Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: TV's Magnificent Seven --
A Cavalcade of Cult Actors Cowboys Up

The Magnificent Seven began its life as a 1960 Western movie directed by John Sturges and inspired by Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (1954). In addition to star Yul Brynner, who essayed the lead role of mystery man Chris Adams, who brings the titular seven together, the film also featured a cast of future luminaries including Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson (all three of whom would reunited with Sturges for his epic The Great Escape three years later).

The film, about a group of disparate cowboys and gunmen hired to protect a small village from a group of bandidos found enough of an audience to lead to three increasingly worthless follow-ups (without Sturges on board, and with Brynner only returning for one). Perhaps more than anything, The Magnificent Seven is remembered today for its iconic main theme composed by the late, great Elmer Bernstein, which I'm pretty sure is at least familiar even to folks who've never heard of the movie.

Although the Magnificent Seven concept petered out after a third crappy sequel in 1972, it was revived in 1998 as a short-lived television series that's most memorable for the way it packed the rafters with an array of familiar faces best known for their stints in the salt mines of science fiction. Terminator and Aliens' Michael Biehn starred as Chris Larabee (the Brynner character), alongside Eric Close (Dark Skies, Without a Trace), Dale Midkiff ('90s syndie skein Time Trax), and Ron Perlman (Beauty & the Beast, Hellboy), among others. Here's the intro, which nicely utlizes the Bernstein theme:

Debuting on CBS in early '98, The Magnificent Seven had a short, nine-episode first season, after which low ratings led to the show being cancelled. However, there was enough of a fan outcry over this perceived injustice that the Eye decided to give it another try in January of ' the same results. They aired nine of the second season's 13 episodes before low ratings again put it on hiatus. It wasn't until more than a year later, in summer of 2000, that they'd burn off the remaining four episodes.

With a fun concept and a great cast (seriously, why isn't Michael Biehn doing more stuff?), it's sad the show never caught on, but also not that surprising. Westerns haven't been a viable longterm TV genre for decades, and the simple, old-fashioned morality may simply have seemed out-of-step with the times. As far as the its post-cancellation life, TV's Magnificent Seven is still rerun regularly around the world. Stateside, it was available for instant viewing on Netflix, though that appears no longer to be the case, but the complete set of all 22 episodes is out on DVD and worth taking for a ride.

1 comment:

Sean Coyle said...

If you're wondering what to get me for my birthday and/or Christmas. . . hmmmmmm?!?!?!?!