This is an interesting collection, with two of the films being among the most famous SteveMcQueen was ever involved with, and the other two being noticeably less high profile. TheMagnificent Seven (1960) is one of the last and greatest of the straightforward westerns,before the deconstruction of the genre at the hands of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah, andeven here the death of the west is foregrounded theme, with Yul Brynner, McQueen, JamesCoburn, Charles Bronson an… the rest of the gang as gunfighters whose reasons for living arerapidly disappearing, and take a job worth nothing financially (protecting poor farmers from EliWallach’s marauders) in a last-ditch effort at redemption. This is everything an old-fashionedadventure should be, a wonderful adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (whichitself was heavily influenced by westerns).
The Great Escape (1963) is another delight. That cast! That score! That downerending! McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough (and Bronson and Coburn again) plusmore plan a daring escape from a German prison camp. This, like the previous film, is directedby John Sturges, and is another high-water mark.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), directed by Norman Jewison, is the most datedfilm here. It is interesting as an oddity, but this tale of McQueen as the millionaire who stagesbank heists for the sheer thrill of it and Faye Dunaway as the investigator who becomes tooinvolved with her prey goes completely overboard with the multiple split screens. Furthermore,McQueen is miscast as a sophisticated tycoon. The remake with Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russois altogether more successful and lighter on its feet.
Junior Bonner (1972) has previously been reviewed on this site. I quote: “SteveMcQueen is JR Bonner, rodeo rider who has left his prime behind. Thrown by a bull as the filmbegins, he returns to his home town for a rematch with the same animal. His family is a bit of amess: brother Curly (Joe Don Baker) is a greedy businessman taking advantage of his parents;father Ace (Robert Preston) is a drinker and a dreamer; and mother Ida Lupino stands strongthrough it all, stoically dealing with the stupidities of the men in her life. If one were to chooseone word to describe the film, that word would be “laconic.” The bulk of the film takes place ofthe single day of the rodeo, leading up to McQueen’s attempt to regain his pride by riding thatbull. There are broken dreams and bitterness aplenty, but no one ever stays too upset for long,and there is an undercurrent of caring and decency running through all the characters. Anyoneexpecting a Peckinpah bloodbath would do well to look elsewhere, but his slow-motionmultishot ballets are still here, now in the service of rodeo events or the demolition by heavymachinery of Ace’s old home. Peckinpah is the poet of the death of the West, and that deathhappens in The Wild Bunch. By the time of Junior Bonner, the West’s corpse hasbeen mummified and turned into a tourist trap, but Peckinpah still finds romance in the low-keymachismo and bonding of his male characters, who keep going through the motions long afterthe dream is dead. is, fortunately, very aware of how easily its premise could become creepy, andso it avoids such dangers. Here Shirley Temple and Myrna Loy are sisters. The former is a highschool student, the latter a judge. Temple develops a crush on swinging bachelor Grant, andwhen things go badly for Grant (as they invariably do) and he winds up on charges before Loy,she sentences him to dating Temple until her crush abates. Cue the social humiliation. Grant is ingood comic form here, though the comedy takes rather too long to get through its set-up.
All of the films but one are presented in the original mono. This gets the job done fine inmost cases, though there some noticeable distortion on Thomas Crown, which does nofavours to its mildly famous song “The Windmills of Your Mind.” The straight mono is adisappointment when it comes to The Great Escape, and more on this below. TheMagnificent Seven has 5.1 as well as mono. The level is a bit low, and the surround isminimal, but there is enough present to provide a richer auditory experience, and the occasionalharshness to the sound is understandable in the case of a movie that is 40-plus years old.
All of the films are presented in their original aspect ratios (ranging from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1),and Thomas Crown comes in fullscreen as well (a completely pointless option for amovie with so much split screen). With one exception, they all look good, with solid colours andminimal damage to their respective prints. The exception, again, is The Great Escape.This is not the transfer that was released as a two-disc set no so long ago. This is an older DVDrelease, and the picture is non-anamorphic, and plagued by truly horrendous grain, making forquite the ugly viewing. A very big letdown.
Very good commentary tracks accompany all the films except, you guessed it, The GreatEscape, which has to make do with a decent making-of documentary, thought his still clocksin at under half an hour. The theatrical trailers are all present and correct (except for JuniorBonner). The Magnificent Seven also has a still gallery and a good making-offeature, which has some vintage interviews with Brynner. The menus have animated and scoredmain pages, with the exception of Junior Bonner’s, which is basic.
A decent, is slightly eclectic, collection of films, but the inclusion of the outdated transfer ofThe Great Escape is criminal.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Making-of Featurettes
- Theatrical Trailers
- Still Gallery