Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent SevenYul Brynner, back in the late 1950's, wanted to direct an American version of the SEVEN SAMURAI, as an western. So he bought up the movie rights. He wanted to cast Anthony Quinn in the lead, as Chris. Brynner had been directed by Quinn in the remake of THE BUCCANEER. Quinn would have been great as Chris, the leader of the Seven; and what a different film it would have been. But, alas, Brynner himself took the part, and put his own stamp of individuality on it. He walked like a cross between a panther and a ballet dancer; light on the balls of his feet. Ironically, as an actor, he was slow on the draw, and not used to Westerns. But artistically, this was never apparent in the finished film.

Many of the Seven's actors had seen the Kurosawa film, and they were very excited about transferring it to the American West. Eli Wallach, as Calvera, in just a few short scenes, found both the humor and the cruelty in the bandit chieftan. His accent and speech pattern were fairly authentic; more so certainly than the young German actor, Horst Buchholz, endeavoring to find a southwestern/Texan/Mexican drawl. Director, John Sturges, had great hopes for Horst; the camera loved him. But it was the trio of studs, Steve McQueen as Vin, Charles Bronson as O'Reilly, and James Coburn as Britt, that dominated the frame.

Steve McQueen, wearing skin-tight leather stovepipe chaps, spent a lot of time finding ways to upstage Yul Brynner. There was a rumor that he would have preferred playing Chico, the Buchholz character. McQueen's manic physical performance, lightning fast with a pistol and a quip, seemed to work well for him, and it gave him more than his share of focus. His Vin emerged as lethal, lean, and hungry; yet weary of the gunfighter's plight, and envious of the simplicity and the honor of the peasants fighting for their families and their homes.

James Coburn, as Britt, was laconic and dangerous, and living on the edge of his blade; competing mostly with himself for the next big thrill. Coburn got the part he wanted, and though he was given minimal dialogue, his deliveries were classic. This set the mold for his future career.

Charles Bronson as Bernardo O'Reilly, half-Irish, half Mexican, was solid as a rock; an experienced stone killer, and yet still a soft touch for the children of the village. His death scene touched us. He found the pulse of his character, and he was both dangerous and decent.

Robert Vaughn, as Lee, seemed uncomfortable and lost. His part had been rewritten, and expanded for him. Yet he seemed ill-suited for the part, and the genre. Even his costume seemed ill-fitting. Part of the problem was that his characters' inability to participate in the first couple of firefights left us with little sympathy for him. Later then, in his scene with the peasants, in which he admitted his fear, the emotions seemed forced and poorly conceived. His last moment heroics and death did little to balance the scales.

Brad Dexter was nearly invisible. He is the one actor in trivia games no one can remember. His character, Harry Luck, with twice the dialogue as Coburn, paled in comparison. Part of it was Dexter himself. He was a bland, middle-of-the-road, B-Movie heavy, and it was odd to cast him, and thrust him in amongst all of those young turks. He did a credible job, but he was completely outshined by the future super stars.

Vladimir Sokoloff, as the village's "old man", gave such a wonderful and touching performance, one did not realize the actor was not Latino. Like Eli Wallach, his talent as an actor transcended ethnic boundaries.

John Sturges, a veteran director of westerns, found just the right balance of action and character. Mexican farmers substituted fine for the original Japanese farmers. And brigands, or bandits, are cut from the same nasty mold no matter what the era, or geography. Kurosawa's classic runs like 3 hours in length, and it gave us much more in-depth character development; so that when these samurai began to die, we cared about them. In 1959, when SEVEN was filmed, three hour westerns were a non-existant species. Elmer Bernstein's musical score was revolutionary, and its pounding stacatto beat has become one of the most recognized pieces of music ever created for film.

This western, always listed in the top 50 best westerns, is a must-see. And the DVD version, in widescreen, is crisp and clear and colorful, and it helps us to recapture that magical feeling we had the first time we saw this film in a movie theatre.

