Camp Analysis: Doc Savage The Movie (Graphics heavy and strong language)

Recently, I posted here on how I read a couple of the old Doc Savage stories…or tried to.  I thought they’d appeal to me.  You see, I have a thing for well dressed manly men doing manly things, having adventures that touched on the homoerotic and usually had the heroes getting a little tied up in the plot, often times literally.  What?  I’m lonely.

(Also, I touched on seeing the Remo Williams movie, which was based on The Destroyer series of books and I maybe doing a review on the film real soon).

I mean, look at these covers.

What gay man wouldn’t be drawn to such manly perfection.  And they’re pretty kinky, too!

And, yes, I know I went overboard on the pics, and I apologize.  When I’m enthusiastic about something, I tend to go overboard.

What was in-between those covers was a touch disappointing, though.  The stories just aren’t that well written.  In fact, by today’s standards, they’re a bit dull.  I mean, I think I can come up with better stories based on the covers alone!

Such as this.

“It didn’t matter if he came up with the concept first.  It didn’t matter that he fought a character called The Red Skull before a certain blue costumed American Super Soldier.  But, then his friends disappeared.  Then his niece.  Now, alone, Doc Savage must face the wrath of Marvel’s Intellectual Property Lawyers!”


“Doc, imbued with the powers Spider-Man, was determined to find The Squeaking Goblin, refusing to admit it was really his new shoes that were squeaking and there was no goblin!  Later, he was determined to fight The Evil Gnome who sold him the shoes, forcing his allies to stage an intervention!”


“It was supposed to be a fun day at the beach.  It was supposed to be a lighthearted break from fighting evil by moonlight.  Instead, Doc must rescue his friends from the wrath Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in The Marco Polo Game of Death!”

Also, Doc described in the stories isn’t the Adonis portrayed on the covers here.  Rather he looked likes this:

The hell!?  “Man of Bronze”, my foot, he looks like Frankenstein’s Monster!  Where is my wavy haired slab of male perfection?

I will admit the stories are the definition of camp and they were hugely influential in the creation of many of our present day superheroes, like Batman, Superman, and Iron Man, but the prose itself is nigh unreadable.

The character and his compatriots had their exploits covered in Doc’s self titled pulp magazine up until the early 1950s where they were transferred to paperback format.

In 1975, Warner Brothers greenlit a movie based on Doc Savage’s first story and was  produced (and also co-written) by George Pal, producer of campy classics like War of the Worlds, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, and Destination Moon.

Our Doc is played by Ron Ely, who played Tarzan in a TV version of the character.  I don’t recall seeing the show, so I did a little research and found there are some…deviations from the Tarzan norm, namely there’s no Jane and his sidekick is a small child.  A shirtless guy in a loincloth having adventures with a little boy?  Yeah, that would never fly today.  Also, apparently, this Tarzan got tied up quite often in the series.  Thankfully, not with the little boy, so iz all good, right?

Anyway (God give me strength) on to the film.

Our movie opens at the Arctic Circle c.1936.  A man on a snowmobile (sporting the American flag) tears across the icy desert to an igloo.

Guess who it is.

As if this isn’t enough, our movie has a narrator who immediately tell us that this is Doc Savage.


And we get chorus, singing Doc Savage’s “theme”, which is set to John Philip Sousa’s “The Thunderer”:

Chorus: Have no fear, the Man of Bronze is here!

And that’s as far as I’m going as the song is cringe inducingly bad.

Anyway, the igloo is actually Doc’s Fortress of Solitude,

which is pretty sweet looking, actually.

The narrator tells us that the Fortress of Solitude is where Doc goes to study things like “the planets, the stars, the universe”, invents things “that might be useful to mankind” (like a rocket powered fishing line), and relax.

We are now introduced to Doc’s helpers – The Fabulous Five:

Ham – Super lawyer (played by Darrell Zwerling)
Monk – Super chemist (played by Michael Miller) and his pet pig, Habeus Corpus
Renny – Super Engineer (played by William Lucking)
Johnny – Super archaeologist (played by Eldon Quick)
And, lastly, Long Tom – super electronics specialist (played by Paul Gleason)

Long Tom almost gets electrocuted working on this contraption.

