The Less Than Magnificent Seven
Whilst not the greatest western ever made "The Magnificent Seven" was entertaining and exciting, it had action, characters and big name stars to live up to the proclaim of being Magnificent. And then there is "Return of the Magnificent Seven" or "return of the Seven" as it's also known the first of the sequels, which really should have been called "Return of the One" as only Yul Brynner returns for more. But that's not its real issue, no the real issues are that "Return of the Magnificent Seven" is pretty dull with no real excitement, not enough action, no memorable characters and a cast which in comparison to the first movie is more insignificant that magnificent.
Wanting to build a church in memory of his sons, bandit Lorca (Emilio Fernandez - The Wild Bunch) with his army of men raid three villages kidnapping all the men to work on the church. But in doing so he manages to kidnap Chico (Julian Mateos) a friend of gun man Chris (Yul Brynner - The King and I), who helped to save the village from bandits many years earlier. Chico's wife sets out to find Chris and his friend Vin (Robert Fuller) who with some more recruits form a new gang to go in and rescue the men and the village from Lorca.
The major problem with "Return of the Magnificent Seven" is that it's a sequel and in comparison to the first movie it's lacking in almost every department, but strangely if it wasn't a sequel then it wouldn't have felt so inferior. Take the storyline, it's not exactly the same as in the first movie as we have kidnapped men who need rescuing, but then what takes place, the formation of the seven, the village and pretty much everything else feels like a rehash of what we've seen before. It's as if the writers have just gone through the motions, sticking to that winning formula of "The Magnificent Seven" without realising that more of exactly the same is not what the audiences necessarily wanted.
Adding to the problems is that "Return of the Magnificent Seven" sees a new director taking control, so instead of John Sturges we get Burt Kennedy and the difference is noticeable. That whole big production feel which Sturges delivered is missing and what we get is a slow walk through the build up of Chris getting a new group of men together and then action sequences which are more gunfire and smoke but end up a messy melee of battles. It just doesn't feel right because it feels too different in style to the first movie; the continuation that you want is missing.
And then of course you have the actors and characters. Well Yul Brynner returns as the man in black Chris, but his performance looks faded just like his outfit and he seems to struggle to really deliver that charismatic gun fighter he did the first time around. You even get a sense that Brynner wished he hadn't bothered with the sequel because he pretty much goes through the motions. Whilst Yul Brynner is the only returning actor we do get some returning characters from the original seven, that being Vin and Chico. Now Vin was originally played by Steve McQueen and let's be honest no one can match up to McQueen so Robert Fuller who takes over the role is on a loser straight away. But even so it's not an amazing performance from Fuller often fading into the background of many a scene. And then there is Chico who first time around was played by Horst Buchholz and this time we get Julian Mateos. Why they bothered bringing the character back is beyond me, yes he provides a link for Chris and Vin to return but otherwise has little to do, which is probably a good thing.
Aside from the returning characters we get some new ones such as Colbee played by Warren Oates and Frank Riker played by Claude Akins but the characters are ultimately quite weak. Where as in "The Magnificent Seven" we had characters we liked and could champion because they were heroes, this time around we get a womaniser and an orphan amongst others and there is nothing in their characters to really get behind. The characters are so weak that the bad guy is forgettable to the point that I couldn't even remember his name, which means he was obviously not really that bad. Although I worked it out that the baddie was Lorca played by Emilio Fernandez.
The only really good thing about "Return of the Magnificent Seven" is the wonderful music from Elmer Bernstein which quite rightly earned an Academy award nomination.
What this all boils down to is that "Return of the Magnificent Seven" is for me both a mediocre movie and an equally mediocre sequel. It all feels a little messy as it ends up rehashing so much of the first movie and with just Yul Brynner returning it lacks the star names which made the first movie so entertaining and magnificent.