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The Magnificent Seven - Review

The Magnificent Seven

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Three hours of special features including: Audio Commentary with James Coburn, Eli Wallach and crew. Guns For Hire – The Making of The Magnificent Seven (60 min documentary). Elmer Bernstein featurette. Trailers. Photo Galleries.

JOHN Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven remains one of the seminal westerns of all-time.

Released in 1960, the film provided unforgettable roles for a host of iconic stars, a notable score from Elmer Bernstein and enough classic moments to fill at least a dozen back pages of Empire movie magazine.

It is, of course, a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, yet its popularity was such that it spawned several sequels and, most recently, a television series starring Michael Biehn.

The plot is the stuff of legend. A lone gun for hire named Chris (Yul Brynner) rounds up a team of seven men to defend a Mexican farming village from bandits led by the unscrupulous Calvera (Eli Wallach).

The seven men in question are comprised of a quick-witted sharp-shooter (Steve McQueen), a solemn knife specialist (James Coburn), a penniless mercenary (Charles Bronson), an unhinged gambler (Robert Vaughn), a naive Mexican (Horst Bucholz), and a greedy fortune hunter (Brad Dexter).

Much of the fun in watching The Magnificent Seven lies in the sparkling chemistry that exists between the seven men, all of whom leave their mark on the viewer in some way.

Whether breaking down the merits of their profession – “Home: none. Wife: none. Kids: none. Prospects: zero” – or teaching the Mexican village children about the bravery of their fathers – “you think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers” – the film frequently succeeds in delivering characters and situations that leave a lasting impression.

Coupled with Bernstein’s rousing score and the well choreographed action sequences, The Magnificent Seven offers two hours of near-perfect entertainment that has rightly assumed a legendary status with filmgoers.

What’s more, it even does it without conforming to Hollywood cliche as several of the most popular characters don’t make it to the final reel, while those that do don’t necessarily receive a happy ending.

For as a sombre Chris states, when looking back on the village before riding off into the hills, ‘only the farmers have won’. It ends the film on an unexpectedly poignant note.

Of the film’s all-time classic moments, the assembly of the seven arguably provides the most entertainment – from Chris and Vin’s legendary march towards Boot Hill on a hearse, to the first appearance of Coburn’s Britt during an impromptu knife versus gun fight.

But once at the village, there’s the crackling exchanges between each of the seven, as well as their confrontations with Calvera to get your teeth into.

Given the film’s iconic status, no Ultimate DVD would be complete without examing some of the cracking stories that have since emerged from The Magnificent Seven set.

A documentary on the making of the film traces the history of the film from its origins to its sequels, while detailing the animosity that sometimes existed during filming between Steve McQueen and just about every one of his colleagues.

For instance, McQueen – who was still struggling to break through at that time – frequently complained that Brynner’s gun was bigger than his, while Brynner even had to threaten to remove his hat in every scene to keep the focus of attention on him (because McQueen was prone to doing things out of shot that were designed to draw the viewer’s attention).

There’s also a satisfactory commentary from Coburn, Wallach and producer Walter Mirisch that succeeds in dropping the odd noteworthy anecdote.

The Magnificent Seven was one of the reasons I became a film fan. Its appeal is timeless, its legacy enduring. It continues to provide the inspiration for countless imitations. If you haven’t already added the film to your DVD collection, then the release of this Ultimate Edition provides the perfect opportunity to do so.