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Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (superhero film retrospective).

Our damn fine Stam Fine once more enters the annals of science fiction cinema, to discover there are films that are so bad they’re good, and then there are films that are so bad they’re… well, just bad. But every now and then, a movie comes along that straddles this fine line with such audacious aplomb that it becomes a cult classic. “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze,” a 1975 action film, is one such movie.

The film stars Ron Ely, best known for his role as Tarzan, as the eponymous Doc Savage, a pulp hero who is as much a product of his time as the film itself. The movie was the last completed by George Pal, a pioneering science fiction producer whose influence on the genre cannot be overstated.

The plot is a rollicking adventure that takes Doc Savage from his top-secret Arctic hideaway to the remote interior of the Central American Republic of Hidalgo, where he uncovers a plot involving a lost Mayan tribe, a pool of molten gold, and an international criminal named Captain Seas. Along the way, he’s aided by his brain trust, “The Fabulous Five,” and a helpful local named Mona Flores.

The film is a campy, over-the-top romp that revels in its own absurdity. From the elaborate tattoo of the ancient Mayan god Kukulkan on the chest of an assassin to the wild melee on board Captain Seas’ yacht, the film is a non-stop rollercoaster of pulp fiction clichés and comic book theatrics. The film’s tone is amusing, wry, and respectful of its source material, even as it pokes fun at the conventions of the genre. It’s not a film that takes itself too seriously, and that’s part of its charm. It’s a love letter to the pulp novels of the 1930s, filled with larger-than-life characters, exotic locales, and improbable plot twists.

Their cast is a who’s who of 1970s B-movie stars, including Paul Gleason, William Lucking, and Pamela Hensley. The performances are as over-the-top as the plot, with Ely’s Doc Savage leading the charge with his bronze skin, golden eyes, and unwavering dedication to the cause of justice.

The movie’s production history is as fascinating as the film itself. From the initial securing of the film rights from author Lester Dent’s widow to the failed attempts to produce a Doc Savage film in the 1960s, to the eventual production under George Pal, the film is a testament to the enduring appeal of the Doc Savage character.

“Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” is a film that is very much of its time. The 1970s were a period of transition for the film industry, with the old studio system giving way to the new Hollywood, and “Doc Savage” is a product of this transition. It’s a film that straddles the line between the old and the new, between the traditional and the innovative. The flick’s script, penned by George Pal and Joe Morhaim, is a loving homage to the pulp novels of the 1930s. It’s filled with larger-than-life characters, exotic locales, and improbable plot twists. The dialogue is a bit campy by today’s standards, but it’s delivered with such earnestness by the cast that it’s hard not to be charmed by it.

The production design is another highlight. From Doc Savage’s top-secret Arctic hideaway to the remote interior of the Central American Republic of Hidalgo, the film is a visual feast. The costumes, sets, and props are all meticulously designed, creating a world that is both familiar and fantastical.

The film’s score, arranged by Frank De Vol and based on John Philip Sousa’s “The Thunderer,” is another standout. It’s a rousing, patriotic theme that perfectly captures the spirit of Doc Savage and his adventures.

Despite its many strengths, “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” was not a commercial success upon its release. It was largely ignored by audiences and panned by critics. However, in the years since its release, the film has gained a cult following. Fans of pulp fiction and campy cinema have embraced the film for its over-the-top plot, campy dialogue, and earnest performances.

In conclusion, “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” is a film that deserves to be seen. It’s a love letter to a bygone era of pulp fiction and a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s part of its charm. So if you’re in the mood for a bronze-age romp through the pulp fiction jungle, give “Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze” a watch. You won’t be disappointed. And who knows? You might just find yourself trilling along with Doc Savage and his Fabulous Five.

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (superhero film retrospective).
Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (superhero film retrospective).

ColonelFrog

Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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