replicates Kurosawa’s masterpiece and differs from it. With this movie, the story stands alone and other than some hard-to-buy motivation with the villain, it’s a good script.
Otherwise, we get treated to much of what we saw the first time: lots of action, some humor, some silly moments, and some tragic deaths. The latter moments are also handled far better by Kennedy than John Sturges, who killed off some of the seven in some of the cheesiest ways I’ve ever seen in a Western. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with this film, especially after hearing of its negative reputation, and it serves as a good start to my study of Burt Kennedy.
Watched on Tubi.