Tag Archives: The Magnificent Seven

The Gunslinger That Cannot Be Killed

23 Jan

In 1960, audiences went to the theaters and watched The Magnificent Seven, a Western that stars Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, James Coburn and a lot of other great actors. However, the leader of the Seven and the most memorable character is Chris, the black-clad gunslinger played by Yul Brynner.magnificent-seven

It was an iconic role and a memorable character for anyone who loves Westerns, but it could not be known that this character would live on in different incarnations and different genres. There have been many characters that have graced the screen in multiple films, but it is possible that none of them have a journey similar to this one.

The 1960s had sequels. There was James Bond movies, Derek Flint movies (starring Coburn) and Matt Helm movies. However, there were not many Western sequels. Well, Yul Brynner as Chris showed up in Return of the Magnificent Seven, which came out in 1966.

More “Magnificent Seven” movies were made, but Brynner abandoned the role. At least, people thought he abandoned the role. In 1973, he donned the black hat in Westworld, a movie about a futuristic theme-park where people can play out their fantasies with robots. This time, the gunslinger is not the hero. He is a robot in the middle of a robot overthrow. As people are killed across the park, Brynner chases Richard Benjamin, the last surviving human. Once again, he is the most memorable character.

Westworld was a hit, and it begat another film. Futureworld came out in in 1976, and the gunslinger came back to life. I may be wrong, but that could mean that Chris the Gunslinger is the only character to appear in two different pairs of sequels.

I started thinking about this because the character has made a return. The other night, we watched the 2016 version of The Magnificent Seven. This one stars Denzel Washington as the man in black who brings together a collection of tough guys to help out the citizens of a farming town. His name is not Chris, but it is the same character.denzel-magnificent

However, that is not the only time 2016 brought the gunslinger to new audiences. Westworld is an HBO show inspired by the old movie. In this one, Ed Harris plays a gunslinger in a black hat. However, he is human. He is not the character. In an homage to Yul Brynner, the gunslinger is seen standing in an old underground lab. Apparently, he has been taken offline.westworld

That may be true of the robot, but I am not sure it is true about the character. After all, how many characters have spanned the world of movies and television for 57 years? It looks like this gunslinger cannot be killed.

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A New Year’s Eve Celebration to End All New Year’s Eve Celebrations

2 Jan

Yesterday, my old college roommate sent a text saying that it has been 26 years since the greatest New Year’s Eve party of all time. It was held at our apartment, and I am certain that, in the past quarter of a century, the apartment complex has not seen anything else like it. I will not recount the specifics of the gathering. Just know that none of have forgotten any of it.

After that text, I thought about how I have spent some of the other New Year’s Eves.New Year

There was the one that my future wife and I spent in a swanky private club in Nashville.

There was the one at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.

There was also the one in the downtown streets of Phoenix, Arizona with the same old college roommate.

Oh yeah, there was also the one spent in a Waffle House in north Georgia.

I almost forgot about the one on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.

There was also the one when I had the flu.

A lot of New Year’s Eves have come and gone. Some of them have been memorable. Some of the have been forgotten. Some of them have been fun. Some of the have been miserable. However, my favorite New Year’s Eve was a few night ago.

My stepdaughter had a couple of friends over. We had homemade pizza and took selfies. They danced and sang. I slipped off and watched the end of The Magnificent Seven and the beginning of Wyatt Earp, but nothing could keep me away from the fun. We watched the ball drop in New York and the musical note drop in Nashville.

It was a great night spent with people I love. Is there a better way to start the new year?

 

 

Trivia Night

12 Jun

I have this book called 10,000 Answers: The Ultimate Trivia Encyclopedia. It is exactly what the title indicates – a book full of stuff that might win some money on a game show. Sometimes, I will scan through the book because you never know when the information will come in handy.

Since I cannot think of anything else to write about, I figured a post about one of these book scans would be interesting. We will go through the pages at random and see what useful information can be found for each letter.Trivia Night

The trash collectors in the Hi and Lois comic strip are named Abercrombie and Fitch.

Sir David Brewster invented the kaleidoscope.

Cerumen is the medical term for earwax.

On Bewitched, Samantha Stephens maiden name was Dobson.

Cesar Chavez’s real last name was Estrada.

In 1940, Ida Fuller received the first Social Security check.

