Seven and Seven Sunday

No, not the 7 & 7 you are probably thinking about.

Movie remakes.

Remakes of movies are a tradition of sorts. Some work. Some don’t.

For example, a while back I watched the 1959 Ben Hur with Charlton Heston, in preparation for going to see the 2016 remake.  Save yourselves some frustration and stick to the 1959 version.

Today I will watch Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Seven Samurai and the 1960 The Magnificent Seven in preparation for the 2016 remake which (Deo volente) I’ll see on Tuesday, my movie day ($5 all films all day and free popcorn – about the right amount to spend).

Those of you who know these things, know that The Magnificent Seven is essentially a remake of Seven Samurai.  They are the same and entirely different.  At least in the opening credits homage is given to Kurosawa’s film.  The Spaghetti Western Fist Full Of Dollars (first of the “No Name Trilogy”) with Clint Eastwood was a wanton ripoff of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo with Toshiro Mifune, scene by scene.  Kurosawa sued and won.  Watch them back to back sometime.  It’s shameless.

Meanwhile, here is probably the best theme ever written for a Western.  At least I can’t think of a better one.

Fr. Z kudos to Elmer Bernstein.

How about The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly theme, by Enio Morricone with that groovy electric guitar and the weird backup singers (inspiration, perhaps, for riffs in The Lord Of The Rings)?  Then there’s Blazing Saddles, which is completely fun.  It’s the whip that does it.  I watched that recently after Gene Wilder died.  It would be impossible to make today.

The music from Seven Samurai is not as immediately satisfying as the Western version. Rather, it sets you on edge and builds suspense before the looming conflict.

Meanwhile… in the “Which Is Cooler” contest, here’s Charles Bronson from Magnificent Seven and Toshiro Mifune from Seven Samurai.

Speaking of movies with “7” in the title, there is the ultimate creepy movie Seven which I might not be able to watch again.  Brrrrr.   There’s also Seven Brides For Seven Brothers which gets 7 in twice.  That has has a song by the immortal Johnny Mercer about the Sobbin’ Women which is one of the best puns in any movie – eh-vur.  Once upon a time most of the better educated members of Western Civilization would have gotten it.. but today… dunno.  Then there’s Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, which also has it’s creepy overtone.  Speaking of creepy, and it seems that we are, there’s The Seventh Seal which features a chess match with the Grim Reaper himself.  Marilyn Monroe and her uncreepy subway-blown skirt did The Seven Year Itch in 1954, the same year as Seven Samurai, which has no subways.   A forgettable movie which I barely remember would be Seven Years In Tibet with … nope… don’t recall.  A Sherlock Holmes offering manifested itself in The Seven Percent Solution, a reference to the cocaine with which the sleuth injected himself, which is seriously creepy.   Anyway, there are probably foreign films with Sette or Sieben or good ol’ 七, but that’s what I can think of now without either more coffee or cocaine.  That’s more coffee, not more cocaine.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Poor Yorek says:

    Seven Days in May

  2. acardnal says:

    “The Seven-Ups,” cop flick with Roy Scheider.

  3. oldconvert says:

    Couple of plays may I sneak in? Seven Against Thebes (Sophocles) and another play, Seven Keys to Baldpate (George M Cohan, from a novel by ED Biggers) made into films time and again, the latest called House of the Long Shadows, a better-forgotten opus with Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, John Carradine and Peter Cushing, in the 1980s.

  4. Charivari Rob says:

    I recently became aware of Return of the 7 – watched a trailer and a couple of clips, but haven’t had time to download & watch the whole thing.

    There’s also The Seven Little Foys.

  5. John Grammaticus says:

    Speaking of shameless homages, there is “The Magnificent Ferengi” which aired about 20 years ago as part of ST Deep Space Nine.

    Speaking of shoddy remakes the 2016 adaptation of “War and Peace” is terrible when compared to the absolutely fantastic 1972 version (Sir Anthony Hopkins a Pierre). Yes the visual effects are better and it doesn’t feel like they were videotaping a stage performance, but it cut so much of the story away and ran through the rest so fast as to not allow you to savour the performance, or indeed to get the whole point of the book (which the 72 version did, albeit in a rather subtle way). OH and it axed almost the entirety of the epilogue.

    The only point on which it genuinely outdid the 72 version was showcasing the beauty of the Russian Orthodox liturgy (if only briefly), something which the 72 version never quite managed to do.

