Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Spaghetti Western > Italy > Spain > Professional Western > Canada > A Fistful Of Dollars/For A Few Dollars More (MGM Blu-rays)/The Gunslingers (2010/Lionsgate DVD)/Magnificent Seven (1960/MGM Blu-ray)/Meek’s Cutoff (2010/Oscillioscope Blu-ray w/DVD)/Return Of The Seve

A Fistful Of Dollars/For A Few Dollars More (MGM Blu-rays)/The Gunslingers (2010/Lionsgate DVD)/Magnificent Seven (1960/MGM Blu-ray)/Meek’s Cutoff (2010/Oscillioscope Blu-ray w/DVD)/Return Of The Seven (MGM Blu-ray)/Way Of The West (2011/Lionsgate DVD)


Picture: B/B/C-/B-/B- & C+/B-/C     Sound: C+/C+/C/C+/B- & C+/C+/C+     Extras: C+/C+/D/B-/C/C-/D     Films: B/B/D/B-/C+/C/D



MGM has issued singles of their key Westerns along with re-promoting two others as part of our look at the latest Western genre releases.


The singles are Sergio Leone’s A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) and For A Few Dollars More (1965) which are already issued as part of The Man With No Name Trilogy Blu-ray set you can read more about at this link:





Then there are Blu-rays for John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven (1960) and its first sequel, Return Of The Seven (1966, Burt Kennedy) which mark the large peak of the Hollywood version of the Professional Western (a gang grouping for a job and are in it for the money) and though the films have somewhat dated, they still hold up very well in within their genre and still popular with fans today.  Little did they know this was the peak of the genre before the revisionist cycle followed the genre’s permanent decline.


Yul Brunner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn and Brad Dexter made up the classic cast for the first film which was an overwhelming critical and commercial success as this take-off of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai offers Hollywood filmmaking at its studio best.  I like it and find it worth of the original, but I was not around to see it in its time, so I likely missed out on how great it was when it first arrived.


Brunner returned in the sequel (also known as Return Of The Magnificent Seven) with a smart script by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Phone Booth) joined this time by Warren Oates, Claude Akins, Jordan Christopher, Robert Fuller, Jordan Christopher and Emilio Fernandez.  Some have not enjoyed this one as much as other fans, but I think it is more competent than it gets credit for and of course, it was never going to be the first film.  We’ll see how the rest of the series fares when we see those Blu-rays.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on each disc (AVC @ 31 MBPS for the first, AVC @ 27 MBPS for the second; both shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision) are older HD masters and the films were only issued in standard color prints, so work needs to be done on both, but the first film looks a little better than the second here and better in both cases than previous editions.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is towards the front speakers in both cases, even when it prominently features the music and Elmer Bernstein’s classic theme song is prominent as expected.


The one extra on both Magnificent Blus is a trailer, but the first also offers a Still Gallery, Linen Book: Lost Images From…, Guns For Hire – The Making Of… and a feature length audio commentary track with Coburn, Wallach and the great, brilliant Producer Walter Mirisch.



The most modern of the films here is Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff (2010) which definitely owes something to those deconstructionist Westerns like Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) and Cimino’s underrated Heaven’s Gate (1980).  The film’s choice and idea of realism is long quiet passages as the character’s wander possibly aimlessly to find a better place to live and settle, better spot to build a life and maybe even find wealth circa 1845.  It looks like its time and place, dirt, emptiness and all.


Meek (Bruce Greenwood) is the leader of the traveling group who has faith he knows where they are going to and that they’ll get to the best possible place, but they are also under the impression that all Native Americans are dangerous or deadly until hey meet one who might be able to help.  Yes, it also sounds a bit like Roeg’s Walkabout (1970, reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), but it is never as surreal or challenging.  Michelle Williams, Will Patton, Paul Dano, Zoë Kazan and the rest of the cast all give good performances and it is as good a Western as we have seen in a while.  Fans of the genre should see it, but I recommend you have patience when viewing because this takes more attention than usual.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Blu-ray is good and has some nice shots, but can be on the soft side, part of which at least seems intended.  I wished this were sharper and clearer, but that is the choice of those involved.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD is softer still, but as good as you could expect for the format.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Blu-ray is well recorded, but again, this is a dialogue-based film with passages of silence so the tracks are only going to be so active.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is lossy and weaker, but offers the same.  Extras include an essay by Richard Hell on the pullout case, the Original Theatrical Trailer and a Making Of featurette worth seeing after the film.



Finally we look at two new would-be Westerns that are too formulaic, silly, dull and frankly look too prepackaged and location-clean.  The Gunslingers (2010) has gold as the prize that a bounty hunter suddenly becomes more interested in, but he is far from alone, so the bullets will fly.  Way Of The West (2011) should be called Way Of The North as it is made in Canada, but wants to be a Western just the same and is a bad attempt to do an older-style Revenge Western.  Too bad it too is everything we have seen before.


Not helping is how bad both look, even though they are both anamorphically enhanced.  Gunslingers at 1.78 X 1 is incredibly soft and weak, making this very hard to sit though, while West is 2.35 X 1 and also very soft, but not as consistently problematic.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on both are simply stretching and thinning out simple stereo that is not very rich or strong in either case, even with this lossy format.  Both actually have extras including Alternate Openings, while Gunslingers adds Storyboard-to-Screen Comparison and Behind The Green Screen featurette, while West adds Deleted Scenes of no consequence and Cast Interviews.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com