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Film / Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze

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Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze is a 1975 action film produced by George Pal and directed by Michael Anderson, based on the 1930s and '40s Doc Savage pulp fiction series created by writer Lester Dent, editor John L. Nanovic and publisher Henry W. Ralston of Street & Smith Publications. See the IMDB entry for serious details.

Doc Savage (played by Ron Ely of Tarzan fame, supported by a cast of relatively obscure character actors and the rather pneumatic Pamela Hensley) is a polymath: he's a physician, surgeon, scientist, adventurer, inventor, explorer, and researcher, trained from birth to have near superhuman strength and abilities. He has a "gang" of five associates (AKA the "Fabulous Five"), all of whom are utterly brilliant in their respective fields, from chemistry to engineering. They all served together in The Great War, rather like Biggles and his companions, if Biggles' crew had gone on to become science heroes after the war.

The film is distinctly camp and definitely does not take itself too seriously; just as well, as the story tends to telegraph exactly what comes next. It was created primarily to cash in on a resurgence in Doc's popularity that resulted from Dell republishing the series in paperback form in the late sixties and early seventies . (The poster is a Shout-Out to the Dell version's iconic James Bama "ripped shirt" covers.) Still, it's a reasonably enjoyable romp.


Long to short, Doc returns to his New York office from his Arctic Fortress of Solitude (which predated Superman's by more than two decades) having felt that something was wrong. It transpires that his father has died, leaving him a package of papers and tantalizing hints about the existence of a fabulous lost civilization high in the Andes.

Just as Doc is about to go through his father's papers, someone tries to kill him. Clearly, the assassin fails. Just as clearly, Doc must be on to something — otherwise, why try to stop him? So Doc gathers his confederates and they depart for an adventure in South America. Unsurprisingly, there follows the obligatory hunt for truth, justice and oodles of treasure, and the good guys prevail.

The film contains examples of these tropes:

