"Yul 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."
My Favorite Film
gobirds2 | New England | 03/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have not seen "The Magnificent Seven" in widescreen since I first saw it in the theatre in 1960. I have been watching it in pan & scan for about 40 years now. It is my favorite motion picture. Seeing it in widescreen opened new vistas for me. It finaly seems like the large scale yet personal drama that it always deserved to be. I can greater appreciate the composition of the different camera frames by noticing facial expressions and the like that have gone unnoticed for years. There is more character development here than I even imagined. There is more beauty and detail to the landscape unto which the story unfolds. The film has now at last taken on legendary proportions thanks to this format. Yul Brynner as Chris, Steve McQueen as Vin, Charles Bronson as O'Reilly, Robert Vaughn as Lee, Brad Dexter as Harry Luck, James Coburn as Britt and Horst Buchholz as Chico are all imbedded into the psyche of anyone who ever saw this movie and felt its emotional impact. These are real screen heroes.
There is something very magical about this film. This is different from every other Western that came before it. I believe it is the nature of the seven gunfighters, their motives for that one chance at gallantry and redemption. That combined with the way the story is visually told makes for its greatness. It teaches us something about nobility, dignity and devotion. The hearse-ride taken up to Boot Hill with Yul Brynner driving and Steve McQueen riding shotgun sets the stage and tone for the entire film. Images such as when Charles Bronson, is bent over with a bullet inside and the three little Mexican boys clutch him crying out his name while in his death throes bring a tear to the eye. In another the viewer reflects along with Yul Brynner as he takes the lifeless James Coburn's knife out of the adobe wall and folds it gently in his hand. These are heart rendering and indelible images. Even Eli Wallach as the bandit Calvera gets his moment of pathos. After being mortally wounded by Yul Brynner's bullet, Calvera can not believe that the seven came back to save the village even after the villagers told them that they did not want their help anymore. "You came back. A man like you. Why?" asks Calvera as he dies. Yul Brynner has no answer for him. It was as if Brynner had committed some sacrilege.
Director John Sturges captured the ambiguities of the human spirit in this film. Just as he directed "The Great Escape," Sturges' directorial style is so smooth that his own storytelling glosses right over the depth and complexity of his own work. The ultimate shame is that all Sturges' profoundness is all right up there on the screen. He literally outdoes himself along with a little help from Elmer Bernstein's score and William Roberts' script. Bernstein's insertion of quick tempo snippets here and there into the score advances the film and pulls the viewer right into the narrative with an emotional fervor along with his unforgettable main title theme. William Roberts' script is so full of memorable and engaging dialogue that it too smoothly advances the story with ease and shear magnetism playing on our emotions.
For me Yul Brynner was the epitome of `cool' and aplomb. From his dark gray and black outfit down to the tip of his thin cheroot he was the kind of man others look up to but keep their distance. Yul Brynner as Chris, was a man of few words and often communicated by the mere gesture of the hand. Of the seven, he was the cohesive element that drew them together simply by his demeanor. The aura of his worldliness beckoned them all to the place he was heading. It was the same place they were all going. He was just the first to recognize it. Brynner too was the cohesive element that kept them all together. Brynner was the one who followed some unwritten code of honor that is only alluded to in a few passages. McQueen was perfect as the gunfighter who was "just drifting" and signed on with Brynner. The levelheaded McQueen represents the other characters' realizations one by one as they join. James Coburn was perfect, as the stoic knife throwing Britt, who lived only for the thrill of the moment. Charles Bronson as O'Reilly played his stoically rugged but sympathetic role better than any actor could have. Bronson had a unique visual presence whose kind facial expressions counterbalanced his pockmark face and strong physique. Bronson was a conundrum unto himself and perfect for the role. Brad Dexter's performance as the unlucky fortune hunter has gone unrecognized. He was the least noble of the seven and died the mercenary that he was, yet there is some nobility to one's profession in that. Still, he gains our sympathy after returning in the clutch and saves his friend Chris and in turn is killed. Dying in the arms of his friend, Chris lets him go to the grave with a lie. Robert Vaughn's character was probably the most interesting of the seven. His enigmatic portrayal of Lee the tormented soul and not really the coward he labeled himself somehow never stood out. Only his act of redemption, his gunplay and death during the finale lingers. Vaughn's portrayal is a success because as he said he was "the coward hiding out in the middle of a battlefield" and at that he succeeded. Horst Buchholz gave an energetic and bravura performance the only one of the seven that had not yet been corrupted by the world. At the end he symbolically hangs his guns up and roles up his sleeves. Brynner and McQueen say that "only the farmers have won" and they lost. As they ride off into screen immortality I think we all won."
Less than Magnificent a Disappointment
Alamo_guy | 01/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This 2 disc Collector's Edition DVD is a disappointment. When I first opened it, it looked very impressive. The packing and graphics are first rate and artistically done. But I must stop with the superlatives at this point. There is hardly any more material here than on the single special edition single disc of this same title. The feature on Elmer Bernstein's score is cursory at best. This 2 disc DVD does not even contain any trailers for the film. The section on production materials only has 3 posters to step through. That's it. The transfer does look good and this is one of my favorite movies of all time. However, I was expecting much more. This is a 5 star movie but this DVD edition is assembled in a perfunctory manner and I can only give it 3 stars. "
BLU RAY box set review....2010 purchaser...
Richardson | Sunny California USA | 05/21/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
Amazon.com is lumping all reviews together so I thought I'd clarify that I am reviewing the BLU RAY set!
It wasn't clear if there were any NEW bonus features from the lovely 2 disc version of the first classic film or the follow ups on this set..there are not. My recommendation is that fans WAIT for a release of the first classic instead of making the expensive mistake I did by purchasing this set. I think I was convincing myself that in hi-def I'd like the follow up films more...I don't and in fact the final installment still looks washed out and almost tv movie of the week quality. The first three do look improved in Blu-Ray but on the first classic film some flaws and grain are magnified by this format. The bonus features look nice in Blu-ray HD but there isn't anything new here.
Unless you are one of the few who liked the follow up movies , a lot, I'd wait for a single disc Blue Ray version of the classic film and save $40. This is a ploy to get suckers like me to jump at a package and price and I'm sure the first film will ultimately be available on its own. You do not gain much by blu ray so keep your DVDs and enjoy them until that day."
When Walking Away Doesn't Suffice: The Art of Making Legend
TastyBabySyndrome | "Daddy Dagon's Daycare" - Proud Sponsor of the Lit | 12/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Farmers oppressed by bandits (and their guns) finally tire of giving their crops over to hungry mouths and grumbling bellies because they, too, hunger and want. Thinking it is time for action, they decide to cross the border and find guns to place a little steel mentally in their vein and physically into their tormentors. If this means collecting the meager valuables that the farmers therein then that is fine, too, because freedom will bring more to their tables. A crossing of paths changes their minds, however, and they find themselves in the market for "men" instead of more expensive weaponry. With Chris Adams (Yul Brynner) recruited first and at the gunslinging helm, he helps choose six others to make a solid seven willing to fight only for food, a place to sleep, twenty dollars, and whatever sense of nobility they get from being heroes. And then its on... This remake of Seven Samurai did for westerns what its predecessor did in the samurai arena. It crafted a legendary tale of men and weapons as they go off to fight the "good" fight for the people. The Magnificent Seven pays homage to Seven Samurai in many scenes, too, recreating some of those notable characters and some of those climactic scenes where they can be easily recognized. I personally liked that touch, finding Seven Samurai to be something well worth mentioning in many a genre of filmmaking. That said, this movie only takes from Seven Samurai in some aspects and fills-in-the-blanks the way it wants to in others, forging its own celluloid destiny. Where the first is overcast in somewhat grounded themes, The Magnificent Seven becomes more of a morality tale and makes its own mark by taking an idea and purifying it, producing more of an issue sheathed in "good vs. bad" than one beset with strong undercurrents. While that would have been a detractor from Seven Samurai, it worked really well in The Magnificent Seven and let the telling becomes one of heroics and what goes into motivating "men."Not only is the creation of the tale done well in the aspects of filming, but the acting accents it in memorable ways. Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson come together with other talented performers and give their characters depth as the movie moves across that "save the farmers" frontier. This leads to romance with a farmer's daughter, the way a man sees death after hundreds have died before him, what bravery amounts to, and countless other themes birthed by the way those individual gunfighters are showcased. And that's always a good thing, because cardboard cutouts don't really mean anything as they struggle against death for life."