Blu-ray
Recommended
4 stars
Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
3.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

The Magnificent Seven

Street Date:
August 2nd, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 21st, 2011
Movie Release Year:
1960
Studio:
MGM/UA
Length:
128 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

It's the quintessential western story, which was borrowed from the quintessential samurai story. 'The Magnificent Seven,' based on Akira Kurosawa classic 'Seven Samurai,' brings the story of a troubled town and a team of peacemakers to the Wild West.

A small town of farmers is in desperate need of assistance. A group of thugs routinely invades their town demanding their food. Because they can't fight, the farmers always agree to the terms. Until one day they've had enough. A group of them set out to find a man, or men, who would be willing to help them out. They can't pay much, but these old west movies are usually populated full of honor-bound men willing to help a good, almost lost, cause.

This type of story has been used over and over in films, especially westerns. Even 'A Bug's Life' owes much of its existence to this and 'Seven Samurai.'

The group of villagers soon finds Chris Larabee Adams (Yul Brynner). We know he's a good, honorable man because without asking for payment he risks his own life to help bury a non-white citizen in the town graveyard even though there's strong opposition to it. He hops on the carriage to pull the coffin up the hill. He's soon joined by another morally decent man Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen) who assists him with a shotgun. This blatant display of heroism is crucial to western stories like this. We need to know that these men, who will soon be going to help a small defenseless town, are beyond reproach. There's something inside them that binds them to helping people, no matter what the cost. Any other kind of people, and we'd think they're crazy. However, these are a different kind of men.

Adams and Tanner soon recruit five other men to help defend the village from the marauding invaders. Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), Lee (Robert Vaughn), Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), Britt (James Coburn), and Chico (Horst Buchholz). Bound by something other than monetary gain these men come together to protect this small town.

Besides the moral underpinnings of this archetypal western tale, it's interesting to witness how action was filmed back in 1960. No shaky-cam. No half-second cuts. Everything makes sense. Director John Sturges is able to create a western world with intelligible geography. We know where everyone is at every moment. It's almost impossible to get lost in the classical filming style employed here. Action scenes make sense. Shootouts aren't haphazardly thrown together. Revisiting this movie made me wish that more action directors thought this way today. What's so wrong with understanding the geographical space that the characters are occupying? We don't need to be assaulted non-stop by climactic action. Instead the action here is precise with each shot serving a specific purpose.

While it may not be as classic as 'Seven Samurai' – largely regarded as one of the best pictures of all time – 'The Magnificent Seven' stands on its own as a prototypical western. A story structure and character outlines that would be followed rigorously throughout cinema.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

MGM has released 'The Magnificent Seven' in a 50th Anniversary release. It's been pressed onto a 50-GB Blu-ray disc, and has been given a standard keepcase for storage. It's noted as being a Region A release.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Truthfully, I was a little scared when it came to MGM releasing this classic film. Their transfers as of late have been all over the map. Movies from the 80s and 90s have looked drab and dirty, thankfully this one was treated with respect.

The image is strikingly clear for a movie from the 60s. The print has been kept in good shape, free from awful scratches, blemishes, or hairs. Noise pops up frequently, but nothing that isn't manageable. Even though the image is clean it doesn't look like DNR has been applied egregiously. The picture still retains its original, thick grain structure. Colors are the brightest I've ever seen them. Even McQueen's salmon-colored shirt looks good (only Steve McQueen could wear a pink shirt in the Wild West and get away with it).

Blacks are reasonably deep. Fine detail is well resolved offering up facial details, which up until now haven't been seen. One thing that's noticeable – which I also noticed when reviewing the 'Ten Commandments' – is that there are noticeable color shifts right before the fade-outs at the end of multiple scenes. It isn't annoying, but it is noticeable. Overall though, this movie has been given a good treatment from MGM.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The movie has been given a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, even though it was originally released with a mono track. While it's a nice addition, getting a Master Audio surround sound track for this movie, I don't really see why it was needed.

The surrounds are often unengaged. It really isn't the fault of the movie, since its sound was never recorded to be used as surround sound. There are some faint gunshots, horse whinnies, and yells that come out of the rear channels, but nothing that completely engulfs you in the action. Directionality has been handled well though, placing voices where they need to be relative to their place on screen. LFE is kept at bay for much of the movie. Hoof beats and the grinding of a train add a bit to the lower end of the spectrum, but overall the ".1" really doesn't have much to offer here.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary – Producer Walter Mirisch, assistant director Robert Relyea, and actors James Coburn and Eli Wallach are the commentators here. This commentary was already released on an earlier version of the movie, but it's still a great listen if you haven't heard it yet. Since many of the original members of the film have since passed away, it's nice to hear from a few living people who know what it was like on set and can comment on the filming and acting.

  • Guns For Hire (SD, 47 min.) – This is the making-of feature. It's a lengthy retrospective that looks back at the making of 'The Magnificent Seven.' Known faces in Hollywood like director John Carpenter, among others, reminisce about the film and its influence on cinema as a whole. The adaption of 'Seven Samurai' is discussed here also. For fans of the movie, this is a must see.

  • Elmer Bernstein and 'The Magnificent Seven' (SD, 15 min.) – A look at the iconic score created for the movie by famed composer Elmer Berstein.

  • The Linen Book (SD, 15 min.) – Another, shorter reminiscing about the movie with on-set stills from the movie included.

  • Still Gallery (HD) – More production stills from the movie are included.

  • Trailer (HD) – There are two theatrical trailers included here.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided.

Final Thoughts

It's nice that 'The Magnificent Seven' now has its own standalone release. It's certainly the very best of the bunch, and offers one of the most classic western stories out there. Fans of the movie will be happy with the audio and video presentations. The special features are well stocked, even though there aren't any new Blu-ray exclusives provided. Recommended.

Technical Specs

  • 50-GB Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG - 4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English: 2.0 Mono
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, Spanish, French

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • Guns For Hire - Making-of Documentary
  • Elmer Berstein and 'The Magnificent Seven'
  • The Linen Book
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers

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