Friday, November 20, 2009

Retro View: Doc Savage:The Man of Bronze

With the recent buzz about a possible new movie adventure for Clark Savage Jr. and the Fabulous Five I decided it was time to go back and watch the original film epic. Oh boy...

While away at his secret arctic hideout, the Fortress of Solitude, Dr. Clark Savage Jr. (Ron Ely) suddenly feels something is wrong. When he returns to New York he receives word from his close friends that his father has died in the land of Hidalgo. But before he has time to grieve, an assassin attempts to kill Doc. When a second attempt fails Doc and his team head to Hidalgo and discovers that his father had left him the deed to an ancient land thought long gone. It isn't too long though before he has to find this missing land, fight the villainous Captain Seas and rescue the girl. Will he succeed? Will that pet pig get roasted? Will you get that theme song out of your head?

I first discovered Doc Savage back in the early 90s when I got one of Bantam's paperback reprints from the 1960s with the James Bama cover. At the time I thought Doc had ripped off Superman since it was The Fortress of Solitude book. But as I got more into the character I discovered it was the other way round. I also found out that a movie version had been made but had never seen it (the local video stores never had it on video) and it was only recently released as part of Warner Bros' Archive collection. Most of the reviews and comments I had found dismissed it as campy, along the lines of the 60s Batman TV show and the 1980 Flash Gordon.

And were they right. Opening with that theme song (actually set to a John Phillip Sousa march) we get a lot of cheese-from Doc having his name on all of his vehicles to the bizarre sight of one of Captain Seas' henchmen sleeping in a giant baby crib! As Doc Ron Ely (best remembered as TV's Tarzan) does the best he can with the part. Not that he's required to do much except show off his physique and mouth some cornball speeches. On the plus side though the film at least in the first part is really faithful to the first novel in the series-complete with the attempt on Doc's life, the gathering of the Five and the red fingertips. And there is some familiar faces in the cast-including Paul Gleason (long before he raided Barry Manilow's wardrobe), Michael Berryman (best known for Wes Craven's original The Hills Have Eyes) as a coroner and Pamela Hensley (who would later dazzle us with her skimpy attire on Buck Rogers) as ourhero's love interest. The disc itself presents a good looking version of the film and the original trailer. Let's just hope the new version gives Doc Savage the proper film treatment he deserves. Rating: *** (just for the cheese factor alone).

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