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"Live fast, fight well and have a beautiful ending."
on 24 June 2011
Despite a John Sayles script, an interesting cast and my-but-she-was-healthy Sybil Danning, Roger Corman's sci-fi version of The Magnificent Seven isn't quite as much fun as it could be but certainly rallies for the action-packed last half hour. This time round it's Richard Thomas rounding up an assortment of down-on-their-luck hired guns to save his planet Akir (as in Akira Kurosawa) from John Saxon's evil roving space-bandit, who not only pillages whole planets, not even leaving dust in their wake, but takes body parts from his victims to replace his own worn-out ones ("Remember Lobo? He disobeyed orders, and now Sador's wearing his left foot."). While he's got an army of genetic mistakes ("Why can't my mutants be intelligent like the Eli?"), Thomas settles for a motley group including George Peppard's space cowboy, Danning's all-cleavage-and-innuendo Valkyrie warrior ("You've never seen a Valkyrie go down"), hive-minded aliens and Robert Vaughn repeating his role from The Magnificent Seven role as the burnt-out hired gun looking for a meal and a place to hide.
It's certainly a step up from the usual quality of Roger Corman's 80's movies - it was one of his biggest budget productions despite coming in at a modest $2m - but while it's fun, it's not great fun, so you'll probably enjoy it a lot more if you dial your expectations down a bit. It's certainly got a unique design sense, though: a multi-tasking Jim Cameron (art director, model designer and photographer) may well be to blame for the hero's spaceship looking alternately like a pair of testicles on a washing line, a pair of boobs or a medical model of the reproductive system depending on what angle it's shot from while James Horner starts as he meant to go on by liberally stealing from Goldsmith's Star Trek and Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky scores. It wouldn't be the last time...
While the original now deleted US DVD offered audio commentaries by Corman and Sayles and another from producer Gayle Anne Hurd, the German DVD only offers a decent widescreen transfer with the original English soundtrack option. Shout Factory's US Region 1 NTSC reissue DVD and Region A-locked Blu-ray releases offer the two commentaries, a new interview with Richard Thomas, a half hour featurette on the effects work, stills and poster gallery, radio spot and trailer. Picture quality on the Blu-ray is excellent, though the remastered soundtrack doesn't cope as well with the music (which obviously uses a mono master in the main titles) as it does with the dialogue and effects.