Director John Sturges is gone, and replaced by journeyman director Burt Kennedy, whoís mostly known for penning a series of excellent Randolph Scott B-Westerns in the fifties. The only cast member to return here is Yul Brynner, but considering that four of the original seven died at the end of the last film, thatís not as pathetic as it sounds. Frankly, I didnít miss Buchholz at all, with him being replaced by the more believable Mateos. The big problem is that McQueen, who- by 1966, was in the prime of his stardom, opted not to appear (wither due to his intense rivalry with Brynner, or the fact that this was clearly going to be a B-picture).
Heís replaced by TV western-actor Robert Fuller, who just doesnít have the presence or charisma of McQueen. The rest of the Seven are equally unmemorable, with Warren Oates being the biggest star (and this was before his career took off with THE WILD BUNCH). Luckily, Brynner was brought back, and he brings the same aloof coolness to the sequel that he brought to the first film. His Chris Adams is one of my favourite western heroes, and I liked seeing him have another go-round. The script, by Larry Cohen of all people, actually isnít that bad. Despite being derivative of the first film, there are some solid character beats for the enigmatic Chris, my favourite being when he confesses to Vin that heís led a violent life, but takes comfort in the fact that heís never shot a man just to watch him fall.
Other than Brynner, the only big name to return is Elmer Bernstein, although his score here is a total re-tread of the first (although it was enough to get him an Oscar nomination). RETURN OF THE SEVEN, despite being obviously inferior to the first film, is a decent B-western, and was enough of a hit that two more MAGNIFICENT SEVEN sequels followed- although, ridiculously, Brynnerís role was re-cast with George Kennedy (whoís as different from Brynner as night and day), and later, the somewhat more suitable Lee Van Cleef.