Spectacular gun battles, epic-sized heroes and an all-star cast that includes Academy Award® winners Yul Brynner and James Coburn, together with Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach and Charles Bronson, make The Magnificent Seven a legend among westerns. Spawning three sequels and a successful television series, and featuring Elmer Bernstein's Oscar®-nominated score, this stunning remake of The Seven Samurai is "a hard-pounding adventure" (Newsweek) and "an enduringly popular" (Leonard Maltin) cinematic classic.
Merciless Calvera (Wallach) and his band of ruthless outlaws are terrorizing a poor Mexican village, and even the bravest lawmen can't stop them. Desperate, the locals hire Chris Adams (Brynner) and six other gunfighters to defend them. With time running out before Calvera's next raid, the heroic seven must prepare the villagers for this battle and help them find the courage to take back their town - or die trying!
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.
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 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.
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.