Anyway, Doc is meditating out in the cold (and we get some very, very, lingering shots of Ron Ely in his shirtless glory).  We hear some weird electronic sounding thing and Doc gets up and goes back into the igloo.  We get a screen wipe and we’re in New York City.  We see a native looking fellow climbing up the side of a building adjacent to the Empire State Building, where Doc has his HQ.  The man, who has a sniper rifle, is mulling over which of Doc’s Fab Five to assassinate first.  Doc shows up and, sensing something has happened, asks what’s wrong.  However, he already knows something’s wrong since he picked up their thought waves all the way from the Arctic Circle.  And my sense of disbelief is immediately shot to hell.  You don’t just throw out there that Doc was telepathic powers.  There needs to be a build up, something of an explanation.  Electronic tinging isn’t an explanation.

Anyway, Ham breaks to Doc that his father has died in a remote region of South America.  Apparently, he contracted a mysterious disease.  Doc goes to the fireplace, where a massive picture of Doc’s father hangs; the native dude takes aim at Doc’s head.  Ham gets in the way of the shot, however.  Ham tells Doc that a manila envelope from Doc’s father arrived a short while ago with Doc’s name on it and that it was for his eyes only, so Ham locked it in Doc’s safe.  Doc fools around with his watch, which is linked to the clock in the main room, as a sort of remote combination lock, which I admit is clever.  Doc retrieves the envelope, giving the native dude to take the shot.  However, Doc’s windows are bullet proof or something, and Doc is unharmed.  He and his fellows duck for cover.   Soon out of bullets and with no spare ammo, the native dude leaves.  Doc sees one of the bullets embedded in the dry wall and he pulls it out, his suit and shirt sleeves ripping to show how hard it is but really comes off as him having a cheap suit.  Doc and Renny deduce that the shots came from an elephant rifle by Doc just feeling the bullet.  Doc retrieves a doodad and uses it to locate the heat signature from the rifle.  He tells Renny to fire up “The Whizzer” (yeesh) and for Monk and the others head to where the heat signature was.  “To the garage” they shout as silly xylophone music plays.  I now understand what “Deep Hurting” from MST3K and how it actually exists.  We get some exposition from Long Tom and Johnny about the windows.

Anyway, our heroes hop into one of Doc’s bronze cars and drive off.  Meanwhile, Doc and Renny take a bronze helicopter.  Renny lands on the tower where the shots were taken and Doc scrambles down it.  The native dude is still around and got some more ammo, taking pot shots at Doc.  Doc’s friends in the car show up to see Doc case the native dude around the top of the building.  They almost get hit by cars in the process.  Definitely acceptable losses.  Doc easily dodges a bullet shot at him point blank.  Johnny, Ham, and Monk try breaking into the building, but everything has been shuttered for the night.  Monk suggests the back door; more of the goofy xylophone version of “The Thunderer” plays and all I can think of is how the orphans from Annie were a million times more competent than these doofuses.  Ham and Monk get into an argument when Monk wants Ham to hold Habeus Corpus for a moment.  Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.  Anyway, Monk smashes through the side door, enabling our heroes entry.  Doc continues his pursuit of the native dude, who jumps to a lower level to evade capture.

Inside the building, Monk is freaking out because the elevators have no power.  Fuck me but Orko from He-Man was less annoying.  Three of the dorks decide to take the stairs but Long Tom sticks around to try and activate the elevator.  Doc, in the mean time, forces open a freight elevator door and uses his suit jacket to slide down the elevator wires.  He opens another freight elevator door and enters an area full of pipes.  The dorks continue their climb up the stairs until Long Tom yells up that he got the elevator working.  Back outside the building, Doc confronts the native dude.  The native dude shoots the rifle, only to find he’s out of bullets again.  Doc has his own little gun but doesn’t use it as the native dude is technically unarmed.  The native dude throws the gun at Doc, but it bounces off him with a metallic *thunk*.  There’s a dramatic cinematic flashing of lighting and thunder here to add to the “awesomeness” of Doc Savage.  Somewhere, a clock chimes midnight and Doc Savage’s useless friends turn into pumpkins with a bunch of Lily James’ inside them.  No, instead the native dude falls to his death and Doc Savage is sad about this.  Monk makes the rather crass remark about the native dude definitely not being a native New Yorker.  One of our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.  Johnny turns the native dude over to get a better look at him.  Oh, did I forget to mention the native dude had a big honking snake tattooed on his chest?  Turns out Johnny isn’t the super archaeologist he’s cracked up to be as he’s never seen a tribesmen like the dead native dude before.  So, far we have a hero who has done fuck all and a bunch of useless sidekicks.  Oh, this movie hurts!

