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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Magnificent Seven (1960)

"If he rides in with no idea of the reception we can prepare for him, I promise you we'll all teach him something about the price of corn."
- Chris (Yul Brynner)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: May 13, 2001

Stars: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Horst Buchholz
Other Stars: James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter
Director: John Sturges

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (contains fairly tame gun violence)
Run Time: 02h:07m:57s
Release Date: May 08, 2001
UPC: 027616861078
Genre: western


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-B+B+ A-

DVD Review

In the new, "civilized" world of The Magnificent Seven, gunfighters lack the prominence they once held in the prime of the Old West. Instead, they're forced to accept jobs as grocery store clerks and to chop wood for a meal. Society often regards them with scorn because of the individualistic values they represent. These men are violent figures who act in their own interests, have no family ties, and care little for social conventions. Although they act in this manner, within the heart of each gunfighter exists a longing for a simpler life with loved ones. This conflict resides at the center of this film—an entertaining, action-packed story, bolstered by several wonderful performances.

Yul Brynner (The King and I, The Ten Commandments) gives an excellent starring turn as Chris Adams, the stern leader of the group. His demeanor makes him surprisingly believable and human for a Western hero, and it ties all of the threads of the story together. He's joined by Steve McQueen (The Great Escape), a new face for film audiences at the time, who would go on to become a huge star. Elements of his magnetism already exist here, as he makes his fairly simple character more interesting through his engaging persona. Eli Wallach is nearly unrecognizable as the villainous Calvera, a greedy, callous man who takes what he wants from the weak village people. Wallach jumps head-on into this role, and creates a memorable character oozing with evil, but still understandable in his similarities to the gunfighters.

The Magnificent Seven is a Western version of The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa's epic masterpiece that received the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film in 1955. Far from a straightforward adaptation, however, this movie takes major elements from the original and revises them to create an engaging film. This story concerns the efforts of Mexican farmers to thwart Calvera's incessant raiding of their village's food and supplies. His band of thirty gunmen is a tall order, but they plan to buy guns to fight this menace. Instead, they end up hiring seven unique and talented men to teach them the ways of the violent world. Can this small band of gunfighters really save the village from such a large group? Their efforts provide some of the more exciting battles in the history of the genre.

The remaining members of the seven heroes are a talented group of unique actors who each put their own memorable spin on the film. I enjoyed the stoic and nonchalant efficiency of the knife-throwing Britt, played in a perfect, low-key manner by James Coburn (Affliction). He utters few, complex statements and appears bored by the lack of a legitimate challenge in this "civilized" world. Arguably the best line of the film comes from Britt after shooting down an enemy from an extreme distance: while a fellow gunfighter utters his astonishment at the shot, he exclaims in disgust: "The worst! I was aiming at the horse." Charles Bronson's Bernardo O'Reilly remains mostly in the background but does receive the best lines about the sad life of a gunfighter. His hulking presence is hard to forget, and it works perfectly to reveal the weariness inherent in this character towards the life he's chosen. A surprisingly large amount of screen time is given to European newcomer Horst Buchholz, an energetic young actor. His Chico character falls short of being one of my favorites, but he does have a great drunken scene at a bar. The final two gunfighters—Harry Luck (Brad Dexter) and Lee (Robert Vaughn)—receive less prominence, but still have a few interesting moments. Vaughn's waking from a horrible nightmare is the most eerie point of the film, and really showcases the conflicts residing in each character.

John Sturges (The Great Escape, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) directs with a stark precision that varies considerably from the wide-open natural landscapes of John Ford's classic westerns. Instead, he focuses more on the personalities of the characters and their inner conflicts. While the landscape is impressive and the action scenes are spectacular, his direction still takes a step back to the performances. Elmer Bernstein's unforgettable score heightens the drama and makes the events feel much more exciting and pertinent. There's very little not to like with The Magnificent Seven, save for a few flat lines from local villagers. Although it falls short of being the best film in the genre, it ranks among the top echelon. The gun battles make the story exciting, and then the human conflict raises the bar and creates a riveting drama.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for this disc is mostly flawless and includes a nice level of brightness for the outdoor scenes. The simple western towns and village scenery all showcase impressive color tones and add to the energy of the film. However, it's surprising to note the amount of significant specks and defects that appear, especially during scene changes. This appears to stem from the original print, which may have some problems due to the age of the film. Overall, this transfer provides a decent viewing experience, but the intermittent flaws keep it from being a top-notch transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Magnificent Seven includes a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio transfer, which is a feature often missing from older films. This track provides more depth and power than has ever existed before for this movie. It works well for the most part, but sadly it doesn't stand up well with many digital transfers. While it does utilize the surrounds at times, the sound field remains fairly narrow and straightforward. Overall, it does improve over the mono track (also included), but isn't the type of jump forward that might be expected.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by James Coburn, Eli Wallach, Walter Mirisch (producer) & Robert Religen (assistant director)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
Extras Review: This disc features several valuable supplements that offer a plethora of information on the film. Guns for Hire: The Making of the Magnificent Seven is a wonderful one-hour television documentary that covers an exhaustive amount of background on the film. It includes interviews with virtually all of the remaining members of the cast and crew about all aspects of the production. Everyone still has a genuine excitement about the movie and appears to relish going over their experience of making it. An additional gem is interesting archive footage of Yul Brynner speaking about the story. The documentary begins in pre-production and follows through the screenplay creation, casting, actual filming, and the famous score. This is one of the best documentaries available on any DVD, and it alone makes this release worthwhile.

The other major bonus is a feature-length commentary with actors James Coburn and Eli Wallach, plus producer Walter Mirisch and assistant director Robert Religen. The information supplied often matches things said in the documentary, but it helps to see the events unfolding onscreen. The comments aren't scene specific and simply speak about various elements of the story while the film unfolds. Coburn's track is separate from the others, but he provides some of the best insights, especially about the relationship to The Seven Samurai. Wallach is an entertaining speaker when talking about his villainous character, and the other men give plenty of interesting items. While there are some empty spaces, the background given is well spoken and aids in understanding the movie.

The remaining supplements include an extensive gallery of still photographs and two theatrical trailers. The still gallery is divided into five sections: Behind the Scenes, Off the Set, Portrait Art, Classic Production Art, and Poster Art. The Portrait Art section splits off into individual areas for easy perusal. Both trailers are presented in 2.35:1 widescreen formats, and they highlight the action and big stars of the production. The second trailer contains a hokey theme song that thankfully did not make the actual film.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

The Magnificent Seven's popularity has continued to grow with each subsequent generation since its original release in 1960. This success is due to its almost universal story of heroism, struggles, and redemption. Although it doesn't provide a groundbreaking new spin on the western genre, it does achieve a high entertainment level without pandering to the audience. These characters are not simple, good-guy characters who ride in to save the day. They each have personal issues about their life that cannot be resolved even with positive deeds.

 


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