Archive for Six Million Dollar Man

Bionic Review: Dynamite Comics’ The Bionic Man (2011)

Posted in Bionic Man, comic books, movies, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by Paxton

Bionic Review

SMDM Book

Richard Anderson, the man who played Oscar Goldman in The Six Million Dollar Man TV series tried for years to get a Bionic Man movie off the ground.  Many different writers took a stab at a script.  In the mid-90s, Kevin Smith famously wrote a script for a Bionic Man movie that was a reboot of the TV series.  I was very excited about this prospect as, at the time, I was a big fan of Kevin Smith and loved the idea of him re-imagining the Steve Austin universe (of which I was a big fan). Unfortunately, nothing ever happened on that project.  It just disappeared.  Then, in March 2011, Kevin Smith announced that his unproduced script would be re-adapted into a comic book series for Dynamite comics.  The comic’s script would be written by Phil Hester and be based on Smith’s movie script.  The book’s interiors would be drawn by Jonathan Lau, it would have Alex Ross variant covers and the name would be Kevin Smith’s The Bionic Man.  The first issue would be released in August 2011.

Kevin Smith's Bionic Man 1 Kevin Smith's Bionic Man 4

Up to this point I have read the first 14 issues of Dynamite’s The Bionic Man. The first 10 issues contain the story arc that is taken directly from Kevin Smith’s unproduced script.

Essential Plot:  It starts off very similar to the original TV show/novel.  The events have been updated a bit and a few things changed.  We actually start off, not with Steve Austin, but with a break in at a government laboratory.  An unknown assailant kills all the scientists and steals what looks like a bionic arm.  Then we cut to Steve Austin at home.  He’s still a test pilot.  He’s engaged to Jaime Sommers.  Austin is about to retire as a test pilot and marry Jaime.  He just has one more test flight to make.  And what happens is exactly what you expect.  Something goes wrong with the flight, Austin crashes and loses both of his legs, his right arm and his left eye.  In this story he’s good friends with a younger version of Oscar Goldman.  They convince Steve to become a part of their bionics experiment, so the government pronounces him dead and begin the operations to graft on the bionic limbs.  There are several issues devoted to Steve’s recovery and coming to grips with the fact that he’s now part machine.  In issue #7 Jaime returns as Steve unexpectedly finds himself at her house and reveals to her that he’s not, in fact, dead.  In this issue we also discover that the earlier mysterious assailant from issue #1 has ties to Austin and the bionic program, so the rest of the story arc is discovering information about this assailant and Steve going after him to put a stop to his plans.

The next issue after the Smith arc, #11, was a standalone issue.  Steve goes back to his parents’ ranch for some soul searching.  We meet his parents and see that his father is dying.

Issue #12 begins the first new wholly original story arc.  It’s written by Phil Hester and Aaron Gillespie and drawn by Ed Tadeo.  This story introduces the fan favorite bionic Bigfoot from the TV show into the new bionic universe.  Austin discovers some unscrupulous people are attaching bionic parts to Bigfoot creatures so he teams up with one of them to help.

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Bionic Review: Cyborg IV by Martin Caidin (1975)

Posted in Bionic Man, books, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by Paxton

Bionic Review

SMDM Book

Martin Caidin wrote his fourth and final Steve Austin novel in 1975. It was called Cyborg IV.

Cyborg IV Cyborg IV

By this point, Caidin’s character had spun off into the famous Six Million Dollar Man TV show.  However, Caidin continued his novels as if the TV show didn’t exist.  The continuity within the novels did not overlap with the show.  Despite this fact, this particular book was included as #6 in the Six Million Dollar Man book series.  Which is confusing (is it Book #6 or Book #4?).  The Six Million Dollar Man book series were paperback translations of episodes of the TV show in which authors like Mike Jahn and Jay Barbree novelized episodes like Pilot Error, Rescue of Athena One and Solid Gold Kidnapping.  Caidin’s third Cyborg novel, High Crystal, was also confusingly included in this series.  The first two Cyborg books were not included.

For this last novel, Caidin takes the idea of “man working in tandem with machines” to a new level.  Steve is introduced to a new project within the Army in which an advanced fighter jet/spaceship is directly connected to a human pilot so that ship and man are one and the same. This setup requires that the human pilot have interface ports surgically added to his body, but since Steve already has most of that done, Oscar thinks he’s the perfect test pilot for the project.

The idea that Caidin introduces here is pretty cool.  When directly connected to the ship, Steve would “feel” and “see” what happens to that ship as if it were a part of his body.  Instead of having gauges and digital readouts tell him about the telemetry of the ship, it would be fed directly into his body and he’d know it just as he knows that it’s cold outside or that he’s hungry.  It’s a pretty crazy idea and for some reason it immediately made me think of the Clint Eastwood movie Firefox.  And the first time they test Steve and the plane, they have to dial back the connection to 30%, otherwise, Austin may lose all of his individual identity and become “one” with the ship.  The way it’s written in the book is actually pretty cool.

The problem?  Caidin is his own worst enemy.  We spend the first 1/3-2/3 of the book learning about the project and then training Steve on the equipment.  The final action of the book is really just the very first outer space flight test for the plane/cyborg hybrid.  There is a small conflict with the Russians in that they are destroying US spy satellites, but other than that, the book is just training and a few test flights of the new ship.  And the book essentially just ends not giving you any indication about the future of the project or where Steve will go next.

