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This could have been the Indiana Jones movie series of the seventies.... that's how I look at this film. For the first time the character of Doc Savage had been bought to the screen in an all action adventure. The character itself had been around for years and was a pulp hero from the 1930's and 1940's created by Lester Dent who wrote the stories for a number of magazines at the time. Not only was Doc Savage the all-American icon with how he looked and what he did in overcoming the enemy for the greater good, but also something of a forerunner for heroes that we see today on screen and cinema in films such as The Mummy, and more notably the Indiana Jones films.
In 1975, the film Doc Savage - The Man Of Bronze was released and although this was close to the original novel that the film was based on there was a number of issues that didn't really translate properly on screen. The plot follows Doc Savage upon his return to New York where he learns his Father has passed away. After an assassination attempt on Savage in his apartment on the 86th Floor of the Empire State Building, Savage suspects that there may be more to this than meets the eye. To resolve this mystery Savage assembles his team, The Fabulous Five. All travel to South America to discover why Doc's Father died. Along the journey they meet the mysterious Captain Seas who knows more than what he is letting on.
It was never going to be an easy job to find an actor who would deliver the appearance of Doc Savage; the character is described as 6 foot 6 in height, dark tanned skinned with well defined muscles and vibrant thick bronze coloured hair. The actor that was offered the role was ex-Tarzan actor Ron Ely. Ely looks the part completely, has a deep heroic voice and looks like he can take care of himself and judging by the amount of shirts that get ripped throughout the film has a plentiful supply of the garments! The first half hour of the film intertwines setting the back ground of Savage as well as introducing us to his world; interestingly the film begins in the Artic Circle where Doc is spending time at his Fortress of Solitude looking at the stars and generally educating himself for the greater good and the manner that he is formally introduced is kind of cheesy as its done by narration, and with the help of a patriotic theme slightly re-worded to fit the name of the character, this gives you the idea from the outset that this is a totally American hero standing up for the country he loves.
Surrounding Doc is the Fabulous Five, his companions from World War I, the five character s are a motley crew who don't necessarily get on with each other but are the greatest experts in their chosen specialised fields which range from construction to geology. These guys were the comic relief of the film, and even though one of them carries a pet piglet with him at all times for company, the comedy started to get a bit thin by the end of the film and which thankfully the plot kicked in more and eliminated this completely.
The love interest is played by Pamela Hensley, not an instantly recognisable name, but to some she will be remembered as Princess Ardala in the pilot episode of Buck Rogers. In this film she looks totally different and puts on a South American accent, I liked her in the role of Mona the village girl that Doc falls for.
I wont go too deep into the climax of the film, however just to say that the fight scenes that take place towards the end of the film is definitely entertaining and the writers wisely decided to break from the normal bout of fisticuffs and use a number of disciplines of martial arts and self defence methods, don't worry if you don't know what they are as each one is shown on screen as a title when it happens.
I said earlier that the film has a number of issues; well firstly they have got the feel that the film is set in the 1930's down to a tee and the ambiance helps the film greatly. With the style of the clothes, the transportation and the general build up you know that this film has a feel of serial rather than adventure in some places. The problems start with the addition of something that the novels never had - campness. The Batman TV series was still in syndication and the campness of that show seems to have been copied over which greatly dilutes the adventure down to more of a kid's film than anything else. A good example is the twinkle that Savage gives out towards the females, with an cartoon glint coming from his eye and a pinging sound gives the scene a cheap comedic feel and on the whole a rather embarrassing ending that isn't that funny to watch a second time. Scenes where you see one of the characters going to sleep in a adult sized crib, only makes matters worse and destroys all credibility that the villain or anyone working with them had in the film. The most ridiculous piece id when Doc recites the pledge that he and his team took, the piece ends of with a round of applause that sounds like it was recorded at a Baseball Stadium, stupid as the scene is set in a hangar with only six people present.
Overall the film is okay to watch, in fact it is easily a cult film and in some places is so bad it's actually good; I saw it in a cinema in the late seventies as a kid and thought the film was quite scary given the special effects. Now I'm older and have only seen this a few times since I can't actually see what I was scared off in the first place as the special effects are diabolical and more cartoonish. In the story a poison is concocted that when blown through a blow pipe creates a number of snakes that are bright green and are more like a ghost like spirit than anything else, anyway these snakes can kill with a bite, and throughout the film at various stages they appear, it does create a genuine piece of tension in the story and is used in the plot very well for building the tension and suspense.
I think that this can easily be considered a bench mark film in how not to attempt to start a franchise, the budget was drastically cut which explains the quality of the film, especially the matte paintings which when you realise that George Pal produced classics such as the original War Of The Worlds, The Time Machine and the ground breaking Destination Moon makes you realise that attempting to fill some areas with comedy is not the best decision, however this is a film that could have been a lot better than the what was made into the end product and I think that was a shame as this is nothing more than a TV movie to watch now and personally believe that given the effort this could have been the first of many Doc Savage films to grace the silver screen. At the end of this it is shown that the next film will be titled The Arch Enemy of Evil, in fact after the adventure finishes a scene leads into the next film where the title is displayed. Unfortunately due to the financial failure of this one that never got released at all.
