Skip to main content

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze

Today, the box office is driven by superhero movies, but before 1978 there was no such thing as a “serious” superhero movie. The biggest thing to happen to the genre was the 1966 Adam West “Batman” TV series--which I love with the passion of a thousand suns--but no real attempts at doing anything beyond “kiddie fare” with the genre existed prior to the landmark “Superman” movie of ‘78. A few years back, I talked about the 1994 Alec Baldwin starring film adaptation of “The Shadow,” a pulp hero and precursor to Batman. Much of modern superhero fare has it roots in the hero pulp fiction that peaked in the 1920s and ‘30s. 

Along with The Shadow, one of the most popular heroes to come from the world of pulp is Doc Savage, created by the same publishing house as The Shadow, Street & Smith, and driven largely by writer Lester Dent. No less an authority than Stan Lee has called Doc Savage the forerunner to modern superheroes. In the 1960s the Doc Savage stories were republished in a series of paperback books that became hugely popular. 

Naturally, this caused Hollywood’s ears to perk up and go “We gotta get this on the screen!!” In the mid ‘60s, the screen rights were optioned by producers Mark Goodson and Bill Toddman--who had never made a film before, but were giants in the game show world (If you’ve ever watched Family Feud or The Price is Right, you have them to thank). Their film was slated to a 1966 release--which could have been dead on target for a hit as that was the year “Batman” took over TV and the culture. 

Legal issues with the rights to the character caused that film to be abandoned, and it wouldn’t be until 1975 that Doc Savage appeared on the silver screen. Produced by pioneering sci-fi film producer George Pal, and directed by Michael Anderson (“Around The World in 80 Days”), “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” came to theaters in June of 1975--and came to blu-ray last week thanks to Warner Archive. If you’re scratching your head and wondering why you’ve never heard of this movie, let me answer that for you. “Doc Savage” flopped at the box office, released just two weeks before Steven Spielberg's “Jaws” would change Hollywood forever by bringing in the reign of the blockbuster. 

I knew nothing about the world of Doc Savage, never read a book, or anything before I sat down last night to watch the movie--which the folks at Warner Archive were kind enough to send me a copy of. It was the best way to go into the film, really. The reputation the film holds online is one of being just bad--but it’s not  “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” is a fun, super entertaining movie. A film that holds its 1930s setting and pulp roots up high, while keeping the tongue firmly planted in cheek, and winking at the audience with an “Hey, we know it’s a movie, just sit back and have fun with us” attitude. 

This film is like a lost bridge between the Adam West Batman and Indiana Jones--while also having tones of being a super beta version of Buckaroo Banzai! “Doc Savage” stars Ron Ely, who played Tarzan on TV for two seasons in the ‘60s, as The Man of Bronze. He’s introduced traveling to his arctic fortress of solitude (Doc’s publication and fortress predates Superman’s, FYI), when Savage comes into frame, he looks off heroically while an animated twinkle appears in his eye. 

That should give you an idea of the tone of the film. It’s little fun winks like that which really make it what it is. More examples include doc’s clothing all having tones of Bronze to them, the film’s score being adapted from John Philip Sousa marches--with the last three letters, USA, being accented in red, white, and blue. Like I said, the film embraces those 1930s pulp roots and runs with it while saying “gee-whiz!” 

The plot is about Doc and his brain trust--The Fabulous Five--heading to a remote village to find out what exactly happened to cause the death of Doc’s father. Along the way Doc has to deal with the power hungry Captain Seas, who has one government official on his payroll--who is literally seen rocking himself to sleep in a giant crib, it’s amazing. There was hopes this would spawn a franchise, and a sequel is even announced in the end credits much like a James Bond film. Unfortunately, this wasn’t meant to be. Even without “Jaws” nipping at its heels, I’m not sure this would have found the right audience in 1975. The trailer, which is included on the blu-ray, doesn't really do a great job of seeking the film. Warner Brothers did release “Doc Savage” in the early days of home video, commissioning special art with that Indiana Jones vibe, which is what the blu-ray reproduces for its cover art. 

On blu-ray “Doc Savage” looks good too, there’s nothing dynamic happening with the film visually, but it’s vibrant and colorful. The Mono soundtrack is sharp and clear. But anytime a small cult film gets on blu-ray is a win. “Doc Savage” is so much fun, so delightfully different that I’m really shocked it doesn’t have more of a following. Anyone who has gone to see a Marvel film will find plenty to enjoy here “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” is too much fun to ignore, and hopefully now that it’s out in HD on blu-ray  more people will give it a chance. It deserves one. 


Popular posts from this blog

Where The Blues Are

I come to you again this week with another pair of blu-rays from those master celluloid handlers at Warner Archive. First up we have 1960’s “Where The Boys Are,” a defining teen picture of the era by MGM, and the film largely responsible for kicking off the whole cycle of 1960s beach films. The other is 1955’s “Pete Kelly’s Blues” a film starring, produced, and directed by Jack Webb--TV’s Joe Friday. Part of a deal Webb had made with Warner Brothers when he was setting up the original big screen version of “Dragnet” in the ‘50s. 
“Where The Boys Are” was set for the screen before the book it was based on had been released. Producer Joe Pasternak snatched up the rights to the book by Glendon Swarthout, which was originally titled “Unholy Spring.” Pasternak, strongly feeling “Where The Boys Are” would be the better title, persuaded Swarthout to change the book’s title. Pasternak also felt he could use the film as a starring vehicle for one of the stars of MGM’s record label, Connie Franc…

Red, White, and Blaine

In 1996 Christopher Guest returned to the mockumentary genre with his look at regional theater “Waiting for Guffman.” Guest, most famously, being one-third of the fictional rock band Spinal Tap in the perhaps the best mockumentary ever made, “This is Spinal Tap.” “Guffman” also kicks off the cycle of Christopher Guest directed mockumentaries. The films all using the same group of actors, and all written by Guest with Eugene Levy, both of whom also act in the films. Guest’s films are largely improved by the actors, with the written material serving as an outline for the film’s story.

“Guffman” takes place in the fictional town of Blaine, Missouri—a small town that is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Big dreamer and New York Transplant, Corky St. Clair (Guest) has created a musical celebration of the town called “Red, White, and Blaine.” The show within the show appears towards the end of the film, Guest teamed up with his "Spinal Tap” cohorts, Michael McKean & Harry Shearer, …


Picture it! Scilly, 1922! OK, actually Andy Ross’s Childhood Bedroom 1993. I had been given as a gift the dream attachment for my beloved Sega Genesis, the amazing Sega CD. For those of you young children who have only grown up in the era of XBox and Playstation, it may seem strange that there was once a time when the idea of playing a video game off of a compact disc was mind blowing. But it was, and I was fully ready to have my mind blown. To use a slogan of Sega’s ads of the era, I was ready to enter “The Next Level.”

The Sega CD model I had was the second one, the smaller model designed to go with the slimmer Genesis that had been introduced to the market. I had the first Genesis, the larger one, but the Sega CD came with an extension block that allowed it to partner it on the original model. You attached the Sega CD to your Genesis by a special connector on the side of system. The Sega CD came with a game to get you going, as was the norm with gaming systems at the time. The game …