  6. liebemama says:

    “Call Northside 777” from 1948 with Jimmy Stewart …

    [3 sevens!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  7. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Don’t recall David Thewlis as Peter Aufschnaiter? (though I blush to say I don’t remember him as George Braddle in Little Dorrit: ought to try to see that again!).

    The Seven Percent Solution is seriously creepy – multiply disappointing in light of how good Nicholas Meyer’s screenplay for Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (1974) is by comparison!

  8. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    IMDB reminded me of The House of the Seven Gables (1940) and The Seven Dials Mystery (1981) (the latter of which I only saw recently, and should have easily remembered!).

    [Seven Dial! When I am in London, I often end the day with a pint at the pub there.]

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Love Seven Samurai, The Magnificence Seven, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers…not so keen on TGBATU cuz I do not care for Clint Eastwood.

    The Seventh Seal is an amazing movie…and Agatha Christie’s The Seven Dials Mystery, was on British TV with John Gielgud.

  10. Kathleen10 says:

    Love the Magnificent Seven. The music, oh, with all those great actors many of us remember so well. Gosh, when men were men! How different they appear from todays…oh…what’s the use of looking back. Look at Yul’s swagger. The film and the music for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, wow to all of it. Eli Wallach is one of my favorite actors. Unrelated to this genre, Baby Doll, a film in which he was so incredibly good, yes, a bit daring a film, but superb. In that film were Carol Baker and the amazing Karl Malden, who was apparently a very Catholic family man. These westerns were and are wonderful to watch though, and we are grateful to still have them to enjoy.
    It’s not ancient history for Americans really. My own dad (and Mom) knew how to use a gun and my dad was a bit of a trick rider on the horses he and my mom owned. Horses and guns are part of our American heritage.

  11. majuscule says:

    I’ve always loved the theme from The Magnificent Seven but after seeing the video clip I realize I never saw the movie! How is that possible? I was a Western junkie!

    I know I never saw it because I have never seen Yul Brynner in a cowboy hat! And what a trip down memory lane seeing all those handsome then-young stars.

    As far as SEVEN goes, I’m getting old but I have not yet reached the magnificent seven-ohs.

  12. Legisperitus says:

    Love Seven.

    As for Heston’s Ben-Hur… meh. Stick to the 1925 version.

  13. misternaser says:

    I just watched the original Magnificent Seven last night, and it’s as great as I remembered. Plus it’s pretty Catholic, and Bronson’s scolding of the boys who are ashamed of their fathers is probably not something that made it into the remake.

    It’s a Steve McQueen weekend, because tonight’s movie is The Blob.

  14. dep says:

    The theme from “The Magnificent Seven” is by far the greatest, but the next-greatest is no slouch, either, the theme from “How the West Was Won.” In the same general vein but much later was the theme from “Silverado,” which wasn’t a bad movie, either. Alas, the greatest western of all time wasn’t much musically. It’s of course “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” one of the last feature films shot in black and white. Oddly, there was a hit record by Gene Pitney called “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” but while it was about the movie, it wasn’t in the movie. Good pretty much triumphed in all of them.

  15. mpmaron says:

    “The Magnificent Seven” did indeed have the best music ever written for a Western. The movie is great.

    Although John Ford did make the greatest Western ever made, it wasn’t “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” “The Searchers” is Ford’s best film, Wayne’s best film and possibly the best film ever shot.

  16. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Legisperitus, legal minds run alike. BenHur, major meh. I like the “point” (conversion), I like a bunch of the scenes (e.g., the Roman triumph) but a major plot point, the buddy-buddy friendship of an observant Jew with a Roman pagan, sorry, but’s that’s just unbelievable.

    And Seven Brides is terribly formulaic. Right down to all these he-men wearing neatly pressed pastels in the woods. Actually, several 50s/60s musicals have a creepy side to them: Music Man, e.g., (How stupid is small town America? I’ll show you. Except, gotta admit, MW was welcomed as hero back to Iowa, so maybe he was right.)

  17. WVC says:

    Other great Western themes would include Big Country, the Comancheros, Stagecoach, and High Noon. Seriously, I could listen to Big Country over and over again. Silverado gets an honorable mention.

  18. WVC says:

    Oh, and we just watched a great Randolph Scott Western with the kids (with Lee Marvin as the villain). 7 Men from Now. Great flick!

