The Magnificent Seven Ride!

Director: George McCowan   
Lee Van Cleef, Stefanie Powers, Michael Callan

Even if they haven't seen it, it's probably safe to say just about everyone has heard of the 1960 movie The Magnificent Seven. This classic western, based on the Akira Kurosawa movie The Seven Samurai, has been a favorite for many western fans for over forty years now. The odd thing is that despite the popularity of the movie, knowledge of the sequels seems to be fairly low even among die-hard fans. Well, the sequels probably were popular at the time they were made if they kept making them, but nowadays few people seem to know about them. The first sequel, Return Of The Seven, came out six years after the first movie, and brought back Yul Brynner in the role of ringleader Chris Adams. (The legitimacy of the title can be argued, seeing that several of the original seven died in the first movie!) Three years later came Guns Of The Magnificent Seven, with George Kennedy taking over Brynner's role. Three years after that came the most obscure entry of the series, The Magnificent Seven Ride! For some reason, this last effort has not been given as much of a chance to find an audience as the other three movies; it has seldom played on TV, and it was never released (in North America, at least) on videocasette. It was finally released without fanfare on DVD in 2004.

Instead of bringing back Brynner or Kennedy, the producers this time filled the role of Chris Adams with Lee Van Cleef. No doubt this was mainly due to the fact Van Cleef was at this point a big star in the western A goof at the laundry turned the uniforms into black and greygenre, thanks to the spaghetti westerns he had been appearing in for the past several years, and these westerns proving to be popular with American audiences. But it was also probable that Van Cleef was cast due to the fact that the Chris Adams character here is an older, more seasoned gunfighter than in the previous movies. When the movie begins, we find he has put his days as a roaming gunfighter behind him, married, and works as a town marshal. The only trouble he has is when nosy reporter Noah Forbes (Callan, One Life To Live) comes by to write his life story. But that all changes one day shortly after Chris gives young hoodlum Shelly (Darrell Larson) another chance and releases him from jail; Shelly ends up kidnapping and murdering Chris' wife. Accompanied by Noah, Chris pursues Shelly to Mexico, only to discover he has joined the De Toro gang, a large bandit band that terrorizes both sides of the border.

Shortly afterwards, Chris also discovers that the gang has recently murdered all the men in a small Mexican village. Lead by strong-willed Laurie (Powers, Hart To Hart), the village is now a collection of widows and children who are at the mercy of the soon-returning gang. With the Mexican authorities having proved unable to subdue the gang in the past, and the American authorities unable to cross the border, Chris decides to take things in his hands and recruit another band of magnificent seven. Though this time around, he decides to recruit a bunch who may be considered not-so-magnificent, since he gets some inspiration from The Dirty Dozen and recruits five convicts from a Tucson penitentiary, promising freedom in exchange. The convicts are played by Pedro Armendarez, Jr. (Survival Run), Luke Askew (The Newton Boys), Ed Lauter (The Longest Yard), James Sikking (Doogie Howser M.D.), and William Lucking (The Rundown), and it is a mixed bunch of individuals. As the trailer for the movie put it, "Pepe the outlaw - a hot blooded lover and a cold hearted killer! Walt the giant - with the strength of ten men and the mind of a child! Hayes the soldier - he learned to kill in the army and now it's the only thing he knows! Elliot the engineer - if he builds it, it stays built, if he blows it, it stays blown! Skinner the killer - they put him in for life and let him out for death!"

All of this may sound exciting and promising a movie full of action and tension, but the end results are anything but. The Magnificent Seven Ride is a pretty bland affair, and that probably is the explanation as to why the movie has been next to Someone called him "rat face" one too many timesunseen over the past few decades. A number of things in the movie are handled in a way that while maybe not considered outright terrible, can be considered lazy and lifeless. Take the characters, for example, starting with Van Cleef's. Although he is the ringleader and the character that the events of the movie rotate around, he doesn't feel like it. There is always a curious distance to him, and a feeling that this character really isn't terribly interested in what is happening. He seems to be doing the bare minimum in his actions and what he says in order to advance the movie. In some specific scenes he also makes a minimum appearance, leaving the bulk to be done by the supporting performers. But it's not just in the way that Van Cleef's character is written and directed, but with Van Cleef himself. Although he delivers some one-liners with his trademark sting, the rest of the time he gives a passionless performance. He generates no chemistry with the rest of the cast, whether against one of the convicts or in a romantic clinch. (Also, Van Cleef's face is obscured during the kissing sequences - which actually may be a good thing, come to think of it.)

But it's not just Van Cleef's character who is missing a certain edge. All the main characters of the movie prove to be constructed weakly as well. In the case of Powers, she is only given a couple or so of minor scenes after her initial introduction. A result of this is that her relationship with Van Cleef's character becomes ridiculously rushed, especially when you consider both characters have recently lost a spouse. Then there is the villain of the movie, Juan De Toro (Ron Stein). There is a lot of talk about him throughout the movie, but for most of the movie we just get to see the aftermath of his rampages and raids; we don't get to actually see him until the last ten minutes of the movie, where he never speaks or do anything other than riding his horse and shooting his guns, neither with any particular flair. Most disappointing of all, the six other members of the seven are pretty unmemorable. Callan spends much of the first part of the movie paired with Van Cleef, but no chemistry is generated between the two actors. The other five members come across even worse, not helped by the fact they aren't even recruited until more than half of the movie has passed. None of the actors give a memorable or unique performance, nor are they individually given things to do that set them apart from the others.

Though these things damage the movie, it's possible that the movie may still have worked to a certain degree. It still may not have been a good movie, but it could have been one of those watchable-on-a-rainy-day kind of a movie. But the areas of the movie where this may have been made It's a rule that every Mexican bad guy leader have a mustache, a big hat, and ammo beltspossible are just as flawed as the areas of the movie discussed in the previous paragraphs. Take the action; you would expect that this entry would have just as many shootouts and suspenseful scenes as any of the other movies in the series. Think again. Until three-quarters or so of the movie has passed by, there is essentially no action in the movie at all. The movie instead shows a preference to film the aftermath of action scenes instead, as if it didn't have the money to show us what actually happened. In fact, the movie as a whole shows less money was spent than with any of the previous three films. The Magnificent Seven Ride! at times resembles a made-for-TV movie, flat and unimaginative in its direction, uninspired in its locations (studio backlots and nearby countryside), and far more talk than anything else. It just increases the feeling that no one involved in the movie was particularly interested in making a memorable western, instead just turning out something that could be classified as mere product, a way to make a few bucks with a minimum amount of effort. Forget The Magnificent Seven; it's the audience that's taken for a ride.

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See also: The Peace Killers, Raw Force, Riverbend