This film has only ever been released on VHS in the UK and can be imported on Region 1 DVD; if you can get it then do so. It is okay to watch as a film and entertains, but it has that lost potential that I find damned annoying. The novels deliver what the film lost and I hope to increase my reading of them as soon as possible.
This is one of those films that can't win. Fans of modern action films won't find anything to interest them - the action scenes are hilariously clumsy by today's standards. But fans of the original Doc Savage pulp novels see it as a betrayal of its source material - there are quite a few Doc Savage web sites around, and almost all of them mention this film in disparaging terms if at all. Personally I like this film a lot. To address that second point first, I don't see why Savage fans dislike this film at all. I've read a few of the novels, and the movie seems to cover all the important points, often in defiance of what would make good cinema. In the books, Doc has five assistants, all former World War I comrades of his, and each an expert in their own chosen field. Five assistants is really too much for one film. They should have dropped at least one of them, as there really isn't enough for five people to do, but no, they're all there. Even weirder, one of Doc's companions, Monk, has a pet pig. This is strange enough in the books, but in a film where very few viewers will be familiar with the books it seems completely incomprehensible. I gather that the film is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the first of the books. It's even quite easy to spot where the cliff-hanger chapter endings from the book (originally serialised in a magazine) would have come. The only thing I can imagine that the serious Savage fans object to is that the whole thing is rather camp, and doesn't take itself at all seriously. The books are absurdly strait-faced, treating everything with immense seriousness. This is what makes them such a delight to read now, because they contain a great deal of unintentional hilarity, but had a film-maker in the mid-seventies tried to get that essential seriousness across it would have fallen flat on its face. Anyway. Doc Savage is a wealthy philanthropist who lives in Manhattan. He'
;s a brilliant scientist and the perfect physical specimen. He fights crime and rights wrongs. He's basically a super hero before such things really existed. The books started appearing in the Twenties, well before Superman, who seems to have liberally borrowed ideas from Doc Savage (they both fight crime, they're both unbeatable, they both have a Fortress of Sollitude at the North Pole, they're both called Clark). Doc's father dies under mysterious circumstances in the made-up South American country of Hidalgo, and Doc and his mates set off to check it out. They gradually uncover a bizarre plot hatched by the evil Captain Seas to find some gold, which involves using translucent green snakes floating around killing people. Cue some truly dire special effects. In spite of its absurd premise and many other weaknesses, this film is unbelievably endearing. Apart from Ron Ely, who played Tarzan, none of the rest of the cast are famous at all, but they all do about as well as can be expected with the parts they're given. The clumsiness of the whole thing is what makes it so entertaining. It was made in 1975, and it's one of the last films of its kind, as nothing like this could ever have been made in the wake of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. There are some charming moments of retro hilarity in this film. Captain Seas' insane laughter at the propect of getting rich (which lasts for about a minute); Doc Savage's chaste relationship with adoring local girl Mona; the magnificent final fight sequence where the film-makers felt it necessary to put sub-titles on the screen to tell you what styles of fighting are being used; the incidental music. Ah yes, the music. That, for me, makes the film worth watching by itself. They've taken some of John Philip Sousa's best known patriotic marches and put words to them. Words about how fantastic Doc Savage is ("Have no fear, the Man of Bronze is here."
and so on). Perhaps this is the most obvious thing that separates this movie from the action films of today - its attitude towards its hero. Ever since Indiana Jones and Han Solo, with their endearing quality of fallibility (Indie, especially, tends to get by on pure luck most of the time), heroes in action movies are all presented as fallible. Sure, they'll win through in the end, but they'll have to overcome some pretty big obstacles on the way, many created by their own folly. Not Doc Savage. He's absolutely perfect the whole time. Nothing ruffles his feathers, he's never consumed by self-doubt, and no matter what happens, he's never anything less than in control of the situation. This is something that would never happen now. As is the final fate of the villain (which I won't spoil for you - let's just say that if you think of the typical fate of villains in action movies you'd be about as far off the mark as possible). There are persistent rumours that there's going to be a new Doc Savage film, possibly starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'd be surprised if I'll enjoy it as much as I enjoy this one, but I'll give it a chance. Even if it is terrible, hopefully this film will gain recognition as a result. Maybe we'll see it finally released on video or DVD, maybe even, god be willing, get a soundtrack album. I think this film is richly deserving of wider recognition. If dreck like Plan 9 From Outer Space can acquire a cult following, then why can't Doc Savage, Man of Bronze?
Ron Ely [then famous as Tarzan in the 1960s TV show] plays the title character. Together with his mis-matched companions [each an expert in their own scientific field] they journey to a Latin American country, the Republic of Hidalgo, to solve his father's murder. The villains are led by Captain Sieze, a Bond villain without the apparent physical impairment. He has conscripted a tribe of South American natives to do his dirty work. Their secret weapon is the venom of agreen snake. The venom can somehow form into a snake made of pure energy and float about the room. Hey, I never said it made much sense! The cast is unremarkable except for Pamela Hensley [Buck Rogers] in her first screen role.