The Magnificent Seven

 (MGM; $69.98)
 (MGM; $69.98)

The Magnificent Seven is a terrifically satisfying Western, and 2010 marks its 50th anniversary. The picture launched several actors, including Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson, from bit parts and small screens to full-blown wide screen stardom. The film was successful enough to generate three sequels—which was unusual at the time—a TV series, a number of flat-out imitators and even a two-part porn version. The producers took their inspiration from a 1954 Japanese picture, Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, but since Kurosawa was himself inspired by American Westerns, it’s a case of what went around, came around.

Of the follow-up movies, which are all contained in this Blu-ray collection, Yul Brynner was the only member of the original cast to return, playing veteran gunslinger Chris Larabee Adams again in 1966’s Return of the Seven. The third picture, 1969’s Guns of the Magnificent Seven, is actually the best of the sequels, with George Kennedy in the Brynner part.

Elmer Bernstein’s great musical score played as big a part in the film’s success as any other element, cast included, and his music followed the series in all of its official manifestations.

In this Blu-ray edition, the picture quality is certainly improved, primarily on the first three of the four movies, but putting the upgraded 5.1 DTS-HD lossless sounds through a decent stereo system, with the spectacular action flying across the screen, is sheer home-theater bliss.

This collection has all the extras that the two-disc edition has, with the curious exception of one of the commentary tracks. But what it really needs is a stand-alone soundtrack, as are available on the DVDs of 1955’s The Adventures of Robin Hood and 1959’s North by Northwest, among others.

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