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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Magic Seven

Of all the numbers, seven is considered the most mystic or sacred.

Pythagorean considered four and three to be lucky numbers, and of course when added together they make seven. Among the Babylonians, Egyptians and other ancient peoples there were believed to be seven sacred planets, and this was espoused by old astrologers and alchemists, each planet having its own ‘heaven’ (and there’s the phrase ‘to be in seventh heaven’).

We don’t need reminding that there are seven days in creation, seven days in the week, seven virtues, (seven deadly sins!), seven divisions of the Lord’s Prayer, seven ages in the life of man.

Ancient teaching propounded that the soul of man, or his ‘inward holy body’ is compounded of seven properties which are under the influence of the seven planets. Fire animates, earth gives the sense of feeling, water gives speech, air gives taste, mist gives sight, flowers give hearing, the south wind gives smelling; so the seven senses were perceived to be animation, feeling, speech, taste, sight, hearing and smelling. [Not sure what the other three winds gave!]

The Seven is used to identify a group of seven people, such as the Seven Champions, the Seven against Thebes, the Seven Sages of Greece, and in modern times, Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven.
The option rights of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 epic film Seven Samurai were bought by producer Lou Morheim for $250 in 1958, with a view to making an Old West version of the story. Morheim took the project to Anthony Quinn, then directing Yul Brynner in The Buccaneer. Quinn agreed to take the part of Chris, the chief gunfighter, and Brynner would debut as the director. However, UA persuaded Brynner to take the lead and Quinn a supporting role, but Quinn backed out acrimoniously. Brynner hired Martin Ritt to direct, but delays with the script meant that Ritt dropped out and in his place came John Sturgess.

The first version of the screenplay presented the Seven as ageing Civil War veterans, but it was then rewritten for younger characters. Several writers worked on the film before it was ready, though it was rushed as an actors’ strike was imminent.

The film was planned to be shot entirely in Mexico. However, the Mexican government still sourly recalled the less than favourable treatment of Mexican characters in Vera Cruz in 1954. They insisted that the script be amended so that the villagers initially attempted to buy guns rather than straight away hire gunmen, so they wouldn’t appear cowardly.

The studio wasn’t taken by the film, thinking it was slow and outdated and its release in 1960 didn’t set the world alight in the States. However, when it hit Europe, the box office returns told a different story. The studio revised the poster and re-released the film in a lot more US theatres. By the mid-60s, the film was so profitable, they wanted a sequel; there were three made in total: Return of the Seven (1966), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and Magnificent Seven Ride! (1972). And in the 1990s there was a TV series. Now there are rumblings that MGM will do a remake of The Magnificent Seven.
While you’re waiting for that, you might like to read the hardback The Magnificent Mendozas, which puts a different slant on the familiar tale.

From the book depository, post-free worldwide here
From Amazon UK here
From Amazon COM here

More tomorrow…

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