Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

DOC SAVAGE: THE MAN OF BRONZE

Ron Ely as Clark "Doc" Savage Jr. 
DOC SAVAGE: THE MAN OF BRONZE (1975). Directed by Michael Anderson. Produced by George Pal.

Handsome adventurer Doc Savage (Ron Ely) goes into action when he learns that his philanthropic father has died and possibly been murdered. Together with his colleagues -- lawyer Ham (Darrell Zwirling); chemist Monk (Michael Miller); engineer Renny (William Lucking); geologist Johnny (Eldon Quick);  and electrical wizard Long Tom (Paul Gleason) -- he travels to the country of Hildago to investigate, and then journeys to a lost land with a fabulous treasure of molten gold.

Doc's pals in peril: Lucking, Quick, Zwirling, Gleason and Miller
The major thing that Doc Savage gets right is setting it in the 1930's, the original time period of the novels (of which The Man of Bronze was the first).  Another plus is the casting of Ron Ely [The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker] , who at first comes off like some kind of smirking male model but eventually manages to lend some dignity to his role while giving a solid performance. The other members of his crew are well-cast aside from the over-acting Miller, who turns Monk into an annoying little nerd. Paul Wexler makes little impression as Savage's antagonist Captain Seas, who wants the gold for himself, and this is also true of the nominal love interest, a de-glamorized Pamela Hensley [Double Exposure] as Mona, who falls in love with Doc in about five seconds. I didn't even recognize Carlos Rivas [The Black Scorpion] as the evil, face-tattooed Kulkan. Bob Corso is effective as Don Gorro, although the bit with him sleeping in a giant rocking crib smacks of the campy Batman TV show.


Doc Savage! 
Of course, that's one of many problems with Doc Savage. An effective, well-staged battle on a yacht between Doc and the boys and Captain Seas and his men is the only real stand-out sequence in the whole movie. There is absolutely no suspense during the hasty journey to the lost city, -- a theme song for Doc just stops the movie dead when it should be at its most exciting --  and not enough is made of its location. The movie especially screams its cheapness during these climactic and rather dull sequences in the lost city. The "green death," which offs several characters, is merely some cartoon snakes that snap at people and leave bloody scratches before their victims drop dead from venom.  Fred J. Koenekamp's photography [Papillon] is generally first-rate, and some of the settings and props -- such as Doc's beautiful gold car -- are notable.

Pamela Hensley
The use of Sousa marches, as adapted by composer Frank De Vol, is a bad idea that only emphasizes the deadly parody-like aspects of the production. This is not to say there aren't some genuine moments of humor, such as a bit when some Spanish maids go ga ga at the sight of Doc's physique; and Monk's pet, Habeas Corpus, is the cutest little pig to come down the pike since Babe. A dubbed Michael Berryman of The Hills Have Eyes fame plays a coroner. Doc's Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic Circle (later "borrowed" for the Superman comic book), appears briefly at the opening. A sequel entitled The Arch Enemy of Evil was announced at the end of this film, but it never materialized. With this lackluster and disappointing production, George Pal ensured that there would be no more big-screen adaptations of the very famous pulp hero (although a new film with Dwayne Johnson was announced some time ago but is apparently in developmental hell).

Verdict: How to make sure there will never be a profitable franchise. **. 

2 comments:

angelman66 said...

Nevertheless, would love to see this again...Ron Ely was such a blond heartthrob!
- Chris

William said...

He had his greatest success as Tarzan and on television at that. Must have disappointed him that this didn't turn into a successful movie series.