MGM has just released the DVD of "The Magnificent Seven", perhaps the very last of an epoch of classic westerns. Poignant and sad, yet thrilling and action-filled, this cinema classic became a model for 100 action flicks to come. It's an early peek at the emerging movie anti-hero of the 60's and the 70's. An embattled farming village in Northern Mexico hires an unemployed gunslinger from Dodge City. Chris, played by Yul Brynner, recruits six more guns and takes a bloody stand against forty invading banditos. The film opened in 1960 to mild reviews. It was sent off to Europe, where it exploded with positive response. "The Seven" returned to the U.S. to wide acclaim, and as co-star James Coburn says in the documentary, "It's been playing ever since..." John Sturges filmed "Bad Day at Black Rock", "Gunfight at the OK Corral", and "The Great Escape", but history confirms that the meticulous out-door director achieved his artistic peak with this star-studded spectacle, featuring Elmer Bernstein's now classic theme. The film was followed by 3 sequels and a TV show that ran for 2 years. The DVD sound dialogue is a bit muted. The anamorphic 16:9 picture is perhaps the clearest ever, though you'll see some grain fallout during the lap dissolves. An audio commentary track with producer Walter Mirisch and several actors comes with 2 trailers and photos from the actual shoot and cast party. The real jewel of this new DVD is a brand new 46-minute documentary featuring interviews with all the major surviving stars, except Charles Bronson, who just turned 80. Charles Coburn, Eli Wallach, and Robert Vaughn re-live the adventures of filming this epic on location in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Amusing tales of future super-star Steve McQueen are revealed by his ex-wife. McQueen intentionally crashed his sports car to leave his TV series, "Wanted Dead or Alive", and join the cast of "Seven". Yul Brynner so enjoyed his all-black gunfighter attire that he repeated the same exact outfit in at least 4 more movies. Yul Brynner died of lung cancer in 1985. Steve McQueen died of cancer in 1980. Thanks to this timeless and valuable DVD, "The Magnificent Seven" may never die. After the raging battle ends, Brynner's character looks down on newly dug graves for the brave villagers. "We didn't do it.."he says. "Only the farmers win. We never win..."

Buy The Magnificent Seven (1960) Now

This review refers to the MGM Special Edition of this film....

In this time when we are looking for heroes to fight off terrorists, this is the perfect movie to watch.

Based on the Japaneese classic "The Seven Samurai", this story is set in a small farming village south of the border. A band of outlaws, lead by the ruthless Calvera(Eli Wallach), are terrorizing the town, taking the food and supplies of the hard working but meek farmers. They go the the elder of the town seeking advice. He tells them to buy guns and fight back. But guns are expensive and hard to come by. They gather up the little money they have and hire seven gunmen to help stave off the mauraders.The men accept, for little pay,mostly because they are broke,but we come to see they are moralistic and believe in the cause.

The gunmen are tough but each with his own special charisma.

These are not heartless anti-heroes(although at times some may seem that way), they bond with the townspeople, share food with them, teach them how to defend themselves. There are some touching scenes of them working together (one even forms a fatherly relationship with some of the children), and there's even a touch of romantic comedy.

The standoffs with the outlaws ensue, the gunmen and the farmers fight shoulder to shoulder.Although some of our heroes are lost, good does triumph over evil. This is a the definitive film for western lovers.

Not just a great western story, the cast is also magnificent.All these legends in one film, Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen,Charles Bronson,James Colburn, Robert Vaughn, and with Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz. The musical score by Elmer Bernstein is a huge part of the film, just try to get it out of your head afterwards, you know the one, used to be the theme song for the "Marlboro Man". Director John Sturges gives a real western feeling and the cinematography to go with it.

Already know you love this film and wondering about the DVD?

The DVD lives up to the name of "The Magnificent Seven" The transfer is one of the better ones of a film from this era(1960), I think I saw one glitch(But I was looking for them)that was so fast, hardly worth mentioning, The colors are glorious, The widescreen is in the original theatrical format, and it's perfect,The Sound is in 5.1 Surround and also in the original mono, take your choice,the score is Magnificent,and dialouge crisp and clear,The Picture is bright, even the night time scenes are easily distinguishable,Nice Packaging (A nice case with booklet inside), and the "Extras" will keep you busy all day, there's a documentary making of, still photos(Lots),Trailers, and Audio Commentary which runs through the whole movie if you want to watch it that way, and more.

"The meek shall inherit....." with the help of "The Magnificent Seven" Enjoy....Laurie

also recommended:

Great Hollywood Westerns: Man Without A Star

The Wild Bunch (Special Widescreen Original Director's Cut)

The Greatest Western Themes

Read Best Reviews of The Magnificent Seven (1960) Here

Enough has been said in the past about this fantastically entertaining movie, so I won't bore you with anything more. My comments concern the DVD, it's nicely presented, with an interesting documentary and feature commentary, certainly a bargain given the incredibly low price tag.

