Based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven is a 1960 western film directed by John Sturges about a group of seven hired gunmen who come together to protect a Mexican village from bandits.
The Magnificent Seven Collection, along with the highly successful original film, includes the three sequels that it inspired: Return of the Seven (1966), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972).
The Magnificent Seven not only launched the series, but it also launched the careers of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn. Written by William Roberts and directed by John Sturges, it stars Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz. This story revolves around a small Mexican village that is raided by a group of bandits who regularly steal the food from the villagers.
The villagers go to town to buy guns where they meet Chris Adams (Brynner) who tells them that they are not fighters, but farmers. Reluctantly they convince Adams to help them even though they cannot afford to pay much. He then recruits six other fighters to help in the cause.
The Magnificent Seven is the reason for this collection and it is one of the best western films ever made. The acting is superb, and the story quality is classic. While there had been many westerns made before this film, The Magnificent Seven set the direction for the way westerns were made for the next decade.
Return of the Seven is the first sequel and was made in 1966. Yul Brynner is the only returning cast member; he reprises his role as Chris Adams. Robert Fuller takes the roll portrayed by Steve McQueen, and the rest of the cast includes Warren Oates, Claude Akins, and Julian Mateos (replacing Horst Buchholz). This film was written by Larry Cohen and directed by Burt Kennedy.
In this movie, Adams recruits a new group of gunfighters to rescue Chico, who has been kidnapped by a band of desperados. We have here another set of villagers who need protection and as such, this sequel comes across as a bit of a repeat of the first movie. This movie was shot in Spain and as such could be classified as a spaghetti western.
Guns of the Magnificent Seven was written by Herman Hoffman and directed by Paul Wendkos. This movie brings in George Kennedy to play the part of Chris Adams and now adds Monte Markham, Bernie Casey (in his film debut), James Whitmore, Reni Santoni, Joe Don Baker, and Scott Thomas.
This time Adams and the bunch band together to help free a Mexican revolutionary (Fernando Rey) and help fight the oppression of sadistic militarist Diego (played by Michael Ansara). Out of the three sequels this is the one I liked best as it has more character development and Kennedy does a very good job in his role. This one was also filmed in Spain.
The Magnificent Seven Ride was written by Arthur Rowe and directed by George McCowan. This time the role of Chris Adams is played by Lee Van Cleef and the movie also stars Stefanie Powers, Michael Callan, Luke Askew, Ralph Waite, and Mariette Hartley.
This time Adams is an older marshal and is married. A terrible tragedy sends him on the trail of the killers and he must once again assemble a team of gunfighters to take on a ruthless bandit, Juan De Toro, and his men. For the first time, the series takes a turn away from its roots and becomes a bit more of a conventional western with subplots, more women, and romance.
The video quality of these films is very good and although there are some visible differences between the overall look of the films, they all still come across clean and are presented in their original aspect ratios.
The audio is even more consistent between the films and each of them are DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound. As would be expected, the advance of technology over the course of the film series improves and so does the effects and the way they sound.
Extras include commentary by producer Walter Mirisch, assistant director Robert Relyea, and actors James Coburn and Eli Wallach, “Guns for Hire: The Making of The Magnificent Seven” (46:54), “The Linen Book: Lost Images from The Magnificent Seven” (14:47), “Elmer Bernstien and the Magnificent Seven” (14:48), as well as a stills gallery and several trailers for the movies.
If you like westerns then the original will classify as a classic that redefined the genre and began the era of the spaghetti western, as for the remainder, overall, I think this is a better than average collection with The Magnificent Seven being main reason that people will buy this bundle. While the series lacks continuity of cast and a bit of redundancy in plot, I found that there was more than enough enjoyment to recommend the set.