Revisiting The Six-Million Dollar Man...

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Warped9, Dec 3, 2011.

  1. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    It's been thirty years since I've watched The Six-Million Dollar Man. I used to quite like the show, particularly the early seasons. I also have fond memories of the original novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin that inspired the series.

    Recently the first season became available separately as a season set on DVD. Previously the series was only available as a box set and was rather pricey. A few days ago I ordered the Season 1 set from Amazon and it arrived this afternoon.

    This evening I just watched the first pilot film... :techman:

    This closely parallels the original novel Cyborg by Martin Caidin. I'm sure there are some finer points where it diverges, but I haven't read the novel since the '70s so I can't recall exactly where it diverges. I do recall that in the novel Steve Austin could only run about twenty-five m.p.h. while in the pilot and series he can reach sixty m.p.h. I also recall that the novel covers more of his training with his bionics.

    That said the pilot film is well written, well cast and well performed by Lee Majors, Martin Balsam and Darren McGavin. McGavin is particularly interesting as OSO Director Spencer, a toned down s.o.b. who spearheads Steve Austin's rebuilding so to speak. Good stuff.

    The action is low-key by today's standards, but I rather like the more realistic approach to Austin's abilities without overdone visual and audio f/x. The only real nitpick I have with this is the sometimes obtrusive music, but it's only occasional.

    Looking at the pilot alone it's easy to see how this could be updated and made to work today. I would hope they would have a similar approach and tone to the story overall and the characters. And it would be a piece-of-cake for them to depict Austin's capabilities today and make it look convincing.

    I'm looking forward to the next episodes. :techman:
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2011
  2. Gary Mitchell

    Gary Mitchell Admiral Admiral

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    I'm looking forward to your reviews. I haven't seen the show in at least 20 years but I can't afford the dvds.
     
  3. Silvercrest

    Silvercrest Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Same here. But I do have the novel. In terms of his bionics, the major differences were: 1) it was his left arm instead of his right, 2) he was permanently blind in his eye, but they installed a little camera in it, and 3) he couldn't run faster than before, but he could run LONG distances without tiring. This was partly because his legs didn't get tired (of course!), and partly because his heart and lungs were supplying a reduced volume of tissue, so he had an abundance of oxygen. Never out of breath.
     
  4. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    The previous boxed sets were indeed pricey, but the present Season 1 set is only $27.99 US on Amazon.
     
  5. Wereghost

    Wereghost Part-time poltergeist Commodore

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    On a related note, Steve Austin has recently returned in comic-book form. Kevin Smith's The Bionic Man is four issues old and so far has proven a thoroughly entertaining update, IMO. Hollywood could do a lot worse than use this as source material for the proposed movie.

    (Edit: According to Wikipedia's Six Million Dollar Man entry, the Smith comic is based on a rejected screenplay for a proposed 1990s movie. That figures.)
     
  6. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    As I recall he could run faster, beating the world and Olympics sprinting records, over short distances. As you say he could also keep on running over long distances at a steady speed (somewhere between 6-8 mph, I think) for as long as he was awake.

    I also liked the little 'add ons' he was fitted with in the book. When infiltrating a sub base via the sea, for example, he had compressed air tanks built into his legs, and fold out flippers in his feet, in case anything happened to his scuba gear. There was also a curare tipped dart gun built into his hand.
     
  7. Captaindemotion

    Captaindemotion Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There was another interesting thread about TSMDM earlier this year or last year, which 23Skiddoo posted when he bought the DVDs.

    I haven't seen the show in years and would like to see it again. I remember it best for my Steve Austin action figure which I had as a kid!
     
  8. FreezeC77

    FreezeC77 Commodore Commodore

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    Wasn't there an episode where he fought bigfoot?
     
  9. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Two of them. Both are two parters. The second one is a crossover with The Bionic Woman.

    I guess I'm one of the lucky fans who has owned the complete series set that came out last year (a gift from my girlfriend who knows what a Bionic superfan I am).

    I also recently re-watched the Cyborg movie (as opposed to the 2 part Moon and the Desert expanded re-edit which I actually prefer) and was confused by one thing. As Warped9 says, Darren McGavin played OSI director Spencer in the film, but in the novel, Oscar Goldman was that character. Anybody know why the producers rewrote that only to have Richard Anderson play Oscar in the sequels? Why not just have McGavin play Oscar? Why create a new character? After all, Rudy Wells was recast twice.
     
  10. davejames

    davejames Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's funny, after all these years I still find the slow-motion running of SMDM to be more thrilling and believable than any of those CG "super speed" effects I've seen on shows like The Flash or Smallville.

    It's just a lot easier to suspend my disbelief when I'm looking at a real person doing those things.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm not sure the FX on The Flash were CGI. It was a little early for that. More like video compositing of live-action elements, 2D video animation for the blur effects, and a lot of old-fashioned stagecraft and camera tricks. Basically the same level of FX technology you would've seen on ST:TNG (in fact the show's FX supervisor David Stipes was a TNG veteran).
     
