The Magnificent Seven, featuring an Oscar-nominated score and launched three film careers, is now available on 4K Ultra HD.
Shout! Factory presents the film with a new restoration and color grade from a 4K scan of the original camera negative. However, only the 4K UHD disc presents the film in Dolby Vision. Charles Lang’s anamorphic cinematography is as glorious as it can be with the new restoration. Both audio commentaries are on each disc but the rest of the bonus features are only on the Blu-ray.
By this point, the Western genre had been in transition. Moreover, this film would go onto influence the genre going forward. Traditional Westerns were in an interesting point by 1960. They were basically B-movies and on their way out. You have the Youth Western while the psychological Freudian Westerns were not popular. But anyway, the event Western was becoming a big thing on its own right. No more B movie treatment but films being produced on an epic scale. Rather than having an individual hero, the heroes in this film are a group. Even though Japanese film Seven Samurai is basically a Western in its own right, it gets the remake treatment here and the result, not surprisingly, is a cinematic classic.
They were only seven bought they fought like seven-hundred. The stakes are high throughout the film but you wouldn’t necessarily know this from listening to Elmer Bernstein’s symphonic score. His score can be light-hearted at times, even cheery, but I’ll discuss the score in-depth shortly. Briefly though, you may as well call the film The Magnificent Eight just because of Bernstein’s role in the film. The man knows how to score an action film–just look at his work during the climactic shoot-out!
Walter Newman wasn’t available so William Roberts was the screenwriter on set and punches up the screenplay where he can. In the world of WGA crediting, Newman does not get a credit because the writer chose to remove his name. The gist of the film is Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) leads a group of seven gunfighters to protect a small Mexican village from Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his bandits. Chris is joined by Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen), Chico (Horst Buchholz), Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson), Lee (Robert Vaughn), Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), and Britt (James Coburn). There’s some terminology that does not age well but this is due to terms no longer being in use.
This is a very masculine film in that there are not really any women playing major roles. In a departure from many Western films, Chico is the only main character with a love interest in the film. In the end, he stays with Petra. The end of the film sees both Chris and Vin riding off into the sun. Everyone has their own sort of quirks and you might find similar characters appearing in a war movie. Even though this is a Western, it’s not too far from a war movie.
John Sturges is in complete command here. The man certainly knows how to film the action scenes. It’s not dependent on close-up shots and the film gets the job done. We see it again a few years later in The Great Escape, another film with a star-studded cast. You have a nice mix of actors in this film from different generations.
It’s amazing to think that this film launched the film careers of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. In Vin, we see the King of Cool as he is breaking out into better and brighter things. The cool level is not quite there yet but it’ll show up sooner than later. But still, we are watching a movie star at work! Hell, we see him doing whatever he can in the background to get attention. Yul Brynner wasn’t having any of it.
For me, the most challenging part of watching this film is seeing Yul Brynner in a role where he isn’t letting the Jewish people leave Egypt. Yes, I know he did more films but this is one of those cases were I’m light on watching the rest of his filmography. Brynner feels like he is the right guy for the role. However, the previous roles certainly show in his walk. You see a guy walking like royalty, not a cowboy.
You cannot discuss this film without talking about Elmer Bernstein’s Oscar-nominated score. It’s one of the best scores of all time. He was ten years into his film composing career at the time of the film’s release. This film would be the classic composer’s breakthrough despite the release of The Ten Commandments four years earlier. We can especially hear themes of Aaron Copland-esque Americana and such during the main theme. Bernstein brings back the theme throughout the film as a recurring leitmotif. There’s another variation on this theme during the end of the film. Bernstein also composes a bad guys theme in threatening low brass music. None of the Magnificent Seven have their own themes and this is to the film’s advantage.
The Magnificent Seven–with an amazing cast and absolutely brilliant score from Elmer Bernstein–is one of the greatest Westerns ever made in cinematic history. But without this timeless movie, you don’t get the rise of the Spaghetti Westerns.
- Commentary By James Coburn, Eli Wallach, Producer Walter Mirisch, And Assistant Director Robert Relyea
- Commentary By Film Historian Sir Christopher Frayling
- Guns For Hire: The Making Of The Magnificent Seven
- Elmer Bernstein And The Magnificent Seven
- Sir Christopher Frayling On The Magnificent Seven
- The Linen Book: Lost Images FromThe Magnificent Seven
- Original Theatrical Trailers
- Still Gallery
DIRECTOR: John Sturges
SCREENWRITER: William Roberts
CAST: Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, James Coburn, and introducing Horst Buchholz
United Artists released The Magnificent Seven in theaters on October 12, 1960. Grade: 5/5
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