Doc gets an alert that someone has broken into the penthouse, so he and his friends (except Johnny, whom Doc tells to stay behind) rush back there.  Rather than getting in the car like a normal human being, Doc stands on the boards along the side of the car like a damn idiot.  Thank God he’s indestructible.

Along the way, our heroes get rained on because the car doesn’t have a roof.  Wet Ron Ely is rather nice, though.

Renny lands the Whizzer back at the Empire State Building just as Doc and the other arrive home.  There, they find the safe and all its contents on fire.  Rather use conventional fire extinguishers (which they had back in those days) or a sprinkler system, Doc and Monk throw “extinguisher balls” at the fire, complete with gross spittoon sound effects.   It’s too late, however, as everything inside the safe has been destroyed.  Doc looks to the painting of his father, who looks like Doc but with a mustache, and we hear the electronic sound again.  So do Ham and Monk.  This movie has no business being meta.  Apparently, Doc has figured out something – his father did not die of a tropical disease but was murdered!   Johnny stumbles in at this point, worse for wear.  He was examining the dead native dude when a wall of bricks fell on him, “or that’s what it felt like”!  Apparently, Doc isn’t the only one who is indestructible.  When he came to, Johnny found a gold knife beside him and the body gone.  Doc resolves to leave for the South American region where his father died.  Three of the Fabulous Five vow to go with him – Johnny, Monk, and Long Tom.  Renny and Ham can’t because of obligations.  However, by the next morning, they decide they’re going, too, and are waiting for the others at Doc’s private airfield.  So, they all go in Doc’s private plane down South America way.  Unbeknownst to them, they are being followed by a biplane, which opens fire on them!  Heavens!  The plane explodes!  But, it turns out it was a decoy plane and everyone is still safe.  This would have worked better had it been an actual movie serial. That way, they could pull off such cockadoodie stuff.  In a regular movie, it just comes across as stupid.  I mean, there are edited together movie serials to feature length films (’bout as long as one of the Lord of the Rings movies) on Youtube that offer more plausibility to escaping such peril.  Pulling this decoy plane out of nowhere is beyond trite.

Now, Doc and his friends are going to go off on the real plane, but not before Doc gives his trademark oath:

“Let us strive every moment of our lives to make ourselves better and better to the best of our ability.  So that all may profit by it.  Let us think of the right and lend our assistance to all that may need it with no regard to anything but justice.  Let us take what comes at us with a smile, without loss of courage.  Let us be considerate of our country, our fellow citizens, and our associates in everything we say and do.  Let us do right to all and wrong no man.”

Alone, this speech is OK and delivered beautifully.  However, it’s underscored (and undermined) by the cheesy slow version of “The Thunderer” and by canned applause and cheering and I cringe.  I cringe hard.  Good work, Warner Brothers executives, you ruined a touching moment.  Screw you and the mothers you came out of.  But, apparently, the widow of the guy who created Doc Savage wept tears of joy when she heard it, so that’s sweet I guess.

Anyway, Doc and his friends head off in the real plane.

We then fade out/fade in to a yacht “somewhere in the Caribbean”.  It is here we meet our bad guy –

Captain Seas (played by Paul Wexler).

We can tell he’s the bad guy because he’s faaaaabulouuuuuuuuus!