  12. Bob Morton

    Bob Morton Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    When I rewatched the first season recently, I was astounded that the "bionic sound" was used so sparingly. It's definitely pumped up more as the series progresses.

    Also, concerning the realistic fast running, I really liked the effect they used in the recent Bionic Woman.
     
  13. Gojira

    Gojira Commodore Commodore

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    This was a favorite of mine as a kid. Haven't watched it in years myself. I will have to see if Netflix has it.
     
  14. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Wine, Women And War **

    Steve Austin must stymie the plans of an arms merchant.

    In context of when it was made I'd give the first pilot a 5/5, but in context of today in retrospect I'd give it a 4/5. The second film though really suffers and thats why I give it a 2/5.

    I really don't recall this film and very little of it seems familiar except for the awful theme song and less-than-inspired music. I still applaud the more realistic depiction of Austin's abilities as well as the low-key sound f/x. And there are actually a few decent moments in the film.

    But overall this suffers from trying to be something of a half-hearted imitation of a Bond film in Americanized form---and it falls flat. Additionally Lee Majors is the only one in the entire thing giving a decent performance. Britt Eklund, Eric Braedon, Richard Anderson, Earl Holliman and David McCallum are all caricatures. Anderson's Oscar Goldman is nowhere near as interesting nor does he have the presence of Darrin McGavin's character of OSO Director Spencer in the pilot film. And the new Rudy Wells can't hold a candle to Martin Balsam's portrayal.

    What it comes down to is polish and execution. The first pilot, with a little tweaking and money, could have been a feature film. The second pilot is so obviously a cheap TV knockoff.
     
  15. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    After the pilot, Six-Million-Dollar Man started as one of those rotating movie features that were popular for a while in those days (e.g. Columbo and McCloud). I forget who he rotated with, though.

    The early episodes were indeed very Bondian, and that was one of my favorite periods of the show. My other favorite period was toward the end when it was really off the wall, with space aliens and so forth. Both approaches worked well as far as I was concerned (although, for my taste, I would have preferred they be done with two separate characters).

    It's been a long time since I've seen the pilot, but I actually remember it being pretty badly directed and edited; my impression at the time was that it was kind of amateurish.
     
  16. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I think the original pilot is actually pretty good, but it does suffer just a bit because of age and contemporary expectations, and thats mostly in terms of action and certain limitations of the era in which it was made.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, 6M$M was never part of a movie wheel. There were two additional made-for-TV movies, just standalones, done after the pilot, and then it became a weekly series. There were some other shows this was done with. The Incredible Hulk started out as two TV movies before it went to a weekly series, and Columbo started out as a TV-movie adaptation of the original play and then got a standalone TV movie as a "second pilot" (to see if the format could work more than once) before it became part of its mystery-movie wheel.

    I think we've forgotten how common it was back then to have standalone original movies on network TV, since they're so rare these days except on cable. The "wheel" series were one way of doing them, but there were lots of original movies that were just aired by themselves, not part of any wheel.
     
  18. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    I'd have to watch it again to refresh my memory, but I'm thinking of stuff like awkward voice-overs and re-use of the same shot over and over. It just had that ambiance of a real cheapo production of the time.

    Hmm. Well, that would explain why I can't remember what it rotated with. :rommie:
     
  19. 23skidoo

    23skidoo Admiral Admiral

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    According to "The Bionic Book" by Herbie Pilato there were initially 6 SMDM movies commissioned that would air in rotation as part of "The ABC Suspense Movie". That sounds like a wheel to me. But whether ABC actually produced original series to fill the rest of the wheel or played straight movies, is the question. For what it's worth, the Wikipedia article on "ABC Suspense Movie" seems to suggest the other "spokes" of the wheel were simply telecasts of theatrical movies.

    According to Pilato it was discovered fairly rapidly that the new format - of making SMDM into a Bond clone - wasn't working, so after only 2 of the films were made the decision was made to switch to a 60 minute weekly series and make many tweaks and refinements. And the instincts of the network were correct because the two movies tanked in the ratings apparently.

    You are thinking of the reedited syndicated version of the pilot, which was expanded to 2 hours by incorporating footage from later episodes. All 3 of the movies were butchered in this fashion. I say butchered because the Time Life complete series box set includes the syndicated versions of the three movies and they are awful, full stop. The only thing worthwhile about "The Moon and the Desert" - syndicated version of the first movie - is that someone at least had the brains to hire Martin Balsam to narrate the film as Rudy rather than breaking continuity by having Martin E Brooks do it. Even the much-maligned and criticized "Bond clone" movies are 100 times better in their original versions than the at times hilariously bad reedits of the syndicated versions.

    Alex
     
  20. RJDiogenes

    RJDiogenes Idealistic Cynic and Canon Champion Premium Member

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    Ah, so I'm not completely senile; that must be what I'm remembering. They were probably advertised and aired as such, even though it didn't work out.

    Very interesting. Thanks for that info. Is the real, original version available anywhere? It's a shame that the box set uses the re-edits.
     

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