A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Magnificent Seven, John Sturges, 1960


In July, Turner Classic Movies, my indispensable source for movies, ran two 1950 films by Akira Kurosawa that demonstrated how profoundly influenced by Hollywood Kurosawa was: the film-noir-steeped The Bad Sleep Well and the romantic drama Scandal. (In the latter, Toshiro Mifune plays a pipe-smoking, motorcycle-riding artist who could have come out of a Paramount or 20th Century-Fox film of the 1940s -- an imitation of any number of Hollywood leading men of the era, such as Gregory Peck, Dana Andrews, or Joel McCrea.) But as any Kurosawa fan knows, the major influence on his films, especially his samurai movies, was the American Western. No wonder that filmmakers eventually turned things around and borrowed from the borrower. Sturges's version of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954), was the first to do so, but Martin Ritt soon followed suit with The Outrage (1964), his version of Rashomon (Kurosawa, 1950), and Kurosawa sued Sergio Leone because of the unacknowledged remake of Yojimbo (1961) called A Fistful of Dollars (1964). The Magnificent Seven, though probably the best of the Kurosawa copies, pales in comparison with its source, but it helped make Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn into stars. In his book Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, my former Mercury News colleague Glenn Lovell has some amusing stories about the jousting among the actors for screen time, and you can clearly see McQueen, with his more naturalistic style, upstaging the stiff and mannered Yul Brynner.