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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Movie Time: Rewind: The Magnificent Seven and North by Northwest

Hey all,

Thought I would add a new semi-regular feature to the blog by recommending some films made before 1976 (my birth year) to perhaps expand some horizons. As much as I talk and write about movies, as well as bitch about the current state of films, I thought it would be fun to recommend some films that many people may have heard about, but never taken the time to see.

I really enjoy classic movies, channels like AMC and TCM are a real treasure trove of great movies and great acting. Movies with style and substance that are just really well made. I started thinking about this the other day when some co-workers were asking me about who my favorite actors were, and I sadly realized that most of them were dead. Actors like Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Audrey Hepburn, Gene Kelly, The Marx Bros.. the list goes on, and I think many people don't know about how truly great some of these movies are.

This weeks recommendations are The Magnificent Seven and North by Northwest.

First, The Magnificent Seven. I started with this for two reasons, one, it's my favorite movie of all time, and two, it starts my favorite actor of all time, Steve McQueen.

The Magnificent Seven is a western, and it is well documented that I have a soft spot for that particular genre. First off the casting is just spectacular. At the time, the only established star was Yul Brenner, whose bald head and gravelly voice made for an intimidating presence on screen. The rest of the cast were unproven commodities at the time, almost all of whom would go onto to bug screen success. McQueen, arguably the biggest star of the 60's (along with John Wayne) Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson can credit this movie as their big break.

The basic premise is that a village of poor Mexican Farmers hire Brenner to assemble a team of hired guns to protect their homes from a group of bandits. It being cheaper to hire men with guns, than to buy guns itself. The movie is a western version of the Akira Kurosawa film, Seven Samurai.

What I enjoy about the film is not only the messages that it sends, that being a hired gun gets you nothing in the end and that true wealth is holding to your responsibilities; but the acting involved in the film. All seven characters really try to steal the camera whenever its on, though McQueen does the better job. Brenner was the bankable star, but every time McQueen is on screen, he does little things with his hat or gun to steal the limelight.

Directed by John Sturges, who would go on to make The Great Escape two years later, it has a memorable score by Elmer Bernstein and a sharp scrip. I love this movie. Until I watched this movie, I hated westerns, and this really opened my eyes.

Now a film that I would also put on my list of all time great films, North by Northwest starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, with director Alfred Hitchcock. In my opinion, this is Hitch's best film. He pushes Grant to a great performance, as an advertising executive who is mistaken for a spy and is sent on a cross country chase to survive. This film is the precursor to the James Bond franchise, without the success of North by Northwest, they would not have made those movies. The most famous scene of Grant being chased by a bi-plane, has been reused in many films, one of the most memorable film scenes in history.

Not only do you have probably the greatest director of all time in Hitchcock at the height of his game, you have Cary Grant doing what he does best, being Cary Grant. I am astonished to think that neither of these men won Oscars for their work during the active years, winning lifetime achievement awards years later. Grant is what I consider to be the classic movie star, an actor adept at suspense, action, drama, romance, and comedy. There was nothing he couldn't do.

North by Northwest is a sure guarantee from me. Iconic and sharp, the perfect blend of suspense and thrills.

Hopefully you liked this feature, I really love movies, and the thought of great films going unwatched really saddens me, so hopefully you are willing to give one a try.

Thanks for reading.

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