A Good Idea at the Time

Reducing The Seven Samurai to half its original length, The Magnificent Seven brilliantly adapts the original story for western audiences. There’s more shooting, more sensationalizing guns, and true gruff American west heroes, plus the inherent bigotry that spread across the country.

Guns solve problems. That’s seemingly Magnificent Seven’s overarching theme, a touch more pronounced than Seven Samurai’s basis in honor among outcasts. Yet, Magnificent Seven doesn’t let the weapons do all the speaking. Bernardo (Charles Bronson) lashes out at a child when speaking ill of the kid’s father, angrily calling him a coward for not using a gun. But Bernardo doesn’t stand for it, defending the men working the fields and stressing over raising a family. Magnificent Seven defines its heroes in the title, but stands for the men toiling daily for their keep.

Magnificent Seven defines its heroes in the title, but stands for the men toiling daily for their keep

For 1960, with the western genre hitting peak popularity, the initial encounter with stars Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen is for them to bury a Native American in a field otherwise holding only white men. They do so willingly, openly, and dare anyone to stop them. It’s not because they’re tough so much as right, and the same follows when they choose to defend a Mexican village from attack for only $20. So no, Magnificent Seven isn’t about guns – cool as the action looks – so much as a pursuit of doing what’s morally right.

What helps is a set of characters and actors keeping the material light where possible, and dramatically pure as needed. The script deftly jumps between tones, capturing a nervous energy that’s difficult to land; Magnificent Seven does so, and flawlessly. Although presented as invincible, with kids and adults looking up to these rogue heroes, they retain their human qualities. Anxiety pummels them all during downtime, each dealing with the situation in their own way, further defining them. Yes, guns look and appear cool in the traditional western way established by John Wayne, but Magnificent Seven favors reality and tension over empty theatrics – until the finale, anyway.

These are all good, righteous men. They can and will die. It’s not worth $20 and free meals, but that’s the point. Magnificent Seven isn’t calling for everyone to arm themselves so much as pointing out how few genuine people it takes to stifle villainy. That’s why they’re magnificent.


Shout’s exemplary work brings The Magnificent Seven to life vividly. In Dolby Vision, the western skies blast characters with overhead sunlight, glistening and full in contrast. The late ’50s, early ’60s film stock holds density galore, allowing the modern tech to add notable punch in the shadows. This, at times, looks 3D.

A mild grain structure can reveal the slimmest chroma noise (mostly in the sky). The rest appears transparent to film, generous in resolution and texture. Facial definition never holds back, as crisp in close as it is in the mid-range. Sharpness begins at a high standard and never deviates.

Splendid color density erupts on screen, lush, full, and bold. Clothing stands out marvelously, so bold as to look new. Natural flesh tones fill the frame, and dusty, sandy environments provide earth tones galore. Marvelous.


Defaulting to original mono, a 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo track are also offered, each in DTS-HD. That original mono is sublime, forceful enough to activate the subwoofer in places, adding full depth to a vintage mix. This score never sounded better.

Dialog mixes organically even as the action peaks. Coarseness is reduced to barely be noticeable, certainly not enough to suggest age.


On the UHD, Shout includes two commentaries. The first brings actors James Coburn, Eli Wallach, producer Walter Mirisch, and assistant director Robert Relyea together. The second lets historian Sir Christopher Frayling go solo.

On the Blu-ray, Shout ports over Blu-ray bonuses, effectively four well-produced retrospectives in varying form, and trailers/stills after that.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)
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A perfect fit for American values, The Magnificent Seven takes an iconic story and intelligently remixes the formula for a new audience.

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4 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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