• Magnificent Seven, The

    Released by: MGM

    Released on: 8/2/2011

    Director: John Sturges

    Cast: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Eli Wallach

    Year: 1960

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    The Movie:

    John Sturges remake of the immortal The Seven Samurai stars Eli Wallach as a bandit chief named Calvera who holds a small village in Mexico hostage – if they don’t pony up almost all of their harvest, he and his men will kill them. Rather than submit to his demands as they have in the past, this time the villagers decide to pool together what little money they have and hire some gunmen to fight for them.

    Enter Chris Addams (Yul Brynner) and Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen), two well natured gunslingers who prove their moral metal by helping a dead Indian get himself a proper burial up on Boot Hill despite the threat of violence in retaliation. This act impresses the villagers who happen to see it play out and they figure they’ve found their first man. They make their plea to Addams who then goes about gathering up five more men to help he and Tanner out – Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson), Lee (Robert Vaughn), Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), Britt (James Coburn) and Chico (Horst Bucholz) – each man signing on for his own reason, be it greed, revenge, or simply a sense of doing what’s right. Of course, they’re horribly outnumbered and outgunned but if they train the villagers how to defend themselves and play their cards right, they just might be able to save the day…

    Beautifully shot by cinematographer Charles Lang and set to an iconic and instantly recognizable score from legendary composer Elmer Bernstein, The Magnificent Seven is deserving of every bit of its status as a western movie classic. While it doesn’t outdo Kurosawa’s original it does do a great job of Americanizing the film without dumbing it down or reducing the scope or adventure of the Japanese film (itself influenced by the films of John Ford).

    As great as the movie looks and as great as the movie sounds, however, it’s the cast that make this one as enjoyable as it is. Wallach may have seemed an odd choice to play a bandito but he’s great in the part and absolutely makes the most of his screen time. Brynner and McQueen have never been cooler nor have they ever been nobler than they are here, while Bronson, Coburn and Vaughn are as cool and as badass as they come. Bucholz, a German actor puzzlingly cast as a Mexican in the film, also does quite well here; better than he probably had any right to do, while Dexter adds some interesting comic relief with his role. Like The Dirty Dozen or the Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven uses its ensemble cast to great effect, making sure we get to know each of the seven gunfighters just enough to like them before opening the flood gates and sending in the bad guys. The whole thing is perfectly paced, never overstaying its welcome and spending just the right amount of time with the set up before giving the audience the finale they all know is coming.

    On an end note, it’s interesting to think that Kurosawa’s film (heavily influenced by John Ford), would result in The Magnificent Seven, the last ‘great’ American western to be made before A Fistful Of Dollars (essentially a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo) lead to the onslaught of Spaghetti Westerns which eventually took over and changed things for good. Maybe in some ways the western is more eastern than some people realize.


    Just for the record, this disc appears to be identical to the one that was included in the Magnificent Seven Collection boxed set that came out on Blu-ray in 2010. With that said…

    The Magnificent Seven won’t blow you away on Blu-ray but it definitely looks better here than it did on DVD – the transfer in AVC encoded 1080p in its original 2.35.1 aspect ratio. Detail is improved as is texture and you’ll notice this on certain articles of clothing and on the horses that are used throughout the movie. Close up shots fare best but backgrounds are also nicely rendered. The image is clean and colorful throughout, offering decent black levels. Some mild noise reduction can be spotted in a couple of scenes but they haven’t gone overboard with it, really. There are no compression artifacts and only some slight edge enhancement. Some shots in the film have always looked softer than others, and that’s still the case here, but overall if the movie doesn’t look perfect, it looks good.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix on the disc is solid, and it does a good job of spreading out the original Mono elements to the various channels without making things sound contrived or hokey. Dialogue is nice and clear and there aren’t any hiss or distortion problems. The iconic score sounds excellent as well, nice and punchy and ever so dramatic. An English Dolby Digital Mono track is also included as is a Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix, and subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French.

    There aren’t any new extras here but most of the supplements from the previous special edition DVD have been carried over starting with the commentary from the film’s Producer Walter Mirisch, Assistant Director Robert Relyea, and stars James Coburn and Eli Wallach. If the commentary isn’t going to hold you glued to their ever word, the participants do a fine job of strolling down memory lane and talking about how this production came together, their respective parts in it, and the impact that it had on their careers and others as well.

    More interesting is the forty-seven minute documentary Guns for Hire: The Making of The Magnificent Seven which includes loads of archival clips and more recent interview bits with most of the core cast and crew members. This documentary covers the creation of the film from start to finish, starting with Yul Brynner buying the American rights to Kurosawa's Seven Samurai to how James Coburn lucked out and got his part to how the different producer credits were agreed open to how John Sturges wound up directing it and the impact of the Hollywood actors strike affected the film. This is not only a very thorough piece but a very interesting one as well, particularly when they discuss Mexican relations issues and how they affected the storyline and characters in the movie.

    The Linen Book: Lost Images from The Magnificent Seven is a fifteen minute piece which is essentially a guided tour, lead by MGM archivist Maggie Adams, of images taken on set during the production of the film that were only found a few years ago. It’s quite interesting, as is the fifteen minute Elmer Bernstein and the Magnificent Seven in which historian Jon Burlingame discusses the famed composters iconic work on this seminal picture. Rounding out the extras are two trailers for the film and a still gallery (these being the only extras in HD), menus and chapter stops. The DVD release included a cool insert booklet with some thoughts on the movie, but that’s not been included on the Blu-ray release. It’s a minor thing, but it should be noted.

    The Final Word:

    The transfer could have maybe looked a little sharper and the missing booklet is a drag but the extras that are here are good and the movie itself rightfully deserves its place as a legitimate classic.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      This disc is sitting in Walmart for less than 10 bucks, along with The Magnificent Seven Ride again. Good review, but curious about one thing....why does Wallach seem an unlikely choice for the bandito? His role as Tuco would make him perfectly suited for it and expected, no? Yul Brunner is odd, though.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Because he hadn't played Tuco yet. Magnificent Seven was 1960, TGTBATU was 1966.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Ah. I see what you're saying.