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RON ELY AS 'DOC SAVAGE: MAN OF BRONZE' W/ ROBYN HILTON

Ron Ely in the pulpy adventure of Doc Savage YEAR: 1976
Just when you thought you'd seen everything, up comes something you missed because of being too young at the time and then, older, you discover a curio that epitomizes lost cult phenomena...

Robyn Hilton
For DOC SAVAGE, the last film backed by the original WAR OF THE WORLDS producer George Pal and directed by Michael Anderson before the beloved LOGAN'S RUN and maligned MARTIAN CHRONICLES, is almost beyond words, centering on TARZAN stud Ron Ely playing a scientist just as smart as he's fit and equally tough and well-read and who, along with five partners including muscular construction developer William Lucking and young BREAKFAST CLUB detention lord and VIGILANTE FORCE thug Paul Gleason as a few of the men under Doc's supervision that really don't do much but marvel at boss's glory, which includes gadgetry the likes of the then-popular Roger Moore James Bond films...

Sexy bimbos Janice Heiden and Robyn Hilton 
And fight scenes trying for the Kung Fu craze and mirroring just about everything the drive-in 70's had to offer and, although theatrical, SAVAGE plays out like the pilot episode of a television series that never came to be (a sequel was mostly filmed and then scrapped following poor box office returns), with a low-voiced, antique radio SHADOW style narrator basking in what sounds like intentional camp yet Ely's ultra-serious nature within the plot-line, trying to find out how his father was killed in South America while being toyed with by an intentionally charming villain named Captain Seas, wherein the late Paul Wexler looks so much like the Stanley Kubrick and John Cassavetes stock actor (and beyond) Timothy Carey, if you narrow your eyes it's as if Carey were, actually, during the KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE era, right on board...

More Robyn Hilton
That is, except for Wexler's voice that, like the narrator, seems mannishly dubbed to fit within the serial vibe of the piece as, first things first, Doc and his five agents thwart an indigenous sniper who has a green snake tattoo, and this creature turns up in different places, in animated form (but real to them), attacking thugs and eventually going after a shotgun-wielding Savage, which is a bad move... Ever seen a cartoon explode? Tastes just like chicken...

Well you won't believe your eyes that this kind of cheap green animation was attempted to seem "actual" in a "crime thriller," mixed within human beings ala PETE'S DRAGON only not for kids or laughs, and, like FLASH GORDON a few years later sans the big studio budget, also directed by an Englishmen for primarily American audiences and, most important, based on pulp stories of yesteryear, this truly seems to be a legitimate sendup or homage of its lurid source...

For instance, in one scene, like would happen in the popular 1990's Mike Myers/Bond spoof AUSTIN POWERS, when the villain, Dr. Evil, starts to laugh in a nefariously uncontrollable manner for an awkward minute while his sidekicks eventually join in... The same thing happens with Captain Seas as a gorgeous vixen we'll delve into on the next paragraph provides an expression (seen in the second picture above) that can't be beat...

And more Robyn Hilton, with Ron Ely
Enter one of the dastardly Captain's wenches, a Cult Film Freak Top Ten starlet, Robyn Hilton, best known as the bubble-brained girlfriend of Mel Brooks's wacky Governor in BLAZING SADDLES, and alongside is a more exotic brunette to Hilton's bombshell blonde, Janice Heiden as Adriana, who's turned up in her own score of grainy exploitation vehicles before and after. And as there are usually two bad Bond girls, here we have the good one in lovely Indian local (at the final destination) Pamela Hensley, of (later) television BUCK ROGERS and MATT HOUSTON fame, needing protection for her village and really yearning to hook up with Savage like Bond lands the ladies, only instead of going along for even an initial kiss, he does a silly fake "Be good, kiddo" type of friendly punch towards her face, followed by a passive, blow-off wink! Um, so, what's up, DOC?

Robyn Hilton
Other actors include THE HILLS HAVE EYES bald savage Michael Berryman as some kind of go-between donning an Abe Lincoln stove-top hat; speaking of bald villains, THE LONGEST YARD tough guy Bob Tessier as an 11th hour henchman; and one of Savage's most important sidekicks is CHINATOWN McGuffin (who Jack was first sent to investigate), Darrell Zwerling as our hero's geeky lawyer, playing a kind of uppity human C3PO a year before STAR WARS...

Warner Archives
And two years before THE MOTION PICTURE of SUPERMAN came out, in which here, THE MAN OF BRONZE beats STEEL to the punch in his own icy (and actually referred to as a) "Fortress of Solitude" and yet, resembling an "Igloo Meditation Chamber," reading up on things before heading to America where, backed by a patriotic score by John Philip Sousa (the last three letters of his name, USA, in red and blue), Doc can block bullets from his skin and goes deeper and deeper into action-packed madness wherein some of the craziest stuff occurs without our man around, like a Spanish dwarf villain who sucks his thumb and sleeps inside a gigantic baby rocker...

What's most amazing is how incredibly entertaining DOC really can be, flowing from one scene to the next with a bonafide (and intriguing) reason to be at each and every globe-spanning location, without explaining too much and never getting too convoluted, contrived or, worst of all, boring – the latter an avenue particular cult films get stuck on. For SAVAGE keeps his feet planted firmly in the ground and you just won't believe your eyes... not for a second's time: Thank God for Warner Archives!
NORMAL RATING: *** CAMP VALUE RATING: ****
Ron Ely as Doc Savage points the way back to the penthouse
A Timothy Carey lookalike if ever there was one, Paul Wexler died only a few years after co-starring in this
As mentioned, like Dr. Evil years later, Wexler's villain goes on an awkward laughing rampage, without cuts
Combining hand-drawn cartoon with real humans, this is a green serpent that is quite deadly
Especially when the cartoon serpent strikes at its victim, who in this case is a bad guy
THE HILLS HAVE EYES baddie Michael Berryman actually plays normal, and intelligent, like MB really is
Janice Heiden (from 99 1/2 DEAD) and Robyn Hilton con the good guys
Robyn Hilton as Karen, the villain's moll in DOC STEEL: THE MAN OF BRONZE
"No, missy, you don't have to spend detention with John Bender... Don't worry a bit."
Robyn Hilton with Ron Ely with Timothy Carey doppleganger Paul Wexler and Janice Heiden with Paul Gleason
Pamela Hensley later co-starred on part of BUCK ROGERS and all of MATT HOUSTON before marrying rich 
Ron Ely's Doc Savage meditates outside his Fortress of Solitude... and he can't catch cold!
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