Originally titled Return of the Seven, Return of the Magnificent Seven was made during an era that invested little sequels. This 1966 release defines the quick-buck retread mentality of Hollywood studios at the time. The only returning cast member from the 1960 classic is Yul Brynner as the kindly cowboy Chris Adams. As in the original, Chris is called upon to liberate the same small Mexican village from more villainous bandits. He puts together a posse, including Vin (Robert Fuller, filling in poorly for Steve McQueen), to combat the bad guys.
The situation is more personal for Chris and Vin this time, as their old buddy Chico (Julien Mateos this time, taking over for Horst Buchholz) still lives in the village with his wife. The villains are herding up the men of the village to force them into slave labor. As in the first film, Chris and company have their work cut out for them as they are greatly outnumbered by the bandits. Brynner seems to be sleepwalking this time around, and the supporting cast just isn’t given anything interesting to do or say. And even Chico’s wife Petra has been replaced by a different actress (swapping Elisa Montes for the original’s Rosenda Monteros), further evidence of just how little continuity mattered to the filmmakers.
Simply put, this sequel will appeal to the most undiscerning of Western movie fans. There are many folks who simply enjoy the Old West setting, shoot-outs, galloping horses, and scenic vistas (Spain in this specific case). But I honestly don’t understand why anyone would prefer to watch this warmed-over bore instead of the the original. No matter how many times you’ve seen The Magnificent Seven, it outshines this redux. Brynner is in much better company, surrounded by star power including Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn. And the plot, not very complex to begin with, works much better the first time around.
Return of the Magnificent Seven has been given relatively mediocre treatment on Blu-ray. The 2.35:1, AVC-encoded image looks pretty average for a film of its vintage. There are plenty of dirt specks visible throughout. Grain is a bit distracting, particularly during brightly-lit, panoramic wide shots. Sharpness is acceptable, but inconsistent. Darker scenes exhibit some black crush. Overall the film shows its age, but it’s certainly watchable. This simply isn’t the kind of Blu-ray that fully demonstrates the format’s capability.
For a movie originally mixed for mono theatrical presentation, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is surprisingly strong. Elmer Bernstein’s Oscar-nominated score appropriately soars from the right and left channel. While not comparable to a modern action-oriented movie, the rear channels are utilized more often than I expected. The action scenes have about as immersive of a soundscape as can be expected from a 1966 release. The only real problem, to my ears anyway, is that the dialogue is unusually harsh. It’s always easy to understand, but it’s edgy and at times a little distortion creeps in.
The only bonus feature on Return of the Magnificent Seven is a theatrical trailer. This one is really for Western junkies only.