Steve McQueen Collection on DVD
Four of Steve McQueens classics are on tap in this boxed set
from MGM Home Entertainment. And theyre all good movies. What we wonder,
however, is why they arent all good DVDs, especially in a supposed
The movies are The Great Escape, The Magnificent 7, The Thomas
Crown Affair, and Junior Bonner. But neither the Great Escape nor Junior Bonner
is in true widescreen theyre letterboxed instead, and this means
owners of 16x9 TVs will have to zoom the picture out to fill their
rectangular screens, with a resultant loss of resolution.
Unforgivable. And for that we recommend that Steve McQueen fans
who want these titles for posterity dont buy this set.
The Great Escape is already available in a terrific two
disc special edition, but this one isnt it. Too bad.
A grand and rousing adventure in which a ragtag band of freedom
fighters fights overwhelming odds to strike their blow against tyranny is
always a hoot to watch. Hence Star Wars The Adventures of
Robin Hood and any number of such flicks.
But when its also leavened with a healthy dose of reality,
it becomes even more interesting as is the case with The Great Escape,
the retelling of the attempt during World War II of some 250 Allied prisoners
to stage a huge exit from their prisoner of war camp.
It wasnt just any camp, either. The Nazis had just built it
and had brought in their elite guards to keep their eyes on this collection of
prisoners the elite of the escapers from other camps.
John Sturges movie does a great job of capturing the
indomitable human spirit, the never say die attitude of these
people who dont care a whit that their new camp is supposed to be
escape proof but who know its their sacred duty not only to
escape, but to harass the German military machine in whatever manner they can
to ensure that the enemy has to spend valuable resources baby sitting them (or
chasing them down) rather than sending more soldiers into action against Allied
The all-star international cast is terrific. Richard Attenborough
plays the British officer in charge of the plan, Steve McQueen is the
motorcycle ridin cooler king whose repeated escape attempts
help keep the Germans off guard as to the true escape plan. James Garner is the
scrounger, a man who seemingly can come up with any tool or other item needed
including expensive cameras to be used in the forging of documents; Donald
Pleasence is the forger, who goes blind during the process and has to be helped
in his own escape. Charles Bronson is a claustrophobic tunnel
The worst aspect of the movie is James Coburns Australian
accent, which is non existent except for some Aussie-like phrases he utters. He
was from down under undoubtedly for historical accuracy, but they should have
let him be an American to enhance his believability.
Still, this is a terrific movie, one of the great WWII flicks and
its nearly three hour running time whizzes by as if it were a much shorter
And Elmer Bernsteins score is wonderfully rousing.
The picture is featured in letterboxed widescreen, which
isnt 16x9 TV compatible regardless of what it says on the box.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono.
Junior Bonner (1972) is at least labeled correctly on the
box (letterboxed instead of 16x9 compatible). Its director
Sam Peckinpah's look at the rodeo world and probably one of his least violent
movies. McQueen, not surprisingly, plays the title character, an aging rodeo
rider trying to win a big bull-riding contest. Even as he faces his ever
shortening days on the circuit, he also must deal with feuding parents (Robert
Preston and Ida Lupino). Preston is particularly good as the old con artist, a
type of role he played before and later,in such films as
The Music Man and The Last Starfighter.
The Magnificent 7 is a classic Western, and here its
released (or, actually, re-boxed) in true anamorphic widescreen.
One of the best Westerns ever made, John Sturges' adaptation of
Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" features an all star cast and a wonderful screenplay
befitting its place in movie history.
The story surrounds a poor Mexican farming village regularly
terrorized by ruthless bandido Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his band of thugs. In
desperation, the villagers send a representative to a US border town to buy
guns, but instead come back with a group of seven gunfighters they hope will
kill - or at least frighten away - Calvera and thereby let them live in peace.
Sounds suspiciously like "A Bug's Life," doesn't it?
Anyway, the leader of the seven is Chris (Yul Brynner), who
recruits friends and peers who happen to be in the area, convincing some by
appealing to their altruistic streak, others by offering them a place to hide
out from their enemies, and another comes along looking for hidden treasure he
believes must be there because otherwise no self respecting gunslinger would go
there for the paltry sum being offered as reward.
Much to their chagrin, a few of the Seven start getting drawn into
the villagers' lives, and even start dreaming that once the brutal affair is
over they could settle there and find new, peaceful lives in which they
wouldn't have to keep looking over their shoulders.
Alas, twas not to be.
While things generally work out in the end, the hope of a peaceful
existence is destroyed for all but one of the group, while the survivors ride
off into the distance bemoaning the cruelties of fate.
The cast is absolutely wonderful and one can't imagine a better
job of casting. The Seven consist of Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn,
Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughan, Brad Dexter, and Host Bucholz, and they each
have wonderful moments in the film.
If you watch the "making of" documentary on the disc (which, to
the credit of the producers, was shot and is also presented in anamorphic, 16x9
widescreen video) you'll discover that some of the moments were created ad lib
by the actors themselves - sometimes to ensure their faces didn't get lost
among all the star power on screen.
The DVD is in widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and Dolby Digital
5.1 surround. MGM has also included the original mono audio track, but we
preferred the 5.1; there wasn't a lot of surround (though there's some), but
the dialogue comes from the center channel on the Dolby Digital version, which is
where it belongs.
The video quality is very good, though when the shot is about to
dissolve into another it gets a mite grainy. Audio quality is good as well,
though not great.
Extras include the abovementioned documentary, an audio commentary
track by Wallach, Coburn, producer Walter Mirisch, and others. There's also a
The Thomas Crown Affair
The original Thomas Crown Affair features Thomas Crown (McQueen),
an ultra rich businessman who pulls off a gutsy robbery for some
Remade decades later with Pierce Brosnan, in this version McQueen
masterminds a multi-million-dollar bank robbery. Enter co-star Faye Dunaway - a
"Banacek-like" insurance investigator who wants to recover the ill-gotten booty
for her fee (a percentage of the amount she saves the insurance company from
having to pay out).
Dunaway correctly fingers Crown right off the bat and spends the
rest of the movie trying to get the goods on him so she can then get the
Naturally, they fall in love - or she just playing Crown for a
sucker? And, if so, is Crown being sucked in?
The Norman Jewison original keeps the sexual tension most apparent
during a game of chess, and actually provides more steaminess than John
McTiernan's remake, despite its lack of "full frontal nudity."
The DVD is offered in widescreen and Pan&Scan on opposite
sides. The Dolby Digital audio is monaural, not surprisingly, and audio and
video quality is very good. Extras include commentary tracks by the
This is a reasonable choice of titles for a Collector's Edition of
Steve McQueen movies. Too bad MGM didn't see fit to give collectors editions of
each film that are actually worth collecting.
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