Guess who’s back with Throwback Thursday! That’s right, after a long sabbatical from the column, I’ve returned. This week’s film is Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. While the 1975 flick may not be a ‘comic book’ movie in the traditional sense, it definitely presaged the genre in the same way the pulps it came from influenced comics back in the day.
Doc Savage, frankly, kind of sucks. I just want to be clear on that. The acting is wooden, the writing is choppy, and the plot, overwhelmingly, is racist. The movie follows Doc Savage from his Fortress of Solitude in the arctic to a gathering of his Amazing Five friends because of his father’s untimely death. It turns out, Savage’s father held huge, formerly-Native-owned lands in South America that Savage must now go claim. Apparently, the elder Savage was given the land by the South American tribe that owned it out of gratitude as the man had acted as a doctor to their people. A villain called Captain Seas wants the land as well, and is willing to harm the native tribe to do it, among other things.
White Savior narratives regarding indigenous peoples leaves a particularly gross taste in my mouth, and really took away from my personal enjoyment of the film.
The film does, however, allow for an interesting look at the tropes that built the Savage character, and which ones of those found their way into the superhero/comic book genres subsequently. I mentioned the Fortress of Solitude, of course, and Superman is the Man of Steel to Savage’s Man of Bronze. The movie opens with a sequence I actually quite like, where a narrator gets us up to speed on who Doc Savage is and what he stands for over a montage of Savage in the Fortress. It reminds me of the first page of most comic books, where we get a brief paragraph or two about the story so far. It doesn’t really work too well here, because it doesn’t suit the cinematic medium, but it was cool to see them trying it.
Another highlight was the pig, Habeas Corpus, who I genuinely cared more about than the human characters.
Overall, I recommend this film only if you’re interested in looking into the roots of the genre. Otherwise, it’s not worth the time spent.