“Great Bird of the Galaxy” by Gene Roddenberry’s nickname.

The Hermitage is the home of President Andrew Jackson.

Ixcatlan, Mexico is the setting of The Magnificent Seven.

Justice for All was the original working title of All in the Family.

The python in The Jungle Book is named Kaa.

Little Reata is the original name of the oil company owned by Jett Rink in Giant.

William Morgan invented volleyball.

Frank Calder was the first president of the National Hockey League.

Operation Barbarossa was the German code name for the invasion of Russia during World War II.

Port Charles is the setting for General Hospital.

Mary Quant created the miniskirt.

Winston Churchill’s pet poodle was named Rufus.

Kristin Shepard shot J.R. Ewing.

Charles Lindbergh was Time magazine’s first Person of the Year.

The Snapple company was originally named Unadulterated Food Products.

Volunteer was Lyndon Johnson’s secret service code name.

Tex Ritter’s horse was named White Flash.

Wolfman Jack’s radio station in American Graffiti was XERB.

In 1941, Gary Cooper won the Best Actor Academy Award for playing Tennessean Alvin C. York.

In 1927, pitcher Tom Zachary gave up Babe Ruth’s 60th home run.

 

 

Movie Wisdom – Steve McQueen Edition

26 Dec

The other day, my dad and I watched The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen playing the starring role. It was a cool movie that I had never seen before, and it made me start to think about how many Steve McQueen movies I have seen. He is a legend and is known as the epitome of cool, but he has never been on my list of favorite actors. That may have to change.Steve McQueen 2

In honor of this new movie watching experience, I decided to look into the wisdom that can come from watching Steve McQueen movies. As you may know, I have explored the catalogue of other performers in a similar way.  There have been Burt Reynolds, Don Knotts, Kevin Costner, Paul Newman, George Peppard, Don Johnson, Jodie Foster, Tommy Lee Jones, and Ellen Barkin.

The rules are simple. I must have seen the movie, and the wisdom can come from any character in the movie.

From The Magnificent Seven

If God didn’t want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep.

Farmers talk of nothing but fertilizer and women. I’ve never shared their enthusiasm for fertilizer.

Well, the graveyards are full of boys who were very young, and very proud.

From The Great Escape

Tea without milk is so uncivilized.

From The Cincinnati Kid

Gets down to what it’s all about, doesn’t it? Making the wrong move at the right time.

From Bullitt

Integrity is something you sell the public.

Time starts now.

From The Towering Inferno

All fires are bad.

You know there’s nothing that any of us can do to bring back the dead.

From Tom Horn

If you really knew how dirty and raggedy-assed the Old West was, you wouldn’t want any part of it.

Ro Ro Ro Your Robot

19 Mar

Robots have filled the imagination of humans for decades, and they have slowly become reality. We have machines that can work for us and build other machines. However, when most people imagine robots they don’t think about an arm programmed to put a part on a car. They think about something that walks, talks, thinks, and, on some level, can be our personal helper and companion. It is something like us but not like us.

As scientists and engineers have developed robots for the real world, writers and filmmakers have developed the robots of our imagination. With that in mind, I have put together a list of five robots from sci-fi and popular culture that were memorable to me. You won’t find anything from Star Trek or Star Wars (I know. They are androids and droids. In my mind, Data, C-3PO, R2-D2 and any other form of moving around intelligence is a robot.), but you will find some creations that are memorable and some that are obscure.

GunslingerWestworld is part of an adult-oriented theme park where people can live out their fantasies. There are areas based on the Roman Empire, a medieval castle and an Old West town. Robots populate the parks and guests can interact with them as if they were human. Believe me, when I used the terms “adult-oriented” and “fantasies” I mean it. Anyway, Gunslinger operates in Westworld and is the fastest draw in the West. Played by Yul Brenner and based on his character in The Magnificent Seven, he faces off against park guest Richard Benjamin.

When a malfunction strikes the theme park, the robots go out of control, and Gunslinger tries to really kill Benjamin. The robot chases the human through each historical era, and Benjamin knows he’s in trouble as he sees the bodies of other guests. He eventually defeats Gunslinger and escapes back into the real world.

Robot – A simple name for a great character. Lost in Space is one of my favorite shows, and Robot is my all-time favorite, uh, robot.

