Elmer Bernstein's appropriately magnificent score remains a highlight of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, a John Sturges film that turned Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" into an American western classic spawning three sequels, a belated CBS television series, and countless imitators.
The original, resurrected on Blu-Ray from MGM and Fox as part of a multi-disc series anthology, stars Yul Brynner as a gunslinger who recruits a band of six others (Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn among them) to help defend a small Mexican town against villain Eli Wallach and his gang of mercenaries. A bona-fide film classic, MGM's Blu-Ray edition basically offers an HD reprise of the label's 2006 Special Edition DVD, which was issued during that brief window when Sony was distributing the studio's home video product. The AVC encoded transfer looks great, offering crisp detail and strong colors, while the occasionally brittle DTS Master Audio sound offers a re-channeled mix of the film's original mono soundtrack (which is also on-hand).
Extras include the initial DVD's commentary track featuring Eli Wallach, James Coburn, and producer Walter Mirisch, plus featurettes on Elmer Bernstein's score (courtesy of comments from sage Jon Burlingame), a 45-minute retrospective documentary, trailers, and "Lost Images" from the movie. Curiously, neither Christopher Frayling's commentary from the 2006 DVD nor an interview with the film historian have been retained from that release, though everything else has.
The movie's three sequels are also included herein: RETURN OF THE SEVEN (the movie's actual on-screen title, even though the film is commonly known as RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) was the mediocre, belated 1966 sequel with Brynner back as Chris, here defending yet another small town with a gaggle of new pals. Larry Cohen (!) scripted this follow-up, with western vet Burt Kennedy handling the action, shot on-location in Spain. Elmer's music once again graces the film, here featured in an understandably more ragged looking transfer (particularly compared to the full restoration its predecessor received) that's nevertheless satisfying in its AVC encode. The DTS Master Audio sound offers sparse stereo separation and seems to be little more than a tiny embellishment on the movie's original mono mix. The trailer is also on tap.
George Kennedy replaced Yul in 1969's GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, a superior western than its immediate predecessor, with veteran gunslinger Chris Adams called in to break a Mexican revolutionary out of prison. Decent action and another stirring Elmer score mark this 1969 sagebrush saga, which looks mighty fine on Blu-Ray with its pleasing AVC encoded transfer and mono-sounding DTS Master Audio soundtrack.
The series concluded with 1972's THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE!, a weak B-grade programmer that looks more like an episode of "Bonanza" than a big-screen western thanks to its obviously diminished budget, Hollywood backlot sets and lack of widescreen lensing. With Lee Van Cleef now in the lead, the movie feels like a "Seven" movie in name (and theme music) only, with only another Elmer score (performed by a notably reduced orchestra) and attractive female leads (Stefanie Powers, Mariette Hartley) making it palatable.
Predictably the AVC encoded transfer is the weakest of the lot here, the 1.85 frame lacking in high-def detail and color. The DTS Master Audio sound is a bit punchier than its immediate predecessors, and the trailer completes the release, one which ought to be essential for all western fans.