  19. TomG says:

    WVC: My wife and I saw that movie several months ago. We had ordered it and the five (or six?) others Scott made with Budd Boetticher in the late 50s. All excellent. And 7 Men From Now was one of the very best. Tall T, too. Scott made Ride the High Country with Sam Peckinpah in 1962. It was all downhill for westerns after that. Gory, gratuitous blood-letting (but The Wild Bunch is one of my guilty pleasures).

  20. TomG says:

    Dr. Peters: The Music Man is Americana, early 20th century version. It was all in fun – and Paul Ford as the mayor, and the Buffalo Bills, were terrific.

  21. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I know all that TomG; I have the work basically memorized, seen it and performed in it. It’s the plot that gets me; ignore that, and it’s terrific.

  22. WVC says:

    TomG: Agreed. Tall T is also great! Ride the High Country is the only Peckinpah I can stomach, and even then I can do without the crazed miners scene.

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Meanwhile, here is probably the best theme ever written for a Western. At least I can’t think of a better one.”

    Rawhide, maybe.

    As for, Sobbin’ Women, obviously it refers to the Rape of the Sabine Women, recounted by Livy. Interestingly enough, this was used as a plot device in, Colossus and the Crab, the third in the science fiction, Colossus trilogy, by D. F. Jones, involving a sentient computer that takes over the world. Every computer scientists should read, Colossus: the Forbin Project – the first in the series.

    What about, Seven Days, from South Korea, 2007 (there is, also, a film with the same name from Canada, from 2010)?

    Star Wars: episode 7?

    For mysteries, how about, Se7en?

    The Chicken

  24. Semper Gumby says:

    The Magnificent Seven- great movie and theme. Fans of that theme may be interested in Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo or Appalachian Spring.

    WVC: Randolph Scott! (per the townspeople’s reaction in Blazing Saddles whenever anyone said the name “Randolph Scott.” Which reminds me: Acton Institute!)

    Chicken: Rawhide would make a great ringtone. I’ll have to look into that.

  25. TomG says:

    Dr. Peters: the plot – you’re kinda right.

  26. TomG says:

    WVC: the crazed miners scene and also the lurid business with the young woman (Mariette Hartley) and her “religious fanatic” father – I guess we should have known what was coming.

    And was there ever a better movie line than this: “All I want is to enter my house justified” Joel McCrea’s character in response to a larcenous pitch from Randolph Scott’s character.

  27. TomG says:

    mpmaron: dead bang on re: The Searchers, IMO.

  28. krissylou says:

    At the risk of being banned from this site and cast into utter darkness, I say you should also include Pixar’s A Bug’s Life in your survey of remakes of The Seven Samurai.

    [?!?…. HUH?!?]

  29. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I second Pater’s ?!? HUH?!? and raise you a “Ban Krissylou. Utter darkness, here she comes.”

  30. WVC says:

    In krissylou’s defense, it’s correct. Pixar took the Magnificent Seven and mashed it with the old Ants/Grasshopper fable. It’s not a Western (neither was Seven Samurai), and I’m not saying it’s a great remake, but it is definitely the exact same premise. Only with bugs.

    If you’re looking for a Great Escape remake, there’s Chicken Run.

    I’ve got 5 kids – I get to watch a lot of these types of movies. At least I make them watch a Randolph Scott and Buster Keaton film for every animated movie.

    They’re not old enough for the Searchers. Yet.

  31. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    How about Harold Lloyd (though many folk may now come to him by way of Jackie Chan -!)?

  32. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “Seven Dial! When I am in London, I often end the day with a pint at the pub there.”

    Perhaps, dear Father, I shall live to follow your example – the place and the novel and the film had all somehow quite eluded me till very recently! (I just ran into what is supposed to be the first movie ever broadcast on television in the U.S., The Crooked Circle (1932) – apparently also partly the inspiration for the cartoon film version of Olive Oyl – and was wondering if it had its debts to The Seven Dials Mystery (or if I just don’t know enough about the conventions of Secret Society stories!).)

  33. un-ionized says:

    I saw A Bug’s Life and krissylou is right about the theme. Hooray for Pixar (sorta). I took a class years ago called Themes in Literature and it helps a lot to figure out what is going on underneath. The Searchers is in my top five list.

  34. un-ionized says:

    Now I guess I have to watch Chicken Run.

