The Magnificent Seven appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While never exceptional, the transfer usually looked positive.
I felt that sharpness was usually good. Some shots displayed a bit of softness, but those weren’t extreme, and the movie could exhibit nice clarity and definition. At worst it was acceptable, and at best, it seemed quite solid. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, while edge haloes remained minimal. Print flaws were minor. I noticed a couple of specks and one streak, but this was usually a clean presentation.
Given the film’s setting, colors tended toward an arid, dry palette. The disc reproduced them fairly well. The tones seemed acceptably concise and accurate. Black levels came across as pretty deep and firm, but low-light shots could be a little heavy. Shadows tended to look a bit dark. Some of this stemmed from day-for-night photography, but other dim scenes were tough to discern for no apparent reason. Though this never became a dazzling image, it was strong enough for a “B”.
I experienced similar feelings toward the remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Magnificent Seven. The audio came from a monaural source that also appears on the Blu-ray. The soundfield of the 5.1 mix opened things up reasonably well, but don’t expect anything stellar.
Music showed acceptable stereo imaging, though the score rarely became involving. Those elements came across as “broad mono” much of the time; the score spread across the front but I didn’t often notice clean delineation of the instruments. Effects usually stayed close to the center. Some elements popped up from the sides, especially in regard to gunfire, but this wasn’t a terribly expansive track.
The surrounds contributed a little support. The rear speakers failed to play a strong role in the proceedings, though they occasionally added some unique elements. Those mainly occurred during the sequences with battle elements, as the sounds of war might appear in localized parts of the rear. Otherwise, the track maintained a heavy emphasis on the front speakers.
Audio quality seemed adequate but lackluster. Though consistently intelligible, speech tended to sound brittle. Effects were similar, as they came across as listenable but without much definition. A little distortion came through, though the effects were otherwise fairly clear. Music seemed decent. The score was fairly bright and bold, and it boasted acceptable low-end as well. This soundtrack never really overcame its origins, but it proved perfectly adequate.
How did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray compare to that of the 2006 Collector’s Edition DVD? Sound seemed similar, as the lossless DTS-HD track couldn’t bring a whole lot of life to the 50-year-old stems. Visuals demonstrated more notable improvements, primarily via lessened edge enhancement and stronger definition.
The Blu-ray offers some of the 2006 DVD’s extras. We find an audio commentary from actors James Coburn and Eli Wallach, executive producer Walter Mirisch and assistant director Robert Relyea. I believe that all except for Coburn sit together for a running, screen-specific track. Though deft editing makes it sound like all four are together, I’m pretty sure Coburn’s remarks are taken from a separate session and combined with the others. I could be wrong, as the track sure gives the impression they’re all together, but I’m fairly certain this isn’t the case.
They touch on quite a few topics. From the start and often throughout the commentary, they chat about director John Sturges’ personality and his working methods; many anecdotes about Sturges appear. We also learn of the sticky path the remake took to the screen and hear an appreciation for The Seven Samurai. In addition, we learn a bit about casting; Wallach and Coburn tell how they got their parts, and Coburn goes into his weapons training. We also get notes on how the participants interacted as well as the spirit of competition Sturges fostered among them.
Other elements touch on location shooting and cultural sensitivity to the depiction of Mexicans, shooting south of the border, and many good anecdotes. When the participants talk, this is a fun, informative track. Unfortunately, they pipe down too often, as we encounter some large stretches of dead air. The material is strong enough to overcome those gaps, at least; I like the commentary despite those problems.
Next we move to a documentary called Guns for Hire: The Making of The Magnificent Seven. This piece runs 46 minutes, 53 seconds and presents the standard mix of movie clips, archival materials and interviews both modern and old. We hear from Coburn, Mirisch, Relyea, Wallach, actors Yul Brynner, Horst Buchholz, John Alonzo, Brad Dexter, Rosenda Monteros, and Robert Vaughn, actor/writer Chazz Palminteri, writer/director John Carpenter, writer/director Lawrence Kasdan, associate producer Lou Morheim, Brynner’s former wife Doris, screenwriter Walter Bernstein, Steve McQueen’s former wife Niele McQueen Toffel, and composer Elmer Bernstein.
They reflect on the film’s place in Western history, the influence of The Seven Samurai and the decision to remake it, the path it took to the screen, choosing a director and adapting the story, casting and actors, shooting in Mexico and sensitivity about the depiction of the locals. From there we hear about competition among the actors and relationships on the set, concerns about the movie’s success, the score and the script, flicks that “borrowed” from Seven as well as its legacy.
The expanded roster of participants makes this a good program. We get information from a different viewpoint, so even when we hear the same subjects discussed, we often find a slightly alternate take on things. “Hire” offers a solid perspective on the film’s creation and entertains as it informs.
During the 14-minute and 48-second Elmer Bernstein and The Magnificent Seven, we hear from film music historian Jon Burlingame. He chats a little about composer Bernstein’s long career but mostly offers information about the movie’s specific cues and themes. Burlingame dissects the material nicely and makes this a useful piece.
For the last featurette, we get The Linen Book: Lost Images from The Magnificent Seven. This fills 14 minutes and 47 seconds as it presents notes from Relyea, Wallach, and MGM Home Entertainment Photo Archive head Maggie Adams. She tells us about the discovery of the “Linen Book”, a wealth of production photos. While we look at these, we get notes about the shoot from Relyea and Wallach. They repeat a lot of the same stories heard elsewhere, so this presentation isn’t very novel. I prefer the photos as offered in the upcoming stillframe collection.
In addition to two trailers, we find a Photo Gallery. It delivers 48 images that can be viewed as a four-minute, five-second slideshow; you can also use your remote to leap ahead or back through them. These cover ads, publicity stills, movie images and shots from the set to add up to a nice collection of images.
What does the Blu-ray lose from the 2006 DVD? Quite a lot, unfortunately. It gives us a smaller photo gallery and drops a terrific audio commentary from film historian Sir Christopher Frayling. It also omits a featurette with Frayling. The content found on the Blu-ray is good, but it’s too bad we don’t get the Frayling material; he offered a lot of valuable information.
It may not top its inspiration, but The Magnificent Seven stands well on its own. The movie offers a solid western with interesting characters, tense situations and just enough action to keep us entertained. The Blu-ray features fairly good picture and audio as well as some good supplements. In terms of movie presentation, this is the best out there, but fans will need to hold onto their copies of the CE DVD for the bonus materials that fail to come back here.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN