The Magnificent Seven: Special Edition/Gold Edition (1960)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Guns For Hire-The Making Of The Magnificent Seven
Audio Commentary-J Coburn (Act), E Wallach (Act), W Mirisch (Prod), et al
Trailer-Return Of The Magnificent Seven
Trailer-Guns Of The Magnificent Seven; Magnificent Seven Ride!
|Year Of Production||1960|
|Running Time||122:49 (Case: 125)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (91:41)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||John Sturges|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Auto Pan & Scan Encoded||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Classic films must start with a good plot, and this film got its plot from a source that has provided plots for many good Westerns - a Kurosawa film. Back in the 50s, it was highly unusual for foreign films to get screened in the US, and Japanese films were almost never seen. Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai was (is!) an extraordinary film. Several people in Hollywood, immediately after seeing The Seven Samurai, felt that it was a perfect plot for a Western. This shouldn't be too surprising, as Kurosawa has always credited the directors of Westerns (directors like Ford) with giving him inspiration. In the end, Lou Morheim optioned the rights (Yul Brynner claimed he did, but the documentation supports Morheim's claim). Anthony Quinn was initially involved, but pulled out - history is unclear as to why.
The first attempt at a screenplay was written by Walter Bernstein, but it wasn't attractive to the Hollywood moguls. The second attempt was penned by Walter Newman, and that's the one they filmed, but he couldn't make down to Mexico to tailor the script during filming, so William Roberts did the job of "script doctor". In the end, only William Roberts' name appears on the film because Newman was angry over sharing credit, and withdrew his name.
Originally, Yul Brynner was suggested for director, but in the end John Sturges got the job. Sturges cast the rest of the film, making some selections quite quickly to avoid an actors' strike. A number of relatively unknown actors got their big breaks in this film, including Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson. Kinda funny to imagine those guys as "unknown".
The plot is quite simple. A small Mexican village is being repeatedly raided by a bandit gang led by Calvera (Eli Wallach). The villagers, in desperation, go to a border town to buy guns to defend themselves. They find that it is easier to hire men with guns than it is to buy guns. They hire a total of seven men. These men travel to the village and confront Calvera and his gang of forty bandits. That's pretty much it.
What makes this film special are two things: the characters, and the music. Each one of the seven is a finely-drawn character, distinct and interesting, and the music is special - you've heard it many times (especially before cigarette advertising was banned). What impressed me deeply as I watched this film again was the superb matching of the music to the events of the script. If you don't believe me, try watching the film with the sound muted, and reading the subtitles. At least half the impact of the film is lost.
The scene where we meet Chris (Yul Brynner) and Vin (Steve McQueen) is a masterpiece - it is a grimly humorous introduction, with some wonderfully memorable lines, such as: "I never rode shotgun on a hearse before". As far as that goes, the intro for each of the seven is good; the one I remembered most distinctly being Britt (James Coburn). Britt is fabulous - he has perhaps a dozen lines in the whole movie, and he makes every one of them matter. The script is quite economical - it conveys a lot of meaning in few words.
There is a quote from director John Sturges that is mentioned in the commentary, and in the "making of". He said; "I thought we were making movies, not history". Fair enough, but this movie has become history.
It is quite likely that you've seen this film before, but it is also quite likely you haven't seen it in widescreen (unless you're even older than I am). This film has to be seen in widescreen to be really appreciated - the composition of the picture is destroyed by the pan and scan process. When I noticed that this film was released on DVD in Region 1, I had to order it - this is a vital part of any collection of great films. Now it is out in Region 4.
This film was shot in 1960, and released that year. That makes it 41 years old this year. It would be unreasonable to expect a perfect image for a film that old.
This movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. That is the original theatrical ratio.
The image is sharper than I've ever seen it. It is sharp enough, and beautifully framed. The shadow detail is limited, which I attribute to the source material, not the transfer. There is no low-level noise.
Colour is bleached. This seems to be a combination of the film stock, and the desert sun. There aren't a lot of colours to be seen, and what colours there are show up paler than you might expect. I don't see this as a problem, because I am used to this film looking this way - it is part of the movie. Definitely not a problem with the transfer, of that I am sure.
The film is old, and was never intended to last this long, so we should expect film artefacts, and we get them. Some scenes are filled with artefacts - the opening, for example. There are lots of artefacts, but they are almost all tiny and not troublesome. Besides, this is a Western - a slightly grimy look fits the feel of the movie. There is not much aliasing - there's a little, but it is not widespread, nor severe. There's shimmer in some of the wide shots. There's even some wobble on the credits. There are no MPEG artefacts. I'd suggest that the transfer is nearly perfect, and all the flaws we're seeing are attributable to the source material, except for the aliasing.
There are lots of subtitles, including two sets of subtitles in English - one conventional, one for the hearing impaired. The subtitles are presented in a simple sans-serif font, in white. They are clear and legible, and reasonably accurate.
The disc is single-sided and double-layered. The layer change comes at 91:41. It is in a cut from one part of a scene to another. It is not particularly noticeable.
There are only two soundtracks. The feature soundtrack is provided in English Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio commentary is provided in English Dolby Digital 2.0. The feature soundtrack is a remastered job, and a good one.
Dialogue is fairly clear, even with the various accents - there are a few words which are hard to make out, but none of them are important. There are no audio sync issues.
Elmer Bernstein's score is marvellous. It is well spread across the sound field.
The surround speakers are not used heavily, but there are some moments that use them nicely. The subwoofer is hardly used at all - the soundtrack does not extend deeply into the lowest octaves.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are lots of extras, and they are good ones.
The menus have good transitions, are animated, and have music - top class stuff.
This commentary was recorded especially for this DVD. It is interesting and informative. They start talking over the opening titles, and continue throughout the movie - they have a lot to say.
This is a "making of", but a real one, not a fluff piece. It was made this year, and is amazingly comprehensive considering the time that has passed. It has interviews with all the surviving lead actors, and the wives of both Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
There are five trailers; two for the original film, and one for each of the three sequels. Having looked at the trailers, I'm not too surprised that only the original movie is known today.
This is divided into 5 sections, containing about 150 still photos.
The Region 4 disc misses out on:
The Region 1 disc misses out on:
The discs are fairly similar, even to the quality of the audio and video. I don't mind missing out on the 16x9 enhancement for the trailers, and I do like having lots of chapter stops, so I think the R4 is the disc to go for.
The Magnificent Seven is a classic Western. It will never look better than this without a hugely expensive restoration.
The video quality is good.
The audio quality is good.
The extras are excellent.
|DVD||Arcam DV88, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|