Monday, May 4, 2009

Doc Savage Movie Review

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)

DVD Movie Review

I saw the Doc Savage Movie when it was first released in 1975. At the time, I thought it was terrible. It was way too corny and I thought it was just wrong to treat the beloved man of bronze that way. And it was cheap. My friends and I were already making Super-8 movies and I could just tell it was cheap. I don't remember much else about my impressions from that one screening. It has never been out on DVD.

As I have blogged about previously, Warner Bros is in the process of making their entire library available on DVD and Doc Savage was part of the first release. I ordered a copy and within a week it arrived. These Warner Bros Archive titles are no-frills P.O.D. DVDs with no booklets or special features. I watched it with my kids last weekend.

The movie is bad. The filmmakers just didn't get Doc Savage. I can see Ron Ely really trying, but everyone else is against him. He plays Doc much better than I remember. Ron Ely's performance is the highlight of the movie. For the most part he plays it straight. Everyone around him is in some other universe. A horribly campy, silly universe where everything Doc owns is emblazoned with the Bantam Doc Savage logo.

My biggest issue with the film is the casting, especially Monk and Ham.

Ham is played by Darrell Zwerling, who plays dapper fine, but can't make much of his relationship with Monk.

Monk, on the other hand is played for laughs and is just a fat oaf. He provides unfunny comic relief and little else. Monk, as played by Michael Miller is fat. There isn't much else there - a major disappointment. Habius Corpus appears as well; my 7-year olds favorite part.

None of Doc's aids fare much better. Renny is the only one that seems competent, the others are fools.

Johnny is very nerdy, but he does get to say "superamalgamated" and other Johnnyish lines.

Long Tom starts an electric fire the first time we see him. He is played OK, but has nothing to do except fix an elevator.

The villain, Captain Seas, is also a comic buffoon. As are his henchmen.

The only thing that was interesting and clever were the visual effects for "The Green Death." While dated, the effects were effective. In fact, my 7-year old daughter went screaming out of the room.

The bare bone budget clearly shows in a number of ways. There is a modern bus and cars in an establishing shot. There is an airplane that explodes via a superimposed explosion. There is a plant in a jungle scene where the plastic pot is clearly visible. The locations make no sense - to get to the Valley of the Vanished, Doc travels across a vast desert, into some rocky hills (both clearly So. California), through the snow, and then back to the American Southwest. Then down into the Valley of the Vanished.

Here are some of the better images from the film...

The Valley of the Vanished is the final disappointment. There is no city of the ancient Maya, just a couple of huts.

I really hope that Doc Savage gets another chance at the Movies, but please, let it be a straight adventure movie. Indiana Jones, the Mummy films, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and others show that adventure can work and be successful.

The image quality of the DVD was pretty good. There was minimal dirt and scratches and the color balance was serviceable. The theatrical trailer was included, but there are no other features.

My two older kids (10, 11) rated this movie a 6.5 out of 10. They are generous.

Thanks to Chris for posting all those captures from the Laserdisc a few years ago.

1 comment:

Doc Thompson said...

The villain, Captain Seas, is also a comic buffoon. As are his henchmen.The sucking his thumb in a giant baby crib.And the fact,the movie needed to an Indiana Jones/Jame Bond type action movie-which sure both,were inspired by Doc Savage,in some way.