Seas talks with the man who shot down the fake plane.  He is also the one who burned the papers and got rid of the native dude’s body with the help of two other native dudes. He offers Seas a drink with a terrible pun (and a pronounced lisp) – “May they rest in pieces”.  Oh, this guy can’t be killed soon enough.  Seas asks one of the native dudes, named Kulkan, if the information just given was correct.  Kulkan, who is fanning himself and speaks in an effeminate manner, verifies this.  So, yes, there is a classic camp element in this movie – vaguely homosexual villains fighting against the wholesomely asexual Doc Savage and his stupid but equally wholesomely asexual helpers.

(I was going to put the words “deeply closeted” with a strikethrough going across before the word “asexual” but decided against it because I didn’t want to insinuate any of you actual asexuals out there as being deeply closeted.)

Moving on.

Seas boasts to a lady friend about his vague, upcoming plans.  Everybody laughs, most uncomfortably so.

Anyway, Doc and his peanut gallery reach the republic of Hidalgo, where Doc’s father died.  Doc speaks with the country’s president, who says he’s broken up about his father dying.  We are only roughly a half hour into a hour and forty minute movie.  It only feels longer than Star Wars.  Mention is made of the disease that killed Doc’s daddy, especially the green blotches.  Doc asks if anyone wanted his pop dead, but the president said he was much loved.  When the president makes mention of a land grant, it’s Ham’s turn to speak.  He asks if the grant was officially recorded.  The president says yes and orders one of his men, who had gone over to suspiciously smoke a cigar while the discussion was occurring.  The man makes a call to the office where the grant has been filed.  It is here we meet another character – Senorita Flores.  The file is delivered by a man named Don Rubio to the president but it is empty.  Doc isn’t surprised.  Doc says he’s going to pay a visit to the tribe who gave his father their land.  He just needs someone to guide them there.  Don Rubio is hesitant and says it may take a few days, but Doc says they can wait.  The president insists Doc and his friends stay as his guests and Doc graciously accepts, but, as he and his allies are leaving, he asks that an autopsy be performed on his father.  The president accepts.

Later, and in the most incomprehensible scene of the  movie, Don Rubio calls up Seas and tells him that Doc Savage is alive…whilst in a giant cradle.

Can you believe this motherfucking shit!?

Seas chews Rubio out (I assume, as all we can hear on the other end is gibberish).  Seas then summons Kulkan, who kills the man who shot down the fake plane with green energy snakes.

The next day, we see Doc doing exercises while is friends have breakfast.  They speak of Doc’s two hour exercise regiment and Ham can’t resist a dig against Monk and his weight.  Habeus Corpus retaliates by jumping on the table and eating Ham’s breakfast.  Ham threatens to make bacon out of Habeus.  I hate Ham.  No one should threaten an innocent piglet and live!  Renny gets Monk to calm down, saying that Ham was just joking.  Christ, these guys are annoying.  It’s at this moment that some funeral home people show up with a box.  The coroner, played by Michael Berryman in his first movie role and who would later star as Pluto in The Hills Have Eyes, tells Doc that the body contained “a strange residue of some strange substance”.  The coroner brought the microscope slides of this substance, which are contained in the box.  Doc looks them over, but as he’s doing so, he’s attacked by the green energy snakes.  We saw before that you can’t kill them, but that doesn’t stop Doc from shooting at them with a rifle.  When he uses a desk fan, however, he’s able to drive them off.  When his friends ask what happened, Doc is legitimately baffled.

Forty minutes of this movie down.  One hour left to go.  God help me.

The next day, the lady friend Captain Seas arrives along with a comely brunette.  The lady friend is named Karen and the brunette is named Adriana.  Monk is smitten with both of them, so I was wrong about all of Doc’s guys being asexual.  The women are there with an invitation from Captain Seas to have dinner on his yacht, flattering Monk with their sweet talk, but Doc’s electronica sensory powers tells him they’re deceitful.  Doc accepts the invitation.  That night on the yacht, Seas offers Doc and his men a drink.  All of them ask for non-alcoholic beverages, with Johnny going so far as to ask for milk.  Gag me with a Saturday Evening Post.  Karen announces that dinner is ready with a harsh “CHOW!” before resuming her pseudo Marilyn Monroe breathy husky voice.  After dinner, Seas reveals true colors as his waiters/henchmen threaten our heroes with guns.  However, Long Tom uses his special lighter to fire a laser at the chandelier overhead, cutting the lights and allowing Doc and the others to fight back.  Deep Hurting escalates as a “comical” scuffle breaks out with goofy music but the music goes dramatic when Seas shoots threatens Doc with a gun.  However, the bullets bounce off him easily,  so the battle ends with Doc and his friends escaping to “The Stars and Stripes Forever” by diving off the yacht and using hidden breathing apparatuses to swim to the main land.

