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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

STILL MAGNIFICENT

STILL MAGNIFICENT
 
The Magnificent Seven has topped my list of my favorite movies list since I saw it for the first time as a very impressionable ten-year-old. The film embodies every male trait I grew up wanting to emulate. Elmer Bernstein's score for The Magnificent Seven became the soundtrack to my childhood.  The iconic music became instantly recognizable in the wider publics conscious in 1963, when it was used in the exceedingly masculine Marlboro Man tobacco advertising campaign. The real cowboy ads, featuring the dramatic theme, singlehandedly catapulted Marlboro cigarettes to the top of the tobacco industry.
 
While the plot of The Magnificent Seven is based on Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese masterpiece, Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven itself has been copied again and again – sometimes almost scene by scene. Not only were there three Magnificent Seven sequels (Return of the Seven, 1966, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, 1969, and The Magnificent Seven Ride,1972), but also a Magnificent Seven TV series, which ran from 1998 to 2000 – each episode a basic remake of the original movie, along with original Magnificent Seven actor Robert Vaughn making numerous guest appearances.
 
There have also been any number of films, television shows, and books in other genres which have adapted the durable western plot to their own tropes and devices.
 
The sci-fi film Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) featured seven space mercenaries (including Robert Vaughn again virtually reprising his role from The Magnificent Seven) hired to save a farming planet from alien marauders. The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1983), starring Lou Ferrigno and Sybil Danning (Battle Beyond The Stars also starred Danning), was a cheesy sword-and-sandal variation on the theme. The pilot for the 1980 television series The A-Team (which again featured Robert Vaughn in later seasons) was also a riff on The Magnificent Seven. Notable authors Stephen King – in his 2003 novel Wolves of the Calla and Robert B. Parker – in his 2001 Spenser novel Potshot – also put the always adaptable Magnificent Seven plot to good use.
 
But here is an adaptation of Magnificent Seven I didn't know about until recently. In the late ‘70s, Marvel Comics scribe Roy Thomas wrote a 4-issue story arc Star Wars story (issue numbers 7, 8, 9 & 10 from the original Marvel series) based on the Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven plot and illustrated by Howard Chaykin. 
 
In the comic sequence, The Star-Hoppers of Aduba-3 are a group of misfits organized in true Magnificent Seven style by Han Solo and Chewbacca to protect a simple farming village from a band of marauders called the Cloud Riders. 
 
Although the Star Hoppers (also known as the Amazing Eight) only remained together for one mission, three of the surviving members – Jaxxon, Amaiza Foxtrain and Jimm Doshun – later reunited against the threat of bounty hunter Beilert Valance who mistakenly believed Jimm to be Luke Skywalker. 
 
"Couple of years ago, it was, back on Aduba III. I got hired by some ugly mug named Han Solo. Joined up with seven other mercs, each one more hard-scrabble than the next. We went up against the Cloud Riders, a bunch of sorry swoop jockeys from the Outer Rim. Chased em off good and proper, with the help of a big behemothy type thing." ~ Jaxxon, member of the Star-Hoppers of Aduba-3.
 
In sequence, the comic issues include:
 
STAR WARS 7: NEW PLANETS, NEW PERILS!
 
After bidding farewell to their Rebel friends, Han Solo and Chewbacca set out to return to Tatooine to pay off their debt to Jabba the Hutt. En route, they are hijacked by space pirate Crimson Jack and his gang of thugs. The pirates take the reward money given to Han and Chewbacca by the Rebel Alliance for rescuing Princess Leia Organa, but spare their lives.
 
If you remember the Boot Hill scene from The Magnificent Seven (Steve McQueen upstaging a pissed off Yule Brenner by repeatedly shaking shotgun shells while Brenner is saying his lines) you’ll know exactly what the next plot development will be…
 
Forced to lay low because they can't pay Jabba, the two seek refuge on the planet Aduba-3. There they are hired by a priest of the Sacred Way to bury a recently deceased borg. Although they meet some resistance from the locals who object to having a borg buried in their traditional mound, they do eventually find their way to the burial site. 
 
McQueen as Vin: “You elected?”
 