The 5.1 sound remix is excellent, but I have to say that the very obvious grain and print damage on the movie itself knocked my assessment of the DVD down from a 5 star rating to 4 stars. I realise that the movie is over 40 years old but some of the print damage in very noticeable, and given modern cleaning techniques I think it is difficult to believe that at least some effort could have been made to clean things up a bit. Having said that this DVD is still greatly superior to any VHS copy I've seen and well worth the money despite its flaws.

Want The Magnificent Seven (1960) Discount?

I am a huge fan of Steve McQueen and as such purchasing The Magnificent Seven on Blu Ray was a no brainer for me, a true must purchase item.

This movie is a classic and set a very high standard for all Westerns to come. With that said, this review is going to deal with the actual Blu Ray transfer , both video and audio , and not the plot or performances contained in it.

This being another 'quickie' catalog release from MGM, a studio in bankruptcy, I was not expecting too much here and afraid the technicians would just slather the image with tons of DNR, Edge Enhancement and call it a day. Luckily for me and all fans of this film I was wrong! Phew!

Here is the good news: This film has not been DNR'd to death at all. I can't see any actually, and as for edge enhancement, I just don't see that either. GREAT! A pretty natural looking image, nothing spectacular, but solid color and an almost fully stable image. There are a few very short instances of 'image/telecine wobble' but nothing too severe and only a few times. Chances are most folks won't even notice it.

Generally the image is pleasing,. Although there are SOME soft shots, a few horrible looking grainy shots, a bit of mosquito noise on certain blue sky shots and a grainy blurriness every single time the picture dissolves/fades into another scene, rather than a clean cut. I watched this carefully and noticed that most of the video problems occur in the first 50 minutes of the film, with the remaining hour and 18 minutes being just about issue free and VERY nice to look at for a 1960 film. Seriously, unless you are picking it apart, you will just notice a few soft grainy shots and everything else should look pretty good to you, bordering on very good.

Note that this transfer is not anywhere near a reference catalog title and stands no chance of winning Blu Ray release of the year or anything like that. I absolutely think most video reviews on name brand reviewer sites have inflated the video quality of this transfer. It was no where near as good as I was expecting, but then again no where near as bad either! Did I enjoy watching it? YOU BET! I can honestly say this is the very best this film has looked in home release format. EVER! Period!

The sound fares better than the picture I think. A decent DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is your only option. Basically this film is front heavy and center heavy. Every now and then you might get a gunshot or ricochet in a surround speaker, but most all the action and sound takes place up front and in the center channel. On the other hand, there is more LFE for your Sub than you would expect. Only a few lines of dialogue here and there were hard for me to hear, even with my surround system cranked up a bit. Most of it is clear as a bell with both music and sound effects sounding fine. I ran into a small segment towards the end where the audio/video sync was off. It was not my system and I could duplicate it multiple times with the problem always occurring in the same spot. When Charles Bronson paddles the kids behind, you see it, then hear the whack whack whack! Since the mouths are moving BEFORE the sound, the delay adjustment on your receiver will be useless. Fortunately, this disappears in a few minutes as if it had never happened and mouths and words match up once again. I have only ran into an actual disc/audio problem once before and that was on the last Dirty Harry movie, The Dead Pool. I am convinced that both discs have some sort of authoring problem that causes this.

**If you see the same sequence and the sound IS in synch please write a comment on my review so I know it is my gear and not the disc. Thanks.

There is a pretty nice selection of extras on this disc. Most come directly ported over from the 2 DVD collectors set. The audio commentary is particularly good, with stars James Coburn and Eli Wallach, plus the producer and assistant director. Not bad and at times quite entertaining and informative. When I really love a movie I tend to eat this stuff up and this was no exception. Also included is a very nice 46 minute 'making of' type documentary that offers lots of good stories and trivia. Another 15 minute documentary on composer Elmer Bernstein's score, and yet another shorter 'making of' piece called 'The linen Book'. Add to all of that two trailers and you can see this is a pretty hefty offering for bonus features.

The Magnificent Seven was a big hit, first in Europe and then in America. It is still revered today by both classic film buffs and Western genre fans. I love it because it launched Steve McQueen into stardom. It has a lot of appeal that works on many different levels. The score in particular is as rousing and inspirational as has ever been heard in a Western and all by itself it is an American Icon. You immediately conjure visions of the Old West and wide open spaces when you hear this music. Add an all star cast and great direction from John Sturges and you get one heck of a Western and one heck of a movie, period! Highly recommended!

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