People remember Robot as the best friend of Will Robinson; as the hero of many episodes; and as the nemesis of Dr. Zachary Smith. As time passed, the show focused less on the rest of the Robinson clan and more on the relationship of these three characters. However, people may not remember that Robot started out as a bad guy working with Smith to destroy the mission. That’s why they ended up “lost in space”. Robot soon redeemed himself, but those early dark episodes remain my favorite.

Robby the Robot – Built in 1955, Robby the Robot is the first in a long line of robotic characters and may be the most recognizable.

Billed as himself, Robby starred alongside a pre-comedic Leslie Nielsen in Forbidden Planet, the sci-fi classic. In subsequent years, he appeared in Lost in Space to battle with Robot; in television shows such as Hazel, Twilight ZoneThe Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and Mork & Mindy; and in movies like Gremlins. Through this time and through the creation of new and more stylistic robots, Robby remains the king of them all.

TwikiBuck Rogers in the 25th Century was one of television’s many attempts to build upon the success of Star Wars. It starred Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. However, the light-hearted aspect of the show (actually, there were a lot of light things about it) came from Twiki.

Admittedly, I didn’t watch this show very much and looked at Erin Gray a lot when I did. However, this little dude entertained me. Played by Felix Villa and voiced by Mel Blanc, this guy was always getting into trouble but also helped Buck get out of trouble. He was the perfect companion in the tradition of old western stars, Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine.

Al Gore – I know it’s an old joke. But, his family comes from a town not far from here, and he is a distant relative of mine. Also, he works out of Nashville, and one of my good friends is his personal assistant. I think that gives me a break on using a tired joke. Besides, he looks kind of like a robot.

Despite the look of a robot, there are other clues to his robot self as well.

1. He invented the internet and is an expert in global warming despite the fact that he has no known scientific training. He has also gone from being almost bankrupt after the 2000 election to being a millionaire hundreds of times over. These have to be signs of immense artificial intelligence.

2. He shows no emotion unless someone disagrees with his stance or he is in a massage parlor.

3. He claims to be from Carthage, Tennessee, but no one can remember his childhood in that town. It’s like he was suddenly created. Of course, that could be a sign that he is not from Tennessee at all but is actually a product of Washington, D.C.

That, my friends, is a list of five famous and not so famous robots. Are there any robots out there that you would consider your favorites?

Your Assignment…Should You Choose to Accept

27 Jan

This semester I have the good fortune of teaching my favorite class, a history of the American West. This is my major area of study, and I get a kick out of talking about all of the things I have researched and written about. However, it needs to be fun for the students as well. I believe that many historians do a wonderful job of making an interesting topic as boring as possible, and I attempt the opposite. History is fun for me, and I want the students to have the same experience.

Several years ago, I developed something that the students call the “Movie Assignment”. They watch a movie based within the time period we are discussing and compare it to actual events. The scenery and action of the films provide them with a visual clue of what may have been like, and the story often gives them an idea of life itself. Obviously, not all movies are appropriate for this type of activity. Pearl Harbor may have been the dumbest plot ever written. Therefore, World War II class did not get the option to watch it. They got movies with deeper meanings and more of a foundation in reality.

In the American West, students have the pleasure of watching films from my favorite genre. Except, there is a different aspect to the assignment. Western settings have long been used to offer more contemporary lessons. Think of it as the Mt. Olympus of the United States. It is the place with myths are made, and flawed heroes face decisions with no correct answers. To get the students on the right path, I recently assigned each of them a movie to watch. We haven’t discussed what they should look for because I want them to watch the movies for enjoyment first. This post lists the movies and why I chose them. If you get the chance to watch them, then perhaps these are things you can look for.

1. Rango– I know, it’s a cartoon. However, it pays homage to westerns throughout the decades. Watching closely, you can pick up small details that bring to mind the great western movies and western actors. Besides, how can a movie be bad when “The Man With No Name” shows up as the Spirit of the West. I only that the original “Man With No Name” could have been used to voice the character.

2. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – “This is the West, sir. When legend becomes fact, print the legend.” One of the great lines in western history and an statement that describes how difficult it is for historians to dig through the legend to get to the fact. This film is filled with symbolism, as each character represents an aspect of the “taming of the frontier” experience.

