Somehow I missed this odd film adaptation of the 1st of Lester Dent’s 181 Doc Savage books. I only stumbled upon the film after finding a faded copy of the movie tie-in comic published by Magazine Management Co., and presented by Stan Lee in August 1975. Doc Savage was originally published in American pulp magazines in the 1930’s and 40’s. Several of the stories were later re-issued as pulps in the 1960’s, with notable cover artwork by commercial artist James Bama, who also created the box cover art for several Aurora Model Kits. Bama is often credited with updating Doc Savage’s image with a prominent widow’s peak and distinct Teutonic look.
Fellow blogger Nic Sauer was quick to point out that Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) plays a lot like the 1960’s Batman series. I agree. It also reminds me a bit of the James Coburn Flint movies. Doc Savage is punctuated with colorful villains (one sucks his thumb and sleeps in a giant rocking infant’s bed), flamboyant sets, a molten pool of gold, customized vehicles, a prologue (by Paul Frees!), and adventure-packed cliff-hanging scenarios.
The film is fairly unwatchable due to studio money people insisting that the film be played as camp —the inclusion of a squealing piglet and other casting ineptitudes does not help. You haven’t lived until you see Paul Gleason play an electrical wizard wearing a Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) scarf. Producer/Writer George Pal allegedly lost funding midway through production and opted to use a horrid score purloined from John Philip Sousa. A John William score would have helped.
Actor Ron Ely (Tarzan Series, 1966) is fine in the lead role. I would have liked to have seen him in more films in the 70’s. Later he popped up in lot’s of TV, included stints on Fantasy Island (1979-1984), The Love Boat (1980-1983) and Wonder Woman (1978). Physically he reminds me a bit of Dolph Lundgren. Convention favorite Michael (Pluto) Berryman has a small (possibly dubbed) part as a coroner. Also look for heavy Robert Tessier (Robert Shaw’s henchman in The Deep, 1997) as one of the bad guys.
On the plus side, the film has some eye candy including plenty of cleavage and a 1936 Cord 810 Convertible Coupe, apparently modified with running boards to accommodate a script calling for Doc Savage riding along side the car. Doc Savage also features some excellent matte paintings created by visual effects artist Matthew Yuricich, who worked on several notables, including Logan’s Run (1976), Damnation Alley (1977), CE3K (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), 1941 (1979), Blade Runner (1982), 2010 (1984), and Die Hard (1988). The matte painting of Doc’s art deco lair/heliport is really cool.
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze is available as a Warner Brother’s Archive Collection DVD.
Yeah eye candy!