Based on the first of Kenneth Robeson's 181 adventure-packed Doc Savage books, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze hits the screen with all its gee-whiz, gung-ho spirit intact. And its bold protagonist, who along with having a Herculean body is also a surgeon, linguist and inventor, remains determined to do right to all and wrong to no one.
Ron Ely (TV's Tarzan) plays the strapping Savage in this high-camp, big- heroics tale of his trek into the Valley of the Vanished to confront the power-hungry Captain Seas (Paul Wexler). And behind the camera are pros who know how to get the most of this entertainment bronze mine: veteran fantasy film producer George Pal (The War of The Worlds, The Time Machine) and director Michael Anderson (Around the World in 80 Days, Logan's Run).
"Before we go… let us remember our code. Let us strive every moment of our lives to make ourselves better and better to the best our ability so that all my profit by it. Let us think of the right and lend our assistance to all who may need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let us take what comes with a smile, and our associates in everything we say and do. Let us do right to all - and wrong no man."
How self-aware can a movie be before it's too self-aware? If you've got a story with a literary hero of a certain pulpy quality to it, you want to make certain nods to the source material and the audience that eats that stuff up. However, do you really want your hero to actually wink at the audience? If you're dealing with the Man of Bronze himself 'Doc Savage' you do! Based on the series of novels from author Kenneth Robeson, legendary Producer George Pal's final film is a goofy, self-aware riot that never fails to entertain - so long as you forgive the flick its tendency to be silly.
There's no one on the planet like Doc Savage The Man of Bronze (Tarzan's Ron Ely). He's trained himself to the peak of physical and mental perfection. As a fighter, he's unmatched. As a man of science, Doc stands alone. Dedicated to doing right and helping people, Doc, along with his Amazing Five - Long Tom (Paul Gleason), Renny (William Lucking), Monk (Michael Miller), Eldon Quick (Johnny) and Ham (Darrell Zwerling) - travel the world on incredible adventures. When death strikes Doc's father, Doc Savage and the Amazing Five will have to travel to a tiny Central American nation in order to solve the mystery and stop the diabolical Captain Seas (Paul Wexler) from obtaining a valuable resource from the indigenous peoples.
If you're going into 'Doc Savage The Man of Bronze' expecting some sort of state-laced action and adventure film, you're not likely to be happy with the result. If you enjoy tongue-in-cheek comic book flicks that are hyper self-aware to the point of total and complete absurdity, then you'll be right at home with this one. If there is one thing that ails 'Doc Savage' is that it was made in the wrong era. Had this 'Doc Savage' film gotten off the ground around the time of the 1996 'Batman' show and film, I think people would have eaten it up. Through the late 50s and 60s, Producer George Pal was also in his prime and would have been able to give this flick the same care and attention he gave movies like 'The Time Machine' or 'War of the Worlds.'
While this is certainly a very silly movie and impossible to take seriously, if you let yourself just go with the flow and have fun - you will. Ron Ely is a great Doc Savage. He manages that arrogant-yet-benevolent swagger with ease. Doc is supposed to look and act as if he's three moves ahead at all times. He's always prepared and those preparations manage to show themselves in goofy ways that the audience isn't let in on until the joke has been played. Just let yourself have fun with the energy of the movie and the great interplay between the Amazing Five. Then you have the ridiculous Captain Seas played by Paul Wexler. Even while wearing a bedazzled tuxedo jacket, the man managed to pull off a convincing cartoon villain that fits the tone of this little movie perfectly. The story, plot, and any number of conveniences that the film exploits routinely should be forgiven.
Considering Warner Brothers was planning a big franchise out of 'Doc Savage,' I'm a bit perplexed at how it failed at the box office. A sequel was rumored to have been shot alongside this first film, but when the box office numbers came in, the plans to finish the second film were scrapped altogether. My theory is that audiences were just getting to know an already tongue-in-cheek version of James Bond that had just been played by Roger More two years earlier with 1973's 'Live and Let Die.' Obviously, that conclusion is a bit of a stretch, but when you have two smart heroes with a self-aware sense of humor and both men have an arsenal of gadgets and vehicles, it's hard not to spot a few parallels. While this franchise sputtered to a dead stop right out of the gate, I do enjoy this film with the same sort of childish enthusiasm I exhibit when I watch movies like 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad' or 'The People That Time Forgot.' If you have a love for adventure films that aren't afraid to be a bit absurd, then you're all set to enjoy 'Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Archive Collection pressed on a Region Free BD50 disc. The disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. A chapter selection menu is not available, but there are chapter stops you can skip to on your remote.
Continuing Warner Archive's exceptional mastering practices, 'Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze' arrives on Blu-ray with a gorgeous 1.85:1 1080p transfer. Fine film grain is intact and visible without appearing noisy or intrusive. Detail levels are fantastic and provide great looks at the costuming, the kitschy production and set design work, and the makeup effects. Colors are bright, bold and very primary rich. Flesh tones appear healthy if perhaps slightly pink at times. Black levels are deep and inky providing the image with a terrific sense of depth. The only real problem areas surround optical effects - especially when that signature sparkle in Doc's eye appears. While free of any distracting damage like speckling or baked in scratches, these effects tend to darken the presentation noticeably causing a brief loss of depth and detail clarity. Other than those brief little issues, the rest of this presentation is impressive.
With a lively DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track, 'Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze' comes to life. Part of the fun are the Sousa marches retooled to accommodate some pretty ridiculous lyrics. The opening song and other travel tunes that sings the audience the story are a real hoot and come through with terrific clarity. When the music isn't taking complete control of the mix, dialogue is clean and clearly heard throughout without any interference. Sound effects have a richly exaggerated quality to them that plays up the comedic nature of the movie. All around this is a clean and clear mix without any age-related issues to report.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 3:01)
You've got to know what you're in for if you're going to dive into the cheesy waters of 'Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.' If you're a fan of movies that know how to give a wink and nod to the source material as well as the audience, this is the adventure flick you can sit back and relax to. Warner Archive brings the rollicking fun and games to Blu-ray in terrific shape with an absolutely stellar A/V presentation. Sadly, extras are virtually nonexistent. That said, those looking for some non-strenuous viewing fun will find 'Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze' well worth the look.