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Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze

Entry updated 19 January 2019. Tagged: Film.

Film (1975). Warner Bros. Directed by Michael Anderson. Written by George Pal and Joseph Morheim, based on The Man of Bronze: Doc Savage and his Pals in a Novel of Unusual Adventure (March 1933 Doc Savage magazine; 1933) by Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson. Cast includes Ron Ely and Paul Wexler. 100 minutes. Colour.

There were 181 novels in Doc Savage magazine, and at one point producer George Pal announced that he hoped to film them all; but this, based on the first of them, was a flop. Following his father's death and an assassination attempt, muscular superscientist hero Doc Savage (Ely) sets off with his usual team on a McGuffin-hunt to the Caribbean and South America, opposed at every turn by the Villain Captain Seas (Wexler). At the climax, Doc fights with Seas over a fountain of liquid gold owned by a remote tribe in South America; the villains's henchmen are duly immolated in molten metal while Seas himself is captured and operated on by Doc with acupuncture brain surgery to cure him of criminality. The sf elements are very marginal; they include the Green Death, an airborne plague released by Seas for which Doc soon produces an antidote.

The film is treated in a joky manner reminiscent of the 1966-1968 Batman television series – with, for example, an embarrassing initial song by a male chorus ("Peace will come to all who find, Doc Savage! Doc Savage! He's a friend to all mankind, pure of heart and mind!") and combat sequences with Batman-style subtitles. Unfortunately Anderson, who later made the disappointing Logan's Run (1976), was too ponderous a director to carry off this sort of camp nostalgia with flair. It was not until Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) that the ambience of the sf/adventure pulps was recreated with the right mixture of respect and amusement. [PN/DRL/JB]


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