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Now I guess I have to watch Chicken Run.”

    Well, okay, but I expect to collect five dollars per mile :)

    The Chicken

  36. KateD says:

    Oh Father,

    Sorry about Ben Hur! My family really enjoyed it.

    We saw Magnificent 7 on Friday. Was there a cameo by Shia LeBeouf? At the gatlin gun scene? The guy with the patch? My kids say no. We looked for his name in the credits to settle it, and didn’t see it…but I dunno…..

  37. un-ionized says:

    Mr. Chicken (or a ghost, as long as we are talking about movies), Only if you pledge a percentage to charity.

    Don Knotts reference for those too young or not American…

  38. WVC says:

    Venerator Sti Lot,

    I love Harold Lloyd. We’ve watched (with the kids), Safety Last, Girl Shy, Granny’s Boy, Kid Brother (my fav), Speedy, and the Freshman. We’ve also watched the Chaplain Mutuals and Gold Rush and Circus (I’m saving City Lights and Modern Times for when they’re a little older and can appreciate it – I want the Chaplin finally speaks moment to bring down the house). We’ve watched practically all of Keaton’s silents, most of Laurel & Hardy, and a few, so far, Abbott & Costellos. W.C. Fields isn’t well represented, but then a lot of his comedy went too far on the ribald side, at least for my kids. Also, we’ve watched every Marx Brothers movie worth watching, and we might even wind up watching the ones that aren’t worth watching.

    I may lack much when it comes to parenting, but at least my children can never complain that I didn’t give them a First Class comedy education!

    Also, parental Pro-Tip, if you START the kids on silent movies and black & white, it’s amazing how much they’ll enjoy them. It wasn’t until much later that I introduced more fancy pants films, like Pixar computer graphic animation, but because Chaplin was their intro to cinema their fondness for him overcomes any prejudice against the format of the film. It’s a gateway to High Noon, It’s a Wonderful Life, Stagecoach, the Maltese Falcon . . .etc. Get them hooked on black & white movies early!

    Parental Pro-Tip number 2 – invest in a big TV (and I mean big, none of this puny 55inch silliness) and decent sound system. You can get them for a reasonable price if you’re not looking for the super-high end nonsense (the now discontinued DLPs were GREAT value). I’ve got a corner of the basement dedicated to being a movie theater, and it makes watching a film an event and not just something we do in the background (usually with some discussion to follow afterwards). I figured we never get to go to the real movie theater (hardly ever anything I can take my kids to outside of the occasional not-mind-numbingly stupid animated movie), so why not make our own private theater. Old sofas on top of stacked pallets (which are free) make great and super cheap stadium seating!

  39. robtbrown says:

    mpmaron says:

    “The Magnificent Seven” did indeed have the best music ever written for a Western. The movie is great.

    The music from The Big Country also should be be mentioned. A loaded cast and full of memorable lines.

    Although John Ford did make the greatest Western ever made, it wasn’t “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” “The Searchers” is Ford’s best film, Wayne’s best film and possibly the best film ever shot.

    I agree about the Searchers–so do the critics.

    Liberty Valance is a superb film. Ditto for the director and cast. What makes the plot interesting is the question who plays the main character: John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart? I have finally decided it’s not a circle with one focus but an ellipse with two, reflecting the title.

  40. un-ionized says:

    Buster Keaton, The General, the lunch scene.

  41. mpmaron says:

    “The Big Country” does have wonderful music. It is bold and unafraid to be what it is: Boy will get girl (Peck and Simmons), bad guys will get thumped (See ya Chuck Connors), and Charles Bickford/Burl Ives will have it out before were through.”


    From the very first note Bernstein tells the audience they are in for a battle. A really cool battle where all the heroes are redeemed (even poor ol’ Brad Dexter).

    Liberty Valance is great. The only thing missing was Ward Bond, who by the way is instrumental in The Searchers. The scope and stakes of the story, Ethan’s arc, and its cinematography make the earlier film a masterpiece.

    robtbrown does state the case well. Wayne and Stewart are the men who shot liberty valance.

  42. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Shall I put in a good word for The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) (no ‘Seven’, but “It has an ‘x’ in it, silly old bear!”)?

    IMDB teaches me there is a John Wayne non-western with a Seven in the title, which I have never seen – any informed opinions about Seven Sinners (1940)?

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