Review Date: 5/31/20
Producer: George Pal
Cast: Ron Ely, Pamela Hensley, Paul Wexler, Janice Heiden, Paul Frees
"Let us do right to all, and wrong no man."
Clark "Doc" Savage Jr. (Ron Ely) is a remarkable man. He's super intelligent, super strong, super attractive, super rich, and just a really swell guy all around. He's an adventurer, scientist, detective, and physician (among other things), with a strong sense of justice and patriotism. He's also a martial arts master and has some sort of telepathic ability. When Doc's father mysteriously dies in Hidalgo, he and his friends, The Fabulous Five, go to investigate. Doc and his pals survive several assassination attempts, which further confirms their suspicions of foul play. It turns out that Doc's father was granted a valuable piece of land by a fabled tribe, and the villainous Captain Seas (Paul Wexler) is determined to get his hands on it. With the aid of a beautiful Mexican girl named Mona Flores (Pamela Hensley), Doc finds the lost tribe and puts an end to Captain Seas' tyranny with a mixture of sumo, kung fu, tai-chi, karate, bojutsu, and boxing.
It's a delightfully campy period film that feels like a cross between Adam West's "Batman" (1966) and "The Phantom" (1996). Unfortunately, it came out in the mid 70's, when cinematic sensibilities leaned more towards graphic violence, gratuitous sex, and gritty realism, and ended up being a box office flop. The physically imposing and ruggedly handsome Ron Ely is perfect for the role, and flawlessly channels Doc's squeaky clean image and values. The Fabulous Five aren't particularly interesting and mostly provide comic relief to pad the story. Paul Wexler makes a suitable villain who is nearly Doc's match, and their protracted brawl at the film's climax is both clever and amusing. Drop-dead gorgeous Janice Heiden shows up briefly as one of Seas' sinister lady friends, but the film focuses more on Pamela Hensley's pained and virtuous Mexican maiden character, who provides an innocently longing love interest.
It's a good looking and well-made film for the most part, although it suffers from a handful of bad matte paintings and weak visual effects. The acting is decent and the action is typical for the genre and the time period, which is another way of saying that it's solidly mediocre. The hilariously campy music bursts with patriotic pride and burly voices. It's definitely a testosterone fueled "man's movie," which would normally turn my stomach. However, the wholesomeness and sincerity of Ely's performance downplays the machismo in favor of humility and intellect, which I found quite refreshing. Doc is definitely a charmer, but he's also tragically doomed to be alone. It's a shame the film didn't find an audience. It probably would have fared better if it had come out in either the 60's or the 80's.