Kurosawa was enormously influential to western cinema in so many ways, but nowhere more obviously than in the very genre of westerns. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars comes from Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. George Lucas’ Star Wars draws its unique aesthetic from synthesising western elements with, among other sources, Kurosawa’s influence (particularly from The Hidden Fortress), and it’s no coincidence that those influences meld together so well. And, of course, The Magnificent Seven is a direct, licensed adaptation of Seven Samurai.
What more can be said about the film than that it’s a fantastic adaptation, transposed brilliantly from the original, and that it plays to so many of its genre’s strengths? The score, the cast (Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen are the standouts), the direction, everything is firing on all cylinders here. It’s not quite so masterful an epic as Seven Samurai, but it’s still an absolutely glorious western of its own. It’s not just the novelty of seeing a Japanese samurai film recontextualised as an American western that makes the film entertaining, it’s legitimately a very strong film on its own.
While it’s a very fine film in its own right, a lot of depth is lost in translation, and not replaced with any new depth unique to the new genre and storytellers. The social commentary on class division and the nature of war and fighting are nearly entirely absent here. It’s a fantastic genre film, but has a lot less on its mind than Seven Samurai. I’d have been interested to see some of the racial aspects explored more, but I do appreciate that the film is an entire ninety minutes shorter than Seven Samurai, and that shaved story does lead to a more frantically paced and exciting film in many ways.
I give it four bullets, and $20.