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  Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze Get Us The Man Of Gold Instead
Year: 1975
Director: Michael Anderson
Stars: Ron Ely, Paul Gleason, William Lucking, Michael Miller, Eldon Quick, Darrell Zwerling, Paul Wexler, Janice Heiden, Robyn Hilton, Pamela Hensley, Bob Corso, Carlos Rivas, Chuy Franco, Alberto Morin, Michael Berryman, Robert Tessier, Paul Frees
Genre: Comedy, Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doc Savage (Ron Ely) is one of the most accomplished men of the nineteen-thirties, and adventurer who is more capable at battling the evildoers of this world than an entire army. But he is not without assistance, for backing him are The Fabulous Five, a quintet of experts in their fields of law, chemistry, electronics and so on who follow Doc on his escapades with only the thoughts of fighting international crime on their minds: the Man of Bronze is both their hero and their mentor. But Doc has that as well in the shape of his much-admired father, so when he is spending time meditating at the North Pole in his Fortress of Solitude and finds a great disturbance meeting his mind, he knows he has to return to the United States...

There were high hopes for producer George Pal's adaptation of Lester Dent's hero of the classic pulp magazines, but as it turned out, nobody was interested and Pal never produced again, a sad end to his career for such a committed veteran of so much screen science fiction and fantasy. It could be that Pal was now out of step with the times, what with Star Wars just around the corner, yet George Lucas was pretty much doing what Pal was with Doc, except for one big difference, this was presented as camp; straightfaced camp, but nonetheless indicating however subtly that it was OK to laugh was not what the fans of the characters wanted, and left potential audiences unsure of how exactly to react.

So much for deadpan camp, a genre which doesn't always, or even usually, go over well to produce big box office returns, though when Flash Gordon tried it five years after it won a far more substantial cult than anything here. Then again, items like The Rocketeer, The Shadow and The Phantom tried the trick in the nineties and won... even smaller cults than Flash. Well, you can't please everyone, and there's something about these manly men of yesteryear that once they had passed a certain amount of decades in the public eye, it was sending them up that creative types were more comfortable with than the sincere approach, although this version's Doc didn't even have the guts to do that, coming across more like a television pilot.

There were stunts and special effects, sure enough, but they all retained that televisual quality rather than the cinematic spectacle that Superman: The Movie managed three years later, a work which captured the perfect balance between admitting hey, this is pretty ridiculous and hey, wouldn't it be fantastic if this guy were real? Doc had no such luck with its thirties setting looking decidedly non-period, though the man who could have made it all a success was indeed very well cast. Ron Ely, a former Tarzan on the small screen, looked ideal, as if he were about to rip his shirt at any moment (and he did), delivering lines as if he were perfectly on the level, big inspirational speeches and all, and just as adept with the action sequences. Sadly, they just didn't give him enough that was interesting to do.

Fair enough, it kicked off with a decent opening which saw a South American Indian trying to assassinate Doc with a rifle, leading to a chase around a clock tower which involved the he-man and every member of his team, but the film failed to build on that as each one of these setpieces either didn't surpass it, or more disappointingly didn't even equal it. It was frustrating since you could see what they were aiming at, but also how far they missed, with flat lighting, obvious sets and one-dimensional characters working against what should have been breezy and fun. The actual plot Doc is embroiled with was difficult to make out and even more difficult to feel engaged by, heading off to the Southern continent and its jungles to find out what happened to his late father and mixing up with the villainous Captain Seas (Paul Wexler) plus an unimpressive special effect of the Green Death (not the one Doctor Who had tangled with on TV recently), which were animated snakes who rather brutally sting their victims to death. Later, the small screen showed this ad nauseam, which was perhaps fitting. Music by Frank De Vol (and Sousa).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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