3. Fort Apache – The second John Ford/John Wayne movie on the list (TMWSLV was the first), this is one of the first movies to show Native Americans in a positive light. It takes real battles of the Indian Wars and combines them into a fictional one. In the process, it shows the misguided policies of the United States toward native peoples. This could be relavent for a lot of times in history – Indian Wars, Vietnam War, Gulf War.

4. The Searchers – The third John Ford/ John Wayne installment (I promise that they don’t make up the entire list) is an epic about a man searching for his niece, who was kidnapped by Indians. It shows his maniacal racism toward these people and how it increases throughout the film. Most of the underlying currents were missed by the audiences of the time, but they come to light as the years pass.

5. The Magnificent Seven – A remake of the Japanese film, The Seven Samurai, this movie was had a compliation cast of stars in an action packed adventure. However, many don’t realize that the original Japanese film was a western placed in a different time and place. So, a western copied a foreign film that copied a western storyline. This shows that the themes of the western genre are actually universal.

6. Dances With Wolves – The Kevin Costner movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture. did you know it’s more popular “remake” lost the same award? Avatar has made more money than any movie in history, but it should be renamed to Dances With Aliens. It’s the same storyline. Watch them back to back and see what I mean. This shows that the western never disappeared. It simply got better graphics and tuend into Sci-Fi. For example, Gene Roddenberry was a writer for Wagon Train when he pitched Star Trek as “Wagon Train to the stars”. And , can’t you picture the black-hatted darth vader as a cattle baron building his empire on the backs of settlers (before the later movies became some convuluted political statement)? Also, when Luke returns to find his uncle’s homestead burning, it reflects Ethan Edwards returning to find his brother’s homestead burning in The Searchers.

7. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid – Sam Peckipah uses this movie to depict his idea of the destruction of the American west. Look at all of the western character actors that are killed or shown in stages of degeneration. Peckinpah’s version of western history is inaccurate, but his portrayal of the disappearing frontier is poignant. Plus, Slim Pickens dies with Bob Dylan singing “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. The best dying scene ever.

8. The Outlaw Josey Wales – There should be a law that says everyone has to watch this movie once a year. Josey sees his life ripped apart by the ravages of war. In response, he becomes a gunfighter to reap revenge on those who killed his family. Along the way, he picks up a surrogate family of people who have seen their lives destroyed by violence and hardship. It turns out that the “loner” isn’t alone after all. Filmed in the mid-1970s, the Civil War and its aftermath can easily be seen as the Vietnam War.

9. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – An attempt to depict the plight of Native Americans as they saw their lifestyle and land taken away. It is a noble attempt. Unfortunately, there are a lot of inaccuracies. The Native American story needs to be told and can be told in an accurate and informative way. This movie, in an attempt to tell the other side of the story, goes to far the other direction. As in all conflicts and clashes of cultures, there are good and bad people on both sides. Portraying that inaccurately takes the meaning away from all of them. On top of that, the portrayal of the Battle of Little Big Horn is shameful.

10. High Noon – This movie is not exciting at all. And, I cringed each time I see the sheriff ask for help. However, there is a reason he does. This movie places real life events in another setting as the sheriff represents those victimized by the House on Un-American Activities Committee that was led by Joseph McCarthy. Audiences of the time would never watcha movie about a supposed communist, but they would watch a movie about a sheriff in trouble.

11. Jeremiah Johnson – Based on an actual mountain man, Robert Redford shows the harshness of life as a Rocky Mountains trapper. There are accuracies and inaccuracies, but the overall story is true to the experience. The scenery is fantastic and the dialogue is witty and appropriate. Under the current, you find the story of a man who tries to run away from civilization only to find that it is never far away.

12. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – A western about the Civil War in New Mexico that was filmed in Europe. What else can I say? When it came out, many movie critics panned it because everyone knows that the Civil War took place in the east. Wrong. It is based on a reall mission to capture what is now New Mexico. This movie shows how westerns influenced film makers in other countries and how they, in turn, influenced the genre and the view on the region’s history. Also, the musical score is the best of any western ever. And, an American didn’t compose it. Weird for those people who believe the west is all about independence and the American ideal. It wasn’t about that at all.

So, there is the list for my students. Can you think of any other movies I should have used instead? Do you think my students will stumble upon this in their research. If they ever get away from Wikipedia that is.