The next day, Doc goes to the land recorder office, where he meets Senorita Flores.  Turns out she worked with Doc’s father on the documents about the tribe he bought the land from along with creating a map on where to find the location.  It is here that Flores reveals that, according to the history books, the tribe who sold the land is thought to have gone extinct 500 years ago.  She further reveals that, in the village she grew up in, people still spoke of the tribe living not very far away but no one could get to them because it was “over the edge of the world”.  Doc believes her story as he knows his father got there and went through all the trouble of getting together information and a map on where to find them.  Flores, who reveals her first name as Mona, says she was planning on returning to her village and offers her services as a guide.  Doc accepts.  Finally, things are picking up.

The next day, Doc, Mona, and Doc’s friends head off in search of the tribe, much to Don Rubio’s chagrin.  That evening, he meets with Captain Seas and Kulkan and they also head off to the tribe’s location.  It’s here we find out about “a lot of money” and that Don Rubio is the one who brought Captain Seas the map and the deed.  So, the map and the deed weren’t in that envelope that Doc’s father sent him.  I’m confused and tired.  Hang in there, Brian – there’s only forty minutes left.

At Doc’s camp the next morning, Ham and Monk get catty with each other, again!  Shoot ’em!  SHOOT ‘EM NOW!  Anyway, Doc saves Mona from a green snake (not an energy one) by throwing a knife at it.  This act of awesomeness is undermined by a *sproing* sound effect.  Even cartoons wouldn’t do that.  Johnny notices that the snake looks exactly the one tattooed on the native dude’s chest; Doc and Monk collect some of the snake’s venom.  That night, Doc works in his tent on some sort of concoction.

Yet another next day, Doc, his friends, and Mona drive to her village, singing “La Cucaracha” with harmonica accompaniment by Ham all the while.  That’s Hell right there, ladies and gentlemen.  So they make it to the village and Doc and Mona try to get information about the tribe from the village elder.  He tells them that he’s never been to the tribe, but to “the edge of the world”.  Doc asks the elder to lead him and his friends there.  The elder agrees but only as a favor to Mona.  Doc and Mona have a moment together.  He tells her to stay behind, but Mona wants to come.  Mona tells Doc she loves him but he says there’s no room in his life for love.  He says there was once a girl in his life and they were to be married.  However, she was kidnapped by some enemies he was pursuing who threatened to kill her if Doc didn’t stop his chase of them.  He did.  She was returned safely, but Doc realized that there could never be a future for them.  I researched it and this plot point is a product in of the movie.

From the original text of The Man of Bronze:

“Princess Monja blushed prettily.  For a moment it looked like she was going to be bashful to put the query.  Then, out it came.

“It was: ‘What is it about myself that your leader finds undesirable?’

“‘Huh?’ Monk stuttered, at a loss for an answer.  ‘Oh, Doc likes you all right.  He likes everybody.'”

“‘I do not believe so,’ said the entrancing Mayan, ‘He remains aloof.'”

“‘Well’, floundered Monk, ‘I guess that’s just Doc’s way.'”

“‘There is a girl–he is–?'”

“‘In love with anybody?'” Monk snorted.  ‘Heck no!  There ain’t a girl livin’ who could make Doc’s heart–‘”.

“Monk abruptly swallowed the rest.  But is was too late.  He had said the wrong thing.”

“Princess Monja spun on her heel and disappeared among the large rocks.  The trace of a sob lingered behind her.”

So, yeah, Doc of the original stories is more than a little bit ambiguously gay.

Back to the movie.

