Maybe it’s just not possible to do a good western on television these days. Most of the more recent attempts have come up pretty empty, and The Magnificent Seven is no exception. I’d have to say that perhaps The Adventures Of Brisco County, Jr. might be the lone standout. The Magnificent Seven certainly tries. All of the traditional clichés are there, from the Ponderosa rip-off music to the “howdys” and “reckons” in the dialogue. There’s plenty of gunplay and horses to meet the expected quotas, but it all looks way…too staged for my tastes. It felt like I was watching one of those Amusement Parks Ol’ Western Shows. The cast is relatively impressive, but whether it’s that there are too many of them for true character development or no one on the writing crew decided character was important, I can’t say for sure. It’s just not there.
Seven unlikely men join together to protect a Western town from those that might take advantage of its peace-loving citizens. The seven are pretty much ordinary folk thrust into extraordinary circumstances working for an old judge (Vaughn) for $1 a day plus room and board. Michael Biehn plays Chris Larrabee, who is pretty much the unofficial head of the seven. He usually wears black, going against the “good guys wear white” western tradition. His family had been lost to a tragic fire. Following him are: Buck Wilmington (Midkiff), JD (Kavovit), Vin Tanner (Close), Ezra Standish (Starke), Nathon Jackson (Worthy) and Josiah Sanchez (Perlman), a defrocked preacher. Perlman gets most of the best lines. In the season opening he is asking God for a sign when a nearby dog barks, signaling the return of his fellows. He looks up to Heaven and says, “I bet you thought that was funny, didn’t you?”. The second season begins with a new lawman in town who doesn’t take to the seven’s tactics in protecting the town. When he posts a long list of new laws, including no firearms in the city, the seven leave the town to its own fate. As you might expect, a few of the local tough guys take advantage of their leaving and begin to run the town ablaze. Certainly the boys return and a new season is set up. Now they have the title of “honorary” marshalls. Let the good times roll.
Each episode of The Magnificent Seven is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. The real problem with this transfer is the amount of noise of all kinds found on the print. There’s way too much grain, followed by a good helping of digital compression artifacting. If that’s not enough, there’s a bit of scratches and marks to complete the trifecta. This is a truly disappointing transfer on just about every level. Colors are marred by terrible contrast so that they all seem to run together. Black levels likely suffer the most. This is an almost unwatchable transfer.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio presentation fares far better than the picture. The music swells are at times a bit overwhelming, but most of the sound is pretty much what you should expect from a television show on DVD. Dialogue is usually just fine. A small amount of high end distortion is the greatest weakness to be found here.
I never saw this Western series when it originally aired so really can’t compare anything in this set to its broadcast days. I sure hope the broadcast presentation was better looking than these DVD’s. Obviously the studio doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the show and decided to spare every expense it could in producing these discs. Thirteen episodes are packed tightly on three discs in two slim cases. Even if you’re a fan of the show, I don’t think this release will make you very happy. I know you might really want to see the show again, but trust me, “A mess like this isn’t gonna help you any”.