Monday, April 06, 2009


Ron Ely in regulation torn shirt as Doc Savage from the 1975 film

I was going to write about "Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze" being a "lost" film – "lost" in the sense that it never had a decent theatrical release and that its video release never made it past VHS. My tape was released in 1986 and – I'm happy to say – looks just fine, as fine as a VHS tape can look.

Warner Bros. though is now making the movie and many other previous unreleased films available for $20 through its "vault" program. The DVDs are stripped down – no extras. At least they will be out in the market place.

"Doc Savage" holds a pecular place in my fan boy heart. I actually saw it in the theater – the AMC multi-plex at the old Mountain Farms Mall in Hadley, Mass. That theater was my home away from home. As a commuter to UMass, I would do as much of my homework in the library so I could catch a suppertime show at AMC. I think the admission was $1.25 at the time.

I saw as many movies as I could in those days, both in theaters and on campus where almost every night some club would be showing some movie to raise money.

Warner Brothers booked "Doc Savage" into the Hadley AMC and I was among the handful of people who saw it there. I wouldn't doubt if I didn't see it more than once, because in the pre-video age YOU NEVER KNEW IF YOU WOULD EVER SEE THAT MOVIE AGAIN.

I did the same with "J-Men Forever."

The film is pure camp, but it did strike me as smarmy as the "Batman" television series. The film had the advantage of having a well-cast group of actors with a lead performer who actually looked like Savage was supposed to look like. There was some decent action and some good-looking sets and gimmicks.

Perhaps the oddest aspect of the film is the use of John Philip Sousa marches. See what I mean.

Whatever happended to Ron Ely? I loved his Tarzan television series as a kid as well.

I was so intrigued about this film I actually was able to talk to its producer George Pal about it. He had an office at Paramount and I simply called him and spoke to him.

What the hell did I do! Here was a great animator, a long-time independent producer, the guy who brought us "The War of the Worlds," The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao" and "The Time Machine," among many others. I should have prepared for a serious interview with a film maker I admired.

But I was a dumb kid and just talked to him about what would turn out to be his last movie.

I can't find my notes, but I clearly recall him telling me that a change in studio execs and a poor marketing campaign had doomed the film. He had intended to produce a series.

There had been a rumor director Michael Anderson had shot "straight" takes of scenes and then camp ones, but Pal denied it.

There are a ton of films that have not yet made it to DVD, which is why I still have a lot of VHS tapes sitting on shelves. I'm glad that "Doc Savage" is no longer one of those.

Now will someone put "Firesign Theater's Hot Shorts" on DVD? Please?


© 2009 Gordon Michael Dobbs


dogboy443 said...

I'm going to have to watch out for this one.
Who should we cast in the 2010 re-make?

J-jireh said...

Ron made a few movies and guested on TV shows such as "Fantasy Island" and "The Love Boat," and hosted a game show as well as the Miss America Pageant twice. In the 1990s he wrote two novels. But Tarzan and Doc Savage remain the high points of his career, though I have to admit I am not a Doc Savage fan.