Return of the Magnificent Seven (Blu-ray)
THE RETURN OF THE SEVEN… what can I say about this movie? A few nights ago I watched, and reviewed, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, which is an absolutely incredible film. I also received this sequel, and as I prepared to watch it I grew more and more excited at the prospect of going another round with the outlaws from the first film. If you’re thinking this way at all, let me tell you that you will be sorely disappointed.
I could run over the plot, but you’re much better served watching it when told in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN or in the original classic, THE SEVEN SAMURAI by Akira Kurosawa. Sadly there is nothing original in this film. From the storyline to the dialogue to the stage directions and camera angles – there is little to love here once you’ve seen it done well. In addition, the return of some characters did not mean the return of the original actors.
The only returning actor from the original film is Yul Brynner, as outlaw turned Robin Hood “helper of the needy” Chris. Brynner (THE KING AND I, WESTWORLD) performs well here, but once again there isn’t anything new. In the original film he was pushed by his fellow actors to exceed his King of Siam role when putting Chris on the screen. He is still incredibly engaging, there is certainly a kingly quality he brings to every role; but he doesn’t take us to any new places.
My research into this movie has uncovered a few reasons for these problems; the most important being that when approached about the sequel, Brynner said that he would only do the picture if Steve McQueen was not involved. McQueen apparently felt the movie was weak (unbelievable story), and watching the movie you can see why he wouldn’t want to be a part of it anyway. It almost feels like (and I wondered, but could find no evidence) if Brynner commissioned the script or had extensive rewrites worked out before it was even shown to McQueen. In this film, Vin Tanner (McQueen’s role) is played by Robert Fuller, a contract performer with Universal from 1959-1977. He’s not terrible, but the part here has been reduced to be almost completely submissive to Brynner’s Chris.
I would like to say that this film isn’t entirely without merit. As I said before, Brynner’s performance is actually pretty good. And there are a few lines (almost all delivered by Brynner) that are genuinely well-written and even poignant. Additionally, the cast (while mostly unknowns) has a few bright spots, but they are few and far between. One of the charms of the original is that you cared about each of the criminal-low-life-gunfighters and what might happen to them. No such luck here, as none are well-developed and a few of them actually creeped me out. One of them appeared to be a sociopathic serial killer and another comes across as a rapist. I don’t think “rapist with a heart of gold” is something that people are going to latch onto, but they tried.
To finish, I’d like to address two additional parts of the movie. They both stem, I think, from moving location of filming for the movie from Mexico to Spain, where they weren’t held hostage by a Mexican film censor (as they were on the first one). Since they weren’t held to these standards they were able to do a couple of things, one of which was good and the other bad. On the good they actually were able to make the film (and the villagers) look much more realistic; aside from having perfect teeth, they look like impoverished villagers. On the bad – I think they actually shot (and show) a cock fight – a real one. My wife and I speculated that perhaps they were just well trained, method actors (referring to the roosters)… but I kind of doubt that. It made me uneasy. It’s another piece of realism (I suppose), but it didn’t further the story in any way. To sum things up, if you’re in the mood for a good western avoid this one, but if you’re a Brynner fan and haven’t seen it here’s another chance to see him as the King.
Video: (1080p, 2.35:1 Widescreen) The transfer is the one good thing about this film. Considering it was released in ’66, the image is crisp and clean to a level I haven’t seen in an old movie. Very nicely done.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is fine, nothing special here. Especially frustrating is the fact that the score was either reused from the first film or Elmer Bernstein couldn’t think of anything new to add to his prior work.
Rounding out the special features is the Theatrical Trailer. Nothing else is present on the Blu-ray, completing a thoroughly disappointing experience.