'The Magnificent Seven' comes to UK Region free Blu-ray with a handsome looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. There are one or two niggles though. There’s some noticeable print weave during the title sequence, but thereafter the image is steady. The titles are superimposed upon a freeze frame which holds for most of the duration of Elmer Bernstein’s theme music. Within the freeze frame are several small pieces of dirt, which could quite easily have been ‘cloned out’ with a bit of digital post processing. At several points in the film I noticed some yellow print processing stains – vague yellow vertical bands – which again could have been improved upon but would have taken time. At each dissolve in the film, grain becomes very noticeable due to the old optical method of producing the visual mix which included duping the negative, thereby doubling the grain. This is simply how the film was made and no fault of the transfer. If they’d gone back to the original negs and remade all the mixes, this effect could have been rectified but it looks as though they transferred the best print they could find.
At all other times, there’s only a fine veil of grain to remind us that it was all shot on 35mm film.
There’s a wonderful depth to the image and colour is excellent. We get the healthy tanned skin tones of guys who’ve been out in the sun all day. We get blue skies to make we pale Brits jealous. The earth tones are suitably warm and the red titles look particularly vibrant.
In the night shots we have impressive blacks and, throughout, contrast is very good. This is a very nice looking transfer and, while it could never be compared with a recent blockbuster for image quality, for a 50 year old movie it looks mighty fine.
The audio on ‘The Magnificent Seven’ comes in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix which I felt was somewhat disappointing. I really wanted the music to be more expansive and enveloping, but what I got was something that seemed mostly centre weighted with a bit of bleed to the surrounds. At some points I also felt that dialogue was fighting a little with the music. It’s truly great music but an audience should never have to strain its ears to hear the actor’s lines. Apart from that, we only get real use of the surrounds in the gunfights with shots coming from all angles – but it’s never as clean sounding as a modern mix. Towards the final gun battle I became aware of a certain rubberiness in the lip sync and gun smoke seemed to come just a split second before the bang. As other films don’t appear to have this issue with my set up, I could only conclude it was disc related. Apart from that, the soundtrack is functional with nothing to really recommend it although it was certainly free of hiss, snap, crackle and pop.
- Audio Commentary
Here we are presented with a great commentary from James Coburn, Eli Wallach, Producer Walter Mirisch and Assistant Director Robert Relyea. James Coburn has a wonderful bass voice on this closely mic’d track. The ‘magnificent four’ provide a very comprehensive history of the film's production via anecdotes – many of which are repeated in the featurette. They avoid telling you what is happening on screen at any specific moment and instead relate a collection of personal memories as the movie plays. Coburn discusses his love for Kurosawa's film and actually getting to play his dream role of the swordfighter, Wallach has fun with Oscar acceptance speeches, and all offer their own memories of the psychological warfare that went on between the young bucks on set as they tried to steal the picture.
- Guns For Hire - The Making Of The Magnificent Seven (SD, 47 mins)
This chunky featurette includes contributions from Walter Mirisch, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, Horst Bucholz, Robert Vaughn and Brad Dexter. There are also archive interviews with Yul Brynner. We hear about the claims made by Brynner that he was the first to buy the movie rights to turn Kurosawa's epic into a Western as well as the damage done to American-Mexican relations by Gary Cooper’s ‘Vera Cruz’ which resulted in an on-set Mexican censor and a largely Mexican crew. McQueen’s former wife and Brynner’s wife chip in with their recollections including the on-set wedding of Yul & Doris. This doco really grabs the subject by the scruff of the neck and gives it a shake. For anyone who wants a good potted history of the production, this is for you.
- Elmer Bernstein And The Magnificent Seven (SD, 15 mins)
Jon Burlingame examines Bernstein’s stupendous score in fine detail. He takes each cue in turn and looks at the structure as well as how it dovetails into the final film. This is a respectful, loving presentation that explains the contribution made by Bernstein to the whole production. One for fans of original soundtrack recordings. Very nice too.
- The Linen Book: Lost Images From The Magnificent Seven (SD, 15 mins)
At some point in its history MGM must have run out of storage space as it archived all of its production photos and portraits deep down in a Kansas salt mine. The linen book was discovered here and it contains hundreds of images, from production stills to publicity shots and portraits from the movie that had been hidden for 50 years. Maggie Adams (MGM's Photo Archivist), Robert Relyea and Eli Wallach all examine the photographs and memories are jogged, prompting more anecdotes – real gold dust for film buffs.
- Photo Galleries
These are the actual pics (loads of them) from the linen book organised under the headings ‘Behind The Scenes’, ‘Off The Set’, ‘Portrait Art’, ‘Classic Production Art’ and ‘Poster Art’. Truly great to see and to marvel at the fantastic lighting used for black-and-white Hollywood portraiture.
‘The Magnificent Seven’ swagger on to UK Region free Blu-ray with a good looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Despite the odd source niggle, we get a sharp, detailed image with strong colour and contrast that looks great.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is generally good for a 50 year old film, dialogue is mostly clear but occasionally Elmer Bernstein’s superlative score seems to drown the speech in the mix. Surrounds are fed gunshots and music.
An excellent commentary track, comprehensive ‘Making of’ featurette, a look at the work of composer Bernstein and a collection of ‘lost’ photos comprise the bonus material.
The movie itself doesn’t fade with age. It’s still a rip roaring Western with a cast list that reads like a who’s who of Hollywood including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Robert Vaughn. Saddle up tonight!
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- Audio Commentary