Directed by Michael Anderson
Produced by George Pal
Cinematography: Fred J. Koenekamp
Film Editor: Thomas J. McCarthy
Cast: Ron Ely (Clark “Doc” Savage Jr.), Paul Gleason (Major Thomas J. “Long Tom” Roberts), William Lucking (Col. John “Renny” Renwick), Michael Miller as Lt. Col. Andrew Blodgett “Monk” Mayfair), Eldon Quick (Professor William Harper “Johnny” Littlejohn), Darrell Zwerling (Brigadier Gen. Theodore Marley “Ham” Brooks), Paul Wexler (Captain Seas), Pamela Hensley (Mona Flores), Bob Corso (Don Rubio Gorro), Federico Roberto (Presidente Don Carlos Avispa), Janice Heiden (Adriana), Robyn Hilton (Karen), Paul Frees (Narrator)
“Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.” Dr. Zaius says that toward the end of Planet Of The Apes (1968). You probably know what the line leads to — one of the great gut-punches in all of film.
Lately, I’ve revisited a number of movies I was drawn to as a kid (they’re turning up on Blu-Ray in droves), and that line keeps coming to mind. “You may not like what you find.” (Does your inner voice speak in movie dialogue?) Nobody wants to discover they had terrible taste as a child, so I’ve sat down with these movies accompanied by a pretty hefty chunk of trepidation. “I haven’t seen this since I was eight.” “Bob (name changed to protect the tasteless) still loves this thing, but he likes a lot of crap.” “Was it the movie I liked, or that it was the first time I went to the theater by myself?” And on and on.
It’s great to be able to say that, for the most part, I’ve been fairing pretty well. The adult me liked The Vampire (1957) much better than the kid me did. King Kong Escapes (1967) is even goofier than I remembered. And over at my Western blog, I’m constantly finding brilliance hiding under the surface of old pictures that have been branded programmers (1957’s Quantez comes to mind). So far, not a bad track record.
Things are different when it comes to Doc Savage – The Man Of Bronze (1975). As a kid, I absolutely loved it. Not long after it opened in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was scooping up the Bantam paperbacks like a fiend. And while I now see the movie as a fairly botched adaptation of the original pulp novels, I’ve got a soft spot for it that is a much bigger deal than its actual merits as cinema.
Producer George Pal and director Michael Anderson seem to have been conflicted about what kind of Doc Savage movie they wanted to make. There’s plenty of the ’66 Batman camp thing going on. There are serious attempts to create real excitement and suspense. And there’s a solid effort to establish Doc’s art deco world and aides, the Fabulous Five. From one scene to the next, the movie succeeds at one of those tasks or the other — but the end result is disjointed, leaving us wondering how we should take the thing as a whole.
None of that’s a deal-breaker when you’ve got plenty of nostalgia to draw on. I do, and I still wish they’d made the sequel, Doc Savage – The Arch Enemy Of Evil. But like a lot of movies released in the summer of 1975, a shark killed Doc Savage – The Man Of Bronze. You know the one.
So now, all these years later, Warner Archive brings us a gorgeous Blu-Ray that has the movie looking better than ever. It still looks a bit like a TV movie, but so what? The color’s great, there’s plenty of circa-1975 film grain and it’s so sharp you can really study Doc’s beautiful Cord Model 810. They did a very nice job with it, and if you’re a fan you’ll be blown away.
So to go back to my original thought, revisiting movies from your childhood at your own peril — how does Doc Savage hold up? It’s not cinematic gold, to be sure. Silver? No. But bronze? Yeah, I’d give it that.