Each Monday, I share reviews of Westerns I’m studying to prepare for making 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week Fourteen: The Magnificent Seven & Showdown at Williams Creek
The Magnificent Seven
This was my second outing with the first Magnificent Seven. My initial viewing of the film left me both entertained and underwhelmed. I revisited the work a couple nights ago to see if the experience might change and it did not.
Completely on its own, this Western remake of Seven Samurai does alright for itself but upon any comparison to Kurosawa’s film, it suffers. Having recently studied that masterpiece, I saw the flaws in this one more clearly.
The casting is not as strong as I remembered it to be. Yes, this is mostly a great cast but some of them are misplaced or poorly used. Horst Buchholz is such a mistake. Think about how Mifune played this character in the original! The casting and direction for this role really hurt this Western. UPDATE: After writing this, I watched a video essay (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNzN0gNUooI) that said Buchholz was not playing the character Mifune did but instead the “lovefool”. I can see what they’re saying in the latter half of the picture but in that case, why does Buchholz make a fool of himself in the first half and stalk the other gunfighters to join up? Perhaps the filmmakers decided to mix and match some but I still say he’s more of a bad replacement for the Mifune character than any other.
Coburn and Vaughn are the best in it but (SPOILER TIME) both of their deaths are downright silly. I mean, the film gets embarrassing in its finale. We’ve been told this whole film who good these gunfighters are and then they practically let themselves get killed in the last few minutes… what the hell? It’s as cheesy as it gets and again you can compare it to the ending of Seven Samurai which is stark, unrelenting, and heartbreaking. The deaths in that film are so intense and in this one that make no sense!
Seen on DVD.
Showdown at Williams Creek
My initial draw to this piece was Tom Burlinson who I loved in the Snowy River movies. I was excited to see he’d made another Western and pleasantly surprised that it couldn’t be more different than those previous films.
Showdown at Williams Creek isn’t a great Western but it doesn’t deserve to be in the bargain bin either. The film presents an interesting true story through trial scenes and flashbacks that kept me engaged from start to finish. One review I read criticized this structure but I think the film would’ve suffered in a chronological format.
Burlinson is darker here than the character he played in The Man From Snowy River and it’s nice to see him play someone more morally conflicted. The rest of the cast don’t stand out much other than Donnelly Rhodes as the quasi-villain.
The film gets cheesy at times and that undermines the rest of what’s good about it. Nevertheless, this is worth a watch so dust it off if you get the chance.
Seen on Amazon Prime.