Brenner as Chris: “Nah. I got nominated real good.”
 
After completing the task, the two smugglers are relaxing in a local cantina where they are presented with a much deadlier one.
 
Is all of this starting to sound familiar? 
 
STAR WARS 8: EIGHT FOR ADUBA-3
 
Han Solo and Chewbacca are hired by Ramiz, a moisture farmer on Aduba-3, to protect his village from a band of local thugs known as the Cloud Riders led by Serji-X Arrogantus.
 
You are allowed to immediately think of Eli Wallach preparing to chew scenery from under a wide sombrero and through a scraggly gunfighter’s mustache…
 
Han and Chewbacca hire six misfit spacers to help them with the task, including Don-Wan Kihotay, an old man who thinks he is a Jedi Knight, and Jaxxon, a rabbit-like creature with a mean disposition. 
 
Sounds like James Coburn (as Britt) and Charles Bronson (as Bernardo)…
 
Serji-X tries to convince Han to forget about his mission to protect the peasants and even offers him compensation, but Han declines.
 
Coburn as Britt faced with the same choice: “Nobody throws me my own guns and says run.”
 
Meanwhile, on Yavin 4, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2 leave in a scout ship to search for a location for the new Rebel Alliance base (yawn).
 
STAR WARS 9: SHOWDOWN ON A WASTELAND WORLD!
 
Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the Star-Hoppers arrive at Ramiz' village Onacra, only to find it under attack by flying High-Hounds. They repel the beasts, saving the life of a young girl named Merri to the great relief of her father Oncho, the village spokesman. But their relief is short-lived as Serji-X Arrogantus and his gang attack. The Star-Hoppers valiantly defend the village from the attack, but not without cost as FE-9Q is destroyed in the fray. 
 
Wallach as Calvera: “I should have guessed. When my men didn't come back I should have guessed. How many of you did they hire?” 
 
Brenner as Chris: “Enough.”
 
Wallach as Calvera: “Generosity...that was my first mistake. I leave these people a little bit extra, and then they hire these men to make trouble. It shows you, sooner or later, you must answer for every good deed.
 
McQueen as Vin: “We deal in lead, friend.”
 
However, Merri's grandfather the Old One, a shaman, dismisses the hired spacers' help and summons a large, mythical reptilian monster called the Behemoth from the World Below to handle the invading Cloud-Riders. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker informs Leia Organa he has found a new location for the Rebel Alliance base in the Drexel system, but the transmission suddenly ends, and a worried Leia sets out to find Luke.
 
STAR WARS 10: BEHEMOTH FROM THE WORLD BELOW
 
The Old One has summoned the Behemoth, a giant reptilian monster, to defend the village Onacra from the villainous Cloud-Riders. Serji-X Arrogantus, the leader of the Cloud-Riders, realizes he and his men have no chance against the beast, and he also realizes that the giant is being controlled by the old shaman. He attacks the Old One but the Behemoth reacts in time to kill Serji-X, however the old shaman is killed as well causing the monster to run amok. 
 
With the rest of the Star-Hoppers running for cover, would-be Jedi Knight Don-Wan Kihotay tries to stop the great beast on his own. Hedji tries to help him, but is killed by the monster without much trouble. 
 
A dying Brad Dexter (the only one of the Seven whose name nobody can remember) as Harry: “Tell me there was gold, Chris. Don’t let me die thinking I came back for nothing.
 
Brenner as Chris telling a big fib: “Yes, Harry. There’s gold.”
 
Dexter as Harry: [Dying words] “Well, I'll be damned.” 
 
Brenner as Chris: “Maybe you won't be.”
 
Then Han Solo rushes to help Kihotay, and uses the man's lightsaber to destroy the Behemoth. 
 
Brenner as Chris: “The old man was right. Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.”
 
Meanwhile, Leia Organa searches the Drexel system for Luke Skywalker who hasn't been heard from since his last transmission was interrupted.
 
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
 
No matter how many times I see it (and irritate my spouse by saying the dialogue along with the actors), The Magnificent Seven still stirs my blood. The dialogue. The action. The iconic actors. No matter how it’s delivered, for me, it never grows old…

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