Reel/Real Impact: Sturges’ Magnificent Seven (1960)–Cult Film Grows in Stature

reel_real_impact_redMany decades later, John Sturges’ 1960 western adventure, The Magnificent Seven, has grown in stature and esteem, largely due to its all-star cast, headed by Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, and the legendary music score by Elmer Bernstein.




the_magnificent_seven_1960_posterAbove all, Sturges deserves credit for assembling the cast, which at the time, consisted of largely unknown actors.

Of the seven, Yul Brynner was the most famous actor at the time, having won the 1956 Best Actor Oscar for the movie musical, The King and I.



It’s his skillful direction that was (and is) the key’s to the movie’s overall quality and success.  There is not a single weak performance in the picture (as the villain, Eli Wallach also excels).

The Magnificent Seven is the second most shown film in U.S. TV history, behind only the 1939 Judy Garland adventure-fantasy, The Wizard of Oz.

The film ranks No. 79 on the AFI’s list of American Cinema’s 100 most-thrilling films.
Though the film was a box office disappointment in the U.S. in its initial release, it was such a smash hit in Europe that it ultimately made a profit.


Sequels: Three

Three sequels were eventually made: Return of the Seven (1966), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972).

None was as good or as enjoyable or as influential as the original 1960 film.






TV Series
The film also inspired a TV series, The Magnificent Seven, which ran from 1998 to 2000. Robert Vaughn was a recurring guest star, a judge who hires the seven to protect the town in which his widowed daughter-in-law and his grandson live.

Sci-Fi: Battle Beyond the Stars

The 1980 sci-fi film Battle Beyond the Stars includes Magnificent Seven actor Robert Vaughn, who plays one of six mercenaries, Gelt, hired to save a farming planet from alien marauders, completing a team of seven defenders along with the main character who seeks out the others. Vaughn’s character is a reprise of Lee from The Magnificent Seven.

Comedy: Three Amigos
The 1986 comedy Three Amigos parodies many aspects of The Magnificent Seven, from the hiring of a team of Americans to defend a small Mexican village, to the training of the villagers by the mercenaries, to the character of the Mexican gang leader.

The 1980s action-adventure series The A-Team was initially devised as a combination of The Dirty Dozen and The Magnificent Seven.[18] The show’s pilot plays on the plot of The Magnificent Seven. James Coburn was originally approached to play John “Hannibal” Smith, the team’s leader, a role that ultimately went to George Peppard in the series. Robert Vaughn was added to the cast in the final season in order to boost fading ratings.

Stephen King’s 2003 novel Wolves of the Calla

The plot of Stephen King’s 2003 novel Wolves of the Calla is loosely based on The Magnificent Seven. Gunslinger Roland Deschain and his allies defend a small village from a raiding party that steals children. The village’s name, “Calla Bryn Sturgis,” pays homage to director Sturges and star Brynner.  The novel also includes the misquoted epigraph “Mister, we deal in lead.”

Luck, Fate or Talent

Of the seven actors, Brad Dexter, who plays Harry Luck, is the only cast member who didn’t achieve major stardom or even stature.

On my third or fourth viewing of the film what became most noticeable was the characters (and the actors who play them) lack of grace and dignity that the Samurai warriors possess in Kurosawa’s Japanese classic.  There’s one possible exception: Yul Brynner, who moves with style and elegance.