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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Magnificent Seven: Season 1 (1998)

"You don't shoot nobody in the back."
- Chris Larrabee (Michael Biehn)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: February 08, 2006

Stars: Michael Biehn, Eric Close, Andrew Kavovit, Dale Midkiff, Ron Perlman, Anthony Starke, Ricky Worthy
Other Stars: Laurie Holden, Robert Vaughn, Siena Goines, Michael Greyeyes, Thomas Stephen Hall, Eric Larson, Daragh O'Malley, Ned Romero, Kurtwood Smith, Sonny Carl Davis, Jerry Hardin, Sam Hennings, Karen Hensel, Brion James, Jeremy Roberts, Boti Ann Bliss, Katy Boyer, Barry Corbin, Marisa Coughlan, Les Brandt, Shannon Kenny, Jeff Kober, Matt O'Toole, Alexa Vega, Tamara Braun, Justin Cooper, Michelle Phillips, Leon Russom, Therisa Stewart, Jeff Asch, David Kagen, Matthew Kimbrough, Jimmie F. Skaggs, Stephen McHattie, Anne Haney, Bernard Hocke, Alyson Reed, John Cullum, Daren Flam, Meredith Monroe, George Randall, Greg Serano, Gordon Tootoosis, Bill Bolender, Cliff De Young, Art LaFleur, Anthony Lee, Will McAllister, Julianna McCarthy, Randall Rapstine, Don Swayze
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (western violence, adult themes, mild language)
Run Time: 07h:27m:48s
Release Date: December 06, 2005
UPC: 027616131614
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- CC-C- D-

DVD Review

Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is such a great film that it seems rather foolish for anybody to attempt a remake. However, foolish or not, John Sturges crafted a marvelous western based upon Kurosawa's epic. The Magnificent Seven stands as one of the genre's greatest moments, heralding the arrival of Steve McQueen as a star and providing arguably some of the most enjoyable moments in cinematic history. Unfortunately, there can be too much of a good thing. After multiple unsatisfying sequels, Hollywood seemed content to let this sleeping dog lie... until January 1998.

As a TV series, The Magnificent Seven made a short, quiet run for a mere 23 episodes during its two seasons of airtime. Perhaps fans of the original preferred to rent the movie, while those unfamiliar with the classic film simply had no interest in television's latest Gunsmoke wannabe. The show attempts to recapture the classic western style, which is especially evident in the pilot episode, Ghosts of the Confederacy. Taking the basic storyline of the film, as well as Elmer Bernstein's awesome score, this outing introduces the audience to the Seven's new incarnation. The mysterious Chris Larrabee (Michael Biehn) and honorable Vin Tanner (Eric Close) meet when a young black man, Nathan Jackson (Rick Worthy), is about to be lynched. Ever the vigilantes, both Chris and Vin set their rifles ablaze in a bloody bout of justice. A Seminole chief (Ned Romero) notices their heroic actions and enlists them to protect his tribe from a band of confederate hold-outs.

Thus begins the show's run as Chris, Vin, and Nathan round up an additional four men to fend off the "Johnny Rebs." Chris' old friend, Buck (Dale Midkiff), brings his skill with a gun, while Nathan's friend, an ex-preacher named Josiah (Ron Perlman), contributes a deep-seated guilt about his past gun fighting. There's also the proverbial greenhorn, J.D. Dunne (Andrew Kavovit), who must prove himself as a man on the field of battle. Most enjoyable of all is Ezra Standish (Anthony Starke), a con artist who is as quick with a pistol as he is with a card trick. This grouping of men forms a surprising strong bond quite quickly, despite their notable differences in personality, and become a regular posse in their frontier town. Despite the objections of Mary (Laurie Holden), a townswoman who wants these hired guns to leave the "peaceful" city, things subside in One Day Out West. When the new judge, Mary's father-in-law Oren Travis (played by one of the original film's cast members, Robert Vaughn), entices the wrath of an evil rancher, the Seven come to his aide and he hires them as a town security force.

The whole idea of a television show based upon the movie seems like a bad idea. The idea behind the film, both Kurosawa's and Sturges', is to show a group of men who come together near the closing of an era, staging a sort of last dance through their heroic acts of sacrifice and honor. The very nature of television makes this a rather difficult theme for the show's creators, which is only compounded by the whole "reset button" effect. When the gang busts up a crooked prostitution ring in Working Girls, the story is never mentioned again. The closest thing to a continual storyline is Chris' troubled past, which manifests itself in Nemesis. Learning intricate details about his family's murder, Chris takes his men on a manhunt to uncover the man who orchestrated the whole event. This is easily the best episode of the season, with Biehn turning in a convincing performances as a revenge-obsessed gunslinger.

However, the characters rarely come across as complex individuals. The writing is unconvincing, with many jokes and lines being clearly written without any effort to evoke the show's time period. These story's are taking place in the late 19th century, so when a novelist asks about business cards in Nemesis, it feels out of place. Apart from his success in the above-mentioned episode, Biehn seems out of his element here. In just about every scene he's in, Biehn is too detached from the events. When he's thrown into prison in Inmate 78, there's no great sense of urgency. Ron Perlman's portrayal of Josiah is awkward, opting to indulge in the character's guilt so intensely that it's tough to imagine he'd ever pick up a gun again. This is even more apparent in The Collector, when a former love (Alyson Reed) shows up. With the sole exception of Anthony Starke's enthusiastic depiction of Ezra as a charlatan, none of the principal cast members make much of an impression.

Despite the show's efforts to recapture that good old-fashioned western feeling, it never quite succeeds. While the costumes and sets are realistic and truly give the sense of a frontier town, there's no sense of passion in any of the visuals. The gunfights are staged well by and large, though there are a few instances of slow motion that would make even Edward Zwick cringe. But the biggest problem is that the various directors seem to always want to harken back to Sturges' film. Consequently, every episode comes up short in comparison. It may not be fair to criticize The Magnificent Seven for not being a classic, but that's the price it pays for failing to climb this mountain of its own choosing.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 image preserves the original broadcast ratio, but the quality is far from consistent. Some shots contain an inordinate amount of grain, while others seem quite faded. Detail is commendable, but contrast is weak and the colors are muted.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Stereo 2.0 audio comes across cleanly, but fails to capture any sense of excitement. Dialogue is always audible and the track is quite clean, however there's minimal dynamic range. Even when played in ProLogic the mix is rather drab.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 66 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Classic Westerns, Silverado: Deluxe Edition, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Collector's Edition
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Apart from the trailers for "Classic Westerns" (a promo piece for various titles from Sony Home Entertainment), Silverado: Deluxe Edition, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Collector's Edition, there is no supplemental material on this two-disc set. Both discs provide a Play All function for the episodes, plus the chapters allow the viewer to easily skip over the main title sequence for each one.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

The barebones DVD of The Magnificent Seven: Season 1 features marginal audio and video transfers, so there's little to draw one's attention other than the nine episodes.

 


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