The next day (Goddammit), our heroes ride to “The Edge of the World”.  We hear the Doc Savage chorus singing much of the stuff we already know as Doc and his guys cross desert and rainy jungle.  Things get a little inappropriate when they bring up Doc’s dead father.  Finally, they reach The Edge of the World – a high ridge.  Far, far below is “The Valley of the Vanished” and seemingly no way to reach it.  The village elder leaves Doc at this point; Doc and his friends search for a way down.  Johnny finds some rocks and how oddly arranged they are.  Doc uses a doohickey on them, revealing an invisible Morse Code message left by Doc’s father.  The way down to the valley is obscured by a near by bush.  The path found, they make their way down.

Down in the valley, Doc spies on Seas’ men using the tribe as slave labor, drawing molten gold from a pit and pouring it into molds.  Yes, this whole thing is about gold.

Doc’s men then get captured; Doc had gone on a ways to see if he could get a better view.  Mona has also been captured, somehow.  Forget if you have five dudes in distress, there must be a damsel.  They’re all tied up and brought before Seas, Don Rubio, Kulkan, and the tribe’s king Chaac.  Ham goes into a little speech about Seas being in violation of many laws, but Seas doesn’t shoot him as any reasonable super villain would do.  Seas does smack Ham and declares, “This is the law here, Harvard man!  The law of the jungle!”  Monk does his patented battering ram attack in retaliation.  Seas orders Kulkan to get rid of Doc’s men and Mona, but Kulkan won’t budge.  Kulkan reluctantly says he will prepare “the potion”, but King Chaac stops him, saying “The Green Death” is only to be used to defend the tribe against their enemies and hasn’t been used for hundreds of years.  Kulkan tries to convince the king that Seas is a friend of the tribe, but the king says that Kulkan has joined with men who have enslaved his own people.  Seas orders the king to shut up, saying he was going to make him rich.  Chaac says wealth means nothing to the tribe.  So, Seas has Chaac put with Doc’s men and then orders them all taken away.  He further orders his henchmen to find Doc.  Doc, all this time, as been secretly watching what has been going on.

At the gold pit, Kulkan starts the ritual for The Green Death.  With a yell, some of the tribal dudes roll back a stone slab covering a cave entrance.  No Jesus in there, though.  Doc’s men, Chaac, and Mona are thrown in the cave and it’s sealed up again.  Ham thanks Monk for what he did, and Monk is all “oh, shucks” about it.  Gag me.  Monk asks how the chief can speak such good English, and Chaac says it’s because of Doc’s father.  Chaac then becomes Debbie Downer, saying they are all going to die a horrible death.

Whomp whomp

Kulkan extracts some venom from one of the emerald colored snakes; Doc’s men try to think of a way to escape.  Yep, they’re doomed.  Long Tom then figures that if they go back to back, Johnny can untie him and vice versa.  So, that happens.  Monk figures to use Habeus Corpus, whom he hid in his coat pocket before getting captured, to eat through the ropes.  Yay!  They’re using their brains.  Kulkan has finished making the poison and he and Seas head for the cave.  He dips a long bamboo reed into the poison, inserts it into a slot, and blows on the other end of it, creating the energy snakes from before.  Chaac allows himself to be bitten and seemingly dies.  Mona screams, causing Seas to laugh and congratulates Kulkan on his work in killing Doc’s father.  The energy snakes continue to do their thing and bite each of the prisoners.  Meanwhile, Doc has over come one of the henchmen and steals his clothes.  Doc sneaks up on Seas and puts him in a headlock.  He orders Seas to tell his men to stand down and to open the cave, using so threats of death if he doesn’t comply.  The cave is opened.  Doc, figuring this would happen, created an antidote from the emerald colored snake he killed earlier and hands it off of the weakened Monk, who drops it, which is understandable given that he was poisoned.  Doc leans down to pic it up, which gives Seas the opportunity to break free.  Dammit, Doc!  Kulkan and Seas try and  fight Doc but get knocked on their asses for their trouble.  The energy snakes come out of the cave, causing tribal dudes and henchmen to scatter.  In trying to escape, Kulkan falls into the pit filled with emerald colored snakes and dies.

