Finally, in the onslaught of reboots and remakes from Hollywood, we get a movie that could actually stand to be remade. “The Magnificent Seven,” starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and a bunch of other big-screen badasses of the day, originally premiered in 1960. Next week, you can see what a modern cast of Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and others can do with the story of a group of seven less-than-savory characters in the Old West come together to save a poor town from regular marauders.
The structure and story of both the original and the remake is lifted from Akira Kurosawa’s classic samurai film Seven Samurai. It’s the same yarn, just gunslingers supplanted with sword-masters.
A cool detail for movie buffs: The new “The Magnificent Seven” will reunite the co-stars of the Oscar-winning Training Day, with Washington and Hawke again under the direction of Antoine Fuqua.
Let’s take a look at the hardware the Seven are carrying, then and now.
Ah, yes. There could hardly be a western without a few Colt Single Action Army revolvers showing up. They can be plain Jane or extremely ornate.
In the original, Brynner and McQueen both carried Artillery models of the SAA, with 5.5-inch barrels and wooden grips.
In a famous scene from the 1960 movie, Britt (James Coburn) uses an SAA to shoot a man off a horse from an impossible distance. Chico says: “That’s the greatest shot I’ve ever seen!” Britt replies, “The worst. I was aiming for the horse.”
It’s worth nothing the characters in the 2016 film are not recycled versions of the originals, but rather new characters with similar themes that make up the Seven. But, there are still some SAA Artillery revolvers around.
Washington’s character Sam Chisolm carries an Artillery model, along with Josh Farraday (Pratt), and Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).
In the original, there are a couple more versions of the SAA spewing lead. McQueen also carries a Colt SAA Calvary model with a 7.5-inch barrel and Calvera (Eli Wallach) carries a somewhat ornate SAA Quick-Draw model with a 4.75-inch barrel.
Chris Pratt can be seen above duel-wielding a pair of Colt Single Action Army pistols, with another tucked into a leather shoulder holster. Even after they were converted to and made to fire cartridges, the SAA still had to be unloaded and loaded one round at a time through a loading gate, which required putting the pistol at half cock to rotate the cylinder. Even under ideal conditions this can be a slow process, let alone when being shot at and crouching behind cover and pulling cartridges from belt loops. So, if it was possible and a gunfight was coming, many folks elected to carry two or more pistols.
There simply has to be some solid double-barrel street sweeper action in such a movie too. Above you can see McQueen casually holding a Colt Model 1878 side-by-side while riding the hearse in the original.
In the trailer for the new version, we see Pratt make an explosive shot and then duck behind a woodpile with a J. Stevens and Co. side-by-side 12-gauge shotgun.
And now, the long-range shooters.
The most prevalent rifleman in the MS 2016 trailer is Hawke’s character Goodnight Robicheaux (if that’s not an Old West handle, we don’t know what is).
Robicheaux is seen carefully aiming a Winchester 1873 repeating rifle, or “Short Rifle” with an octagonal barrel. The gun came chambered in .44-40, .38-40, and .32-20 calibers. Modern replicas are usually chambered in one of those antique calibers or .45 Long Colt. We also see a flash of Chisolm using what appears to be the same rifle.
In the original, Bernardo (Bronson), Chris (Brynner) and Chico (Horst Buchholz) all use Winchester Model 1892 lever guns in the film’s bloody final showdown.
In a famous promotional image for the movie, four are all holding their Winchesters while the rest of the Seven have an SAA. That shot is below, above a similar still of the new cast.
The remake features another lever-action rifle, the Winchester 1866 “Yellow Boy” in .44 RF, seen being fired by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) in the trailer. The rifle got its name from its distinctive brass receiver.
When the original film ends with a big shootout, what can you do for a remake, except have an even bigger shootout? From a few shots we get in the trailer, it looks like the director did just that. Included on the battlefield is an imposing Colt 1874 Gatling Gun. The original Gatling gun was a hand-crank-operated weapon with six barrels revolving around a central shaft. Some subsequent models had as many as 10 barrels.
The shells were gravity fed into the breech through a hopper or simple box “magazine” with an unsprung gravity follower on top of the gun. The model 1881 used a feeding system with two rows of .45-70 cartridges. When one row was being fed, the other could be reloaded for sustained fire. By 1876, the gun had a rate of fire of about 400 rounds per minute in combat situations.
We shall see on September 23 if the new The Magnificent Seven holds a candle to the original. If it does, it may mean remakes of the sequels to the original…of which there were three, if you can believe it. After the original came Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966) with Brynner leading a different cast, followed by Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969) and finally The Magnificent Seven Ride in 1972 starring Western-movie veteran Lee Van Cleef as Brynner’s character, Deputy U.S. Marshal Chris Adams.