  • Ace Pilot: The Fabulous Five are excellent pilots but Doc is better than any of them (as well he should be, considering he designed and built all of their airplanes himself.)
  • Anachronism Stew: Played with. Since Doc is a 1930's Science Hero, his "futuristic" gadgets just happen to resemble 1970's helicopters and snowmobiles. (The obvious contrails in the "Andes" scenes are fairly amusing.)
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of the movie, our hero returns to his office to find an alarming message left on his answering machine by one of the Fabulous Five, causing him to race off in his car. We're then told that Doc will return in Doc Savage: The Arch Enemy of Evil. Due to the mediocre response to the movie by both critics and audience, he didn't.
  • Animal Assassin: Albeit a magic version; the Green Death takes the form of green snakes that float through the air.
  • Animal Companion: Monk's pig, which Ham finds rather annoying. He warms up to it after the pig saves their bacon.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: After his capture, Captain Seas wants to know if he's going to be killed. A montage then shows that Doc (who of course is also a skilled surgeon) is able to do an operation on Seas' brain that will remove his criminal tendencies, whereupon he's reeducated as a law abiding member of society. This is one aspect that didn't translate well from the 1930s to the 1970s.
  • Bragging Theme Tune: The main title theme is a paean to Doc Savage sung To the Tune of... John Philip Sousa's ''The Thunderer''.
    Have no Fear, the Man of Bronze is here! (Wink "Ding!")
    Peace will come to all who find
    Doc Savage, Doc Savage.
    He's a friend to all Mankind.
    Pure of heart and mind!
    Who will make crime disappear?
    Doc Savage, Doc Savage
    Part hero and pioneer.
    Thank the Lord he's here!
  • Bullet Dodge: Cool cucumber that he is, Doc dodges an assassin's bullet just by turning sideways.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Doc. His training regime takes two hours every day and trains not only his muscles but also every sense. He's been doing it since he was a child.
  • Clothing Damage: Although Doc does plenty of fighting in a suit, he changes to the appropriate Adventurer Outfit when they set forth into the jungle, which gets torn like a James Bama pulp cover during his final confrontation with Seas.
  • Credits Gag: Every time John Philip Sousa's name appears in the credits the "USA" in Sousa are printed in red, white, and blue.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: Doc uses an electric fan to drive off the animated snake thingies.
  • Death by Materialism: Don Rubio Gorro, in the middle of a hidden valley where a lake of molten gold is erupting, dances in glee, trying to catch the superheated metal in his pockets. Amazingly, he does not die from this, or even get burned as liquid gold splatters across him. However, when the hero and his allies leave the cave they took shelter in, they find him nothing but a statue, completely encased in gold.
  • Evil Laugh: Captain Seas gives a particularly nasty laugh at the cocktail party on his yacht after boasting about how much money he's going to make, with his sycophantic guests all joining in.
  • Eagleland: Unashamedly Flavor 1
  • Faking the Dead: Our heroes fly to Hidalgo in Doc's personal aircraft, but a fighter biplane appears and shoots it down. Only it's being flown by remote control and everyone is safely on the ground, where they can take off safely after the biplane has gone. When they turn up in Hidalgo, Seas is not impressed and uses the Green Death to kill the pilot.
  • Gadgeteer's House: At the start of the movie Doc Savage is shown in his arctic Fortress of Solitude laboring on inventions that (The Narrator declares) may one day be useful to Mankind! After gazing at the stars through a telescope, Doc appears to be building a Retro Rocket to take him there, but it turns out to be a Rube Goldberg Device for ice fishing.
  • Genius Bruiser: All of them except Johnny, and while he's "frail" compared to the rest of them, just look at the rest of them. He's still no slouch in the fighting department.
  • Hall of Mirrors: A variation; an assassin takes a pot-shot at Doc through his office window, but the window glass is designed to refract the image so he appears to be standing in a different place.
  • I Know Karate: After Doc wrestles his gun off him, Seas wordlessly challenges our hero to hand-to-hand combat using various fighting styles, each introduced with In-Scene Title Text. Doc proves his mastery in Sumo wrestling, Gung Fu (kung fu), Tai Chichuan, Karate, Bo jitsu, and finally Good Old Fisticuffs.
  • Immune to Bullets
    • The Green Death snakes can be disbursed by gunfire, but quickly reform again.
    • Played with when Doc finds himself facing Captain Seas who's armed with a drum-fed Thompson submachine gun. While the Five jump over the yacht's side into the water, Doc calmly advances on Seas, taking a hail of bullets in the chest to no effect. It looks like Doc has superpowers (his character did inspire Superman), but it's actually because he's wearing a Bulletproof Vest under his tux.
  • Involuntary Smile of Incapacitation: Ham has a cane which can extend a short blade coated with an anesthetic drug. During the fight aboard the yacht with Captain Seas' thugs, Ham stabs two of them with the cane's blade. In each case, the thug smiles and falls unconscious.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Doc tells Mona that despite being so campy, he's actually avoiding her because of this trope. He relates how his fiancée was kidnapped by the villains he was pursuing, and he was forced to let them escape. Although she was returned safely, Doc decided to forgo any romantic entanglements that could be used to compromise his crusade against evil.
  • Kill the Lights: Captain Seas invites Doc and the Five to dinner, only for his waiters to produce guns after the meal and press them to our heroes' necks. Seas mockingly tells a member of the Five who's about to light up to enjoy One Last Smoke, but it turns out his cigarette lighter has a laser gun that he uses to shoot out the chandelier, plunging the room into darkness so they can turn on their would-be assassins.
  • Lactose over Liquor: While Doc Savage and his crew are at a party with Captain Seas, Johnny orders a glass of milk. His order shows how clean-cut he is.
  • Lotus Position: While meditating outside his Fortress of Solitude, Doc (dressed in a loincloth despite the arctic temperatures) picks up the thought waves of his companions in New York who've just got the news his father has died.
  • Loves Only Gold: Captain Seas murders Doc Savage's father in order to gain control of land in the Republic of Hidalgo, so he can mine its rich deposit of gold. However, he wants to control the gold flow to make money, as opposed to being interested in the gold for its own sake. On the other hand, Seas' ally in his endeavor is the even greedier Corrupt Bureaucrat Don Rubio Gorro. Gorro is so obsessed with gold that when dynamite is thrown into a lake of molten gold during the final battle results in an explosion sending the liquid metal into the air, Gorro rushes out to try and catch the raining droplets in his bare hands, and ends up dying being covered in the liquid gold, which hardens, turning him into a gold "statue."
  • Manchild: Don Rubio is seen using an over-sized baby cot as a bed.
  • Meaningful Name
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Inverted; Seas invites our heroes to dinner and only reveals himself as the villain after the meal.
    Seas: Anyway I'm glad you enjoyed your dinner...because it's going to be your last.
  • Paid Harem: Captain Seas is accompanied by two paramours, Adriana and Karen. This turns into a Brick Joke when he undergoes Brainwashing for the Greater Good and is seen at the end of The Movie working as a Salvation Army bandleader, with the two girls looking rather bored while holding collection plates and singing along.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Johnny. In one scene he can't get through a door and complains that he's "Invidiously obstructed!" His friend tries another door and announces: "This one's locked too!"
  • Sword Cane: Used by Ham and coated with a tranquilizer that makes the person stabbed collapse with a silly grin on their face.
  • Twinkle in the Eye: In the Title Sequence, Doc gets an animated twinkle in his eye and Wink "Ding!" as the Bragging Theme Tune commences.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Monk and Ham, though to a much lesser extent than the books.
  • World of Ham: And the one named Ham isn't even the hammiest of the bunch.