Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Overlooked Movies: Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze

Real Doc Savage fans don't like this movie.  As for me, I'm not a trufan, but I'll admit that mistakes were made.  It could have been (and should have been) much better.  When it appeared, I'd read several of the Bantam editions of the novels and enjoyed them as good pulp fun.  The movie all too seldom captures that spirit, as the makers were apparently under the impression that they had to camp things up.  A thumb-sucking villain who sleeps in a giant version of a baby's crib?  Long patriotic speeches?  A flash in Doc's eye?  There are a lot more, but I don't include the John Phillip Sousa soundtrack.  I love Sousa.

And the movie does get some things right: a lost tribe, an opening with an attempted assassination scene right out of the novel, the Green Death, the look of Doc in some scenes.  It's all too mixed up, though.  If they'd just played it straight, it would have been a much better movie.

I saw the movie in the theater when it came out, and I own the DVD, so I'll have to admit that I do get a kick out of it.   I'm a mere Doc dilettante, though, as I said, and not a true believer.  The movie's certainly not for everyone or maybe anyone but me.


Cap'n Bob said...

I may have read one of the novels. Even at that, I was hugely disappointed in the movie. You're right, it should have been played straight.

Unknown said...


So you're the other one.

I also saw the Doc Savage movie in a theater.

In the Chicago suburb where I lived at the time, there was a strip shopping plaza along Southwest Highway, by 87th Street and Pulaski Road.
Some benighted soul bought a franchise from Jerry Lewis Cinemas, and built a little box of a theater in the back parking lot - which you couldn't see from any of the streets I just named.
Nonetheless, the 'cinema' was a ten-minute walk from my home, so on a Monday evening I went forth to see The Man Of Bronze on the Big Theater Screen.
I might be misremembering, but I think I was the only paying customer in the Hometown Cinema that Monday night.
Just me and the popcorn girls.
I found myself rooting for the movie to be good - at the very least; it's the underdog rooter in me, I guess.
I mean, the producer was George Pal; the director was Michael Anderson (who'd directed Around The World In 80 Days in better times); the Sousa music was arranged by the great Frank DeVol (I could have done without those lyrics, though); and the cast -
- well, anyway there was all that other stuff ...
I'd read about this in Cinefantastique months before; its 'limited release' was more like witness protection.
Well, anyway, I wasn't sorry I saw Savage; "what might have been" and all that.

Here's the followup:
About a month later, Doc Savage actually scored a booking at another Chicago-area theater!
The Marquette, at 63rd Street and Kedzie Avenue - an old neighborhood house which had "seen better days" (meaning it was falling apart), but there it was.
So I went again, this time on a Saturday afternoon (I had to take a two-stage bus ride).
There was an actual "crowd" of sorts - maybe a couple of dozen souls scattered among perhaps 500 seats, and we all seemed to be enjoying the show (I didn't take a survey; this is just my impression - and my attendance estimate may be lowball).
So for what it's worth, that's my story about the Doc Savage Theatrical Experience.
I have the DVD, so I must have liked it enough for that.
Looking back, I think I go along with the idea that it was out of its time; five years earlier - or maybe five years later - or if George Pal had taken it straight to TV - or who knows?

Oh, by the bye -
- that Jerry Lewis Cinema in the back parking lot?
Last time I looked, the building was still there - but the new owners turned it into an auto parts store.

Thanks for the use of the hall.

Tom Johnson said...

I still have fond memories of the 1975 Doc Savage. Ron Ely made a good Doc in movies. I was disappointed in the camp, but was happy to finally see Doc Savage on the big screen. I still watch it about once a year, but the wonder has long worn off. I still think Ron Ely would have made the film if the camp had been left out.

Jerry House said...

Yeah, the camp really killed the movie. On the bright side, it was light years better than the Dean Martin Matt Helm films.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Never a big fan of Doc Savage. Tried a couple of the books and found them poorly written. Probably like them even less now 50 years later.
Jerry-The Dean Martin Matt Helm movies were a abomination. Not a huge fan of the books but they deserved better than this.Have always disliked Martin ever since.

Tom Johnson said...

I wonder why the Helm movies are so expensive. I wanted the one with Nancy Kwan, but hate to pay such high prices for these things.

lastromantic49 said...

Well, I enjoyed it, I think. Sometimes a poor movie is better than no movie, maybe. That was also around the time Ron Ely was playing Tarzan and doing a fair job of it. Never really thought he did Doc justice but on the other hand who else? If it were done now they'd probably use Duane Johnson or maybe even shrink-fit the role to Tom Cruise!

Unknown said...

Supposedly Johnson is set for the role of Doc in an upcoming production.