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“The Magnificent Seven Collection”-{Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: MGM
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
5/11/10
Special Features:

Commentary for first film, featurettes for first film, trailers for all films

Review:

The 4 Magnificent Seven films were released from 1960-1972. Stars of the films include Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Steve McQueen, Fernando Rey, Joe Don Baker, Bernie Casey, Lee Van Cleef, Ed Lauter, Pedro Armendariz Jr., and Gary Busey. Elmer Bernstein composed the musical scores for all 4 films. ***

The original Magnificent Seven film was released in 1960, and is a Western remake of Akira Kurosawa's classic film, The Seven Samurai. When a small Mexican town is fed up with being raided by a group of bandits constantly, who take their hard-earned food, it enlists the help of gunslingers. The group includes Chris Adams - an experienced gunfighter with strong morals, a man who is more interesting in hunting treasure, an outlaw on the run from the law, a switchblade master, a war veteran who is short on cash, a man whose gambling debts have caught up with him, and a young, inexperienced egomaniac. Being offered only minimal compensation, the group still heads back, aiming to free the less fortunate from the tyranny of the bandits. ***

The first film is, far and above, the best of the lot. A pretty faithful interpretation of The Seven Samurai, it features an ensemble cast, and everyone gives one hell of a performance. The film runs just over 2 hours, but in that time, we grow to love and bond with these characters and the villagers - and when it comes time for the inevitable showdown, we find ourselves rooting for the good guys. Few films being together an ensemble cast this great - and they make this movie worth watching. The film is something of a minor classic, and is definitely a fun Western to revisit 50 years after its initial release. ***

Return of the Seven was made in 1966, and features an old friend of the original Seven being captured by a new group of bandits that has been causing trouble near the site of the first film. Chris gets a new group together to go after the bandit leader, who has taken all the men from the town prisoner. ***

The problem with this franchise is, well, just that. It didn't need to be a franchise. This sequel doesn't have half the star power the original movie did, and the end result feels clichéd and done to death. There are some highlights of the movie, including Fernando Rey (later the villainous Charnier in the French Connection films) are a priest in the village where the men are being held hostage, but the plot feels like a retread of the original, with far less interesting heroes and villains. ***

Guns of the Magnificent Seven was released in 1969. This time around, a dictator has threatened the sanctity of towns south of the border. Chris (now played by George Kennedy) enlists another new group of outlaws, including a black miner (Casey) and an ex-Confederate with a bum arm and no shortage of confidence and psychological issues (Baker.) The new group attempts to ally itself with Mexican rebels to take down the dictator's regime. ***

Of the sequels, Guns is the best. This one scores major points for actually attempting to create some decent characters - with Casey and Baker's roles being some of the most interesting in the series. The film also provides the interesting twist of our heroes having to join forces with bandits against a government regime rather than having to fight against them. It doesn't hold a candle to the original movie, but I'll likely find myself coming back to this one more often than the other sequels. ***

Closing things out are 1972's The Magnificent Seven Ride! Chris Adams (now played by Lee Van Cleef) is now a lawman, and has a wife. But through a twist of fate, he finds himself heading to Mexico again, this time helping a town full of frightened women and children fend off ruthless bandits who want to raid and pillage. ***

Apart from Lee Van Cleef taking the role of Chris, this film has almost no redeeming qualities. It is a conventional Western in nearly every way. They tried to give women characters larger roles, likely to draw in a bigger audience, but they are depicted in such a stereotypical and degrading fashion up until the big showdown, that this idea comes off as something that probably should not have been done. The new band of outlaws Chris allies himself with are generic, by-the-book Western stereotypes, although it is interesting to see early appearances from actors such as Ed Lauter and Gary Busey. The plot makes absolutely no sense, and we don't even really meet the villain until the final showdown - with no development and no charisma he comes off as yet another generic Western stereotype. It isn't a bad film, but it is definitely a B-grade Western, even compared to other B-grade Westerns from the era. ---

Image And Sound:

I didn't have very high hopes for the transfers in this set, but the end result actually isn't half bad. The original film (likely the only one you really care about) looks very good - there is still some print damage and softness here and there, but in the long run I found myself enjoying this transfer. The second film holds up similarly, but there is considerably more print damage throughout. Guns is probably the best looking film of the lot, even rivaling the solid transfer the first movie gets. Sadly, Ride gets a weak-looking, blurry and soft transfer. But as a whole, despite the lack of a full-blown restoration, I give these transfers thumbs up. Each one is a considerable upgrade over its DVD counterpart. ***

The films also get lossless audio tracks, and while these aren't going to rock your speakers like Open Range or the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, for what they are they sound great. Elmer Bernstein's score sounds louder and more bombastic than ever, dialogue is clearer, and every sound effect gets an upgrade. Given the source material, I doubt the movies will ever sound better than this. And I'm all right with that.

Special Features:

The sequels only have a trailer each. But the first film has a number of supplements, including featurettes and a commentary track. All of this stuff is essential viewing for anyone who is a fan! Though I would liked to have seen some supplements for the sequels as well…

Final Words:

The Magnificent Seven is a great, classic Western that I am glad to see making its Blu-Ray debut. The sequels, well…. They're here. I wish MGM had released the movies separately so we could just buy the first one, as the sequels are all rental titles as best. But considering this set can be gotten under $40 from some Internet retailers, you might as well fork out the cash and pick it up. The set gets a modest recommendation.

 

 
 
 
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