Tag Archives: Elmer Bernstein

Remembering James Horner: The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Unbelievably, tomorrow will mark four years since we lost composer James Horner in a plane crash. I established the Remembering James Horner Blogathon to celebrate his beautiful film scores and in my own small way keep his memory alive.

For this year’s blogathon, I decided to look at one of Horner’s final works, his score for the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven. There’s actually a pretty sad story behind this score. You’ll note the film was released in 2016, after Horner had passed away. Well, he’d been attached to score the film, but at the time of his death, the impression was the score hadn’t been started. But then, when his things were being cataloged in his old studio, someone discovered the entire store written and saved on his computer. It turns out that Horner had secretly scored the entire film as a surprise for the director, but of course had never gotten the chance to tell him about it. Now technically this score isn’t 100% Horner’s work. Simon Franglen was brought in to adjust and tweak the score after it was discovered, but I believe the vast majority remains Horner’s original work, the last of his scores to ever be released.

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The soundtrack for The Magnificent Seven features Horner working at his peak, as always. Since this is a Western, there’s a noted “twang” in the strings, with I believe a mix of guitar thrown in to emphasize the Old West setting.

I was actually against this film at first (being a huge fan of the original), even after Horner’s passing, until I listened to the soundtrack in preparation for the blogathon and realized that Horner had taken the time to quote Elmer Bernstein’s original theme for The Magnificent Seven (1960). You can hear it particularly in “Volcano Springs” and in other places, but it isn’t quoted in full until the end credits. I love that Horner took the time to quote that iconic melody, since it really doesn’t feel like a “Magnificent Seven” film without it, not to me at any rate. This shows me that Horner, at some level, wanted to connect this film back to the iconic 1960 film, which is something he didn’t have to do, but I’m glad he did.

Horner definitely put his own stamp on this film score. I normally wouldn’t think of hearing drawn out vocals in a Western (“Street Slaughter”), but Horner makes it work as only he can (he was known for using drawn out vocals in his film scores, Troy is a good example).

It makes me sad, even now, that this was James Horner’s last film score, but I’m glad it was found in time to be used for the film. I honestly think this score is one of the best parts of the film, it sounds beautiful.

What do you think of the remake of The Magnificent Seven and its score? Does the fact that this is James Horner’s final film score change your impression of it in anyway? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day! Be sure to check out the official recap page of the blogathon to see the other entries as they’re posted.

See also:

Remembering James Horner: Troy (2004)

The magic of James Horner: Casper (1995)

Remembering James Horner: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

The 4th Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon has Arrived!

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A Random Thought on The Ten Commandments (1956)

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Yesterday I got the chance to do something I thought I would never get to do: I got to see the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments on the big screen at my local theater (it’s a program that Turner Classic Movies runs every year where each month select classic films are run in theaters for a very limited time). While this movie was made long before my time, I grew up watching classic cinema, and watching The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur (1959) was an annual tradition at our house.

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How was it? In a word, INCREDIBLE! I’m not sure what excited me more: seeing the film in a theater or hearing Elmer Bernstein’s standout score in surround sound (probably both). This is the film that made Elmer Bernstein (no relation to Leonard by the way) famous, as it was his first major film score.

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My favorite moment (and I knew it would be going in) was the incredible “parting of the Red Sea.” They could completely recreate this scene in CGI and the original would STILL look better, simply because it feels REAL, there’s a reality to the special effects in this film that CGI could never touch. When the moment began and the music swelled, I tell you, I was covered in goosebumps from head to toe.

Watching this classic film in the theater brought it home to me that Hollywood does NOT make movies like this anymore. Think about it, of all the movies coming out since the year 2000, how many can you honestly say you would watch 60 years from now?

This was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait for the chance to see another classic film in the theater!

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"Overture" from The Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein

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Many consider this 1960 film to be the greatest Western ever made. Adapted from The Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, The Magnificent Seven tells the story of 7 gunfighters who join forces to protect a poor Mexican village from a gang of bandits led by the murderous Calvera (Eli Wallach). Led by Chris (Yul Brynner), the other gunfighters consist of:

  • Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen)
  • Bernardo O’Reilley (Charles Bronson)
  • Lee (Robert Vaughn)
  • Harry Luck (Brad Dexter)
  • Britt (James Coburn)
  • Chico (Horst Buchholz

The task is one step above thankless, as the only pay is a $20 gold piece and whatever food they eat while they’re in the village. And while the group barely tolerates each other at first (as they’re all in it for various reasons, be it money, fame or simply an excuse to relieve boredom), they slowly come together to help the villagers learn to defend themselves from Calvera’s gang.

Elmer Bernstein’s overture to the film has been praised for defining not only this film, but the Western genre as a whole. I posted this theme in particular because a remake of this film is due out next year (with a posthumous score by the late James Horner) and it will be interesting to see how the music has changed from 1960 to 2016. Until the remake comes out, enjoy a classic piece of film music!

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From left to right: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Horst Buchholz, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter and James Coburn.

As a quick update: while Horner’s score does include the classic overture at the very end, the film itself does not live up to the high standard set by this 1960 classic. If given the choice, always go with this one.

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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