Doc wrestles with Seas, including using sumo moves and poor Ron Ely and Paul Wexler look like such fools doing it.  In the cave,  Monk administers the antidote using the only hypodermic needle.  You’d think someone as smart as Doc would know that this isn’t healthy and his friends are now open to worse diseases and infections!  Back outside, Seas and Doc are fighting using “gung fu” set to somewhat offensive psuedo-Chinese music.  Dignity?  What’s that?  Anyway, Seas tries to force Doc into the pit of molten gold, but Doc breaks free, his shirt getting all ripped, reveals Ron Ely shirtless goodness.


The battle has some how made the molten gold pit unstable and causes it to erupt.  Doc heads for the cave, rolling the slab door closed, partially, to protect himself and his friends.  Don Rubio gets covered in the molten gold but isn’t screaming in immense pain as a normal human but laughs madly.  I think Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater put it best:

Seriously, this movie should be over by now, but it’s not.  Anyway, Seas is defeated.  Yay?  And, now, we get to the problematic aspect of Doc Savage – Doc’s “college”.  Rather than turn Seas over to the proper authorities like a hero would do, Doc essentially kidnaps Seas (and other criminals he’s defeated and should rightly be in prison) and performs a special form of lobotomization on him to take away “the criminal portions of his mind”. Similar in the way that occurs to Chisa Yukizome in the Japanese cartoon Danganronpa 3 – The End of Hope’s Peak Academy to make her part of the evil Super High School Level/Ultimate Despair Group:

So, yeah, Doc does to Seas what a terrorist organization does to an innocent woman.  But, it’s for the greater good when Doc does it, right?  Right?  Oh, in the movie, this procedure is shown as full on brain surgery rather than acupuncture.

Anyway, time passes and it’s Christmas.  The now lobotomized Seas is part of the Salvation Army, who is pure good and doesn’t do anything to hamper the rights of homosexuals.  What?  I’m sarcastic and provocative.  Doc heads to his penthouse and puts presents under the tree for when the guys come.  However, Doc receives a message from Renny saying that millions are going to be killed if he doesn’t act but he’s cut off in the middle of the message.  Doc springs into action for a potential sequel that never happened.  Thank Christ.

This movie is bad camp.  Very bad camp.  The source material is campy, it didn’t need John Philip Souza or bad sound effects.  Great Boos Up in his seminal “Before Capes Were Cool” series gave a reason why the Batman ’66 movie is better than Batman and Robin:

“Every comedic choice in Batman ’66 relies on you the audience to realize that a joke is being made; there is no cash register sound effect to signal “We made a joke!” It trusts the sophisticated adult audience to recognize absurdity,”

[Batman and Robin] is a movie that is constantly elbowing you to make sure you get its jokes;

And that’s what happened with Doc SavageThe Man of Bronze.  Too much winking at the camera, too many goofy things happening in the scenes meant to be exciting or to build in the character development, but the punchlines land with sickening thuds.  There’s no real stakes involved.  And the acting is less deadpan or over the top but much more wooden.  That undermines the key aspect of camp and takes away the fun.

I think Michael Anderson and George Pal wanted to tell a straight up adaptation of Doc Savage’s adventures, but the Powers that Screw You wanted something along the lines of how they perceived the Batman TV series.  At the time, Warner Brothers had acquired the rights to DC Comics and their superheroes, naturally including Batman.  Many people still remember Batman as portrayed by the TV show, but the executives didn’t understand what camp is – sincere over the topness.  Yes, there’s silly dialogue involved and bright colors and whatnot, but there is a sincerity to the acting and sets and costuming;  They pulled the same crap with Superman II and Superman III.

And this movie is about as sincere as puddle of mud.  This movie is Deep Hurting and I put it right up there with The Wild World of Batwoman and Battlefield Earth in being unwatchable.

I do think I’m going to give the novel Doc Savage another chance, though.  I think I’ll read about his adventures and experience what camp truly can be despite Doc’s treatment of bad guys essentially being a crime against humanity.  But, I think I’ll go over a video game next.  One that features a mad clown and Espers and an over the top octopus with human intelligence.  Movie wise, I think I’ll review a movie about rustlers and rhapsodies and maybe after that one about streets and fire and revelries beginning and dancing for the lonely and the broken hearted.  Just Godspeed me away from Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.

Until next time.