So, again, I’m a little frustrated reading these Caidin Cyborg books because the author has really good ideas but the written execution of the novel is seriously lacking.  And considering the books are short, (< 200pgs) Caidin still manages to drone on WAY too long about the most mundane things.  So while I’d recommend this more than Operation Nuke it’s not as good as High Crystal or the original Cybog novel.

Bionic Review: The Solid Gold Kidnapping (1973)

Posted in movies, pop culture, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , on February 15, 2013 by Paxton

Bionic Review
SMDM Movies

The third and final TV movie starring Lee Majors as the Six Million Dollar Man was called The Solid Gold Kidnapping and aired on Nov 17, 1973.

smdm_sgk_title1

Like Bond movies and the previous TV movie, this movie begins with Austin on an assignment.  He’s in Mexico rescuing a US Ambassador from some revolutionaries in the mountains.  After Austin successfully resuces the Ambassador, we meet the sinister group known as “The Company”.  It’s an organization similar to Bond’s SPECTRE.  They, unfortunately, would make no more appearances outside of this movie.  The Company kidnaps international negotiator William Henry Cameron and demands $1 billion for his return.  OSI and Oscar team up Steve Austin with Dr Erica Bergner to rescue him.  Dr Bergner’s specialty is the brain and she’s developed a procedure to transplant brain cells from one patient to another with the result being that the transplantee gains the transplanter’s memories.  So Bergner takes the brain cells from a captured henchman of The Company and transplants them into her brain.  She uses this henchman’s memories to help Steve find their headquarters.

Silly?  Yes, it is.  But they treat it fairly good in that she can’t just pluck whatever information she wants from the new memories.  Her brain needs time to adjust and process the new information.  She is constantly having random memories that aren’t her own and has to make sense of them before they mean anything.  I sort of liked that even if I thought the procedure was a bit hokey.

Overall, however, this final TV movie wasn’t the greatest.  I’m surprised that with the upcoming release of the first episode of the series, that these last two movies still hadn’t really nailed the “look and feel” of the series yet.  They really aren’t my favorites.  I’m also surprised that neither of these two TV movies adapted the second book in Caidin’s Cyborg series.  Well, I am and am not surprised because that second book is not very good.  It would have had to have been re-written.  But the third book, High Crystal, was excellent, however it wasn’t released until the following year in 1974.  But Caidin should have had most of the story, they could have used that.  Interestingly, the early Mexico scenes of The Solid Gold Kidnapping do actually echo the setting of that third Cyborg book.

But I honestly can’t recommend these movies to anyone but hardcore bionic fans.  We still don’t get any of the signature bionic sounds, so watching Steve do these feats with no audio cue is still a little weird.

Bionic Review: Wine, Woman and War (1973)

Posted in Bionic Man, movies, pop culture, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on January 28, 2013 by Paxton

Bionic Review
SMDM Movies

After the original Six Million Dollar Man TV movie, there were two more produced and both of them aired in 1973. The first was called Wine, Women and War and aired on Oct 20, 1973.  Here’s an ad from a 1973 newspaper featuring the TV listing for this movie.  Lee Majors’ picture is on the right, the blub about the movie is in bold in the far left column.

SMDM - Wine Women War

Wine, Women and War doesn’t go directly to the action, it actually has an opening title sequence. And it’s an awesomely 70s opening sequence with an awesomely 70s theme song by Dusty Springfield. Check it out.

“Catch him if you can, feed him if you can, love if you CAAAAAAAAAAAN!  He’s the Six Million Dollar MAAAAAAAN!”  Amazing, isn’t it?

So, right off the bat we see a few things that are new.  Richard Anderson debuts as Oscar Goldman and Alan Oppenheimer debuts as Rudy Wells taking the place of Martin Balsam.  You also notice the absence of Darren McGavin as Oliver Spenser.  This movie was sort of an overhaul of the Six Million Dollar Man as far as the cast goes.  Only Lee majors would remain.  The weekly television series would have been in production at this point as its debut was only months away in Jan 1974.  I assume the player pieces were falling into place.  The story concepts were still being worked out, though, as the story for this movie is essentially, “What if James Bond were bionic?”.  This movie is a complete rip-off of the Bond franchise.  Austin is treated as the debonair super-spy.

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So the story begins with Austin on assignment in Egypt to steal an arms dealer’s catalog. In classic Bond fashion we see Austin pull off his wet suit to reveal a fully dry tux underneath.  Later, during the action, Austin’s female companion is killed. Afterwards Steve is reluctant to go out on another assignment so Oscar arranges for a vacation. However Oscar doesn’t tell Steve that the vacation is actually his next assignment, just manipulated by OSI agents that are following along to look like a vacation. Oscar can be kind of a dick. Although we do get to see Steve mistake a lady who is flirting with him on his plane for a prostitute. That was pretty funny.  And plenty of other Bond-like double entendres ensue throughout the movie.

So Steve discovers Oscar’s ruse and stumbles upon the trail of the previously mentioned arms dealer and Steve goes after him hoping to get revenge for his companion’s death.  Like I said, all very Bond-like.

Honestly, on one level it totally works.  It’s just so absurd and contrary to the Austin we come to know in the TV series that it’s almost fun to watch.

I can recommend this, but honestly, you can’t really watch it as a Six Million Dollar Man movie/episode. It’s a spy movie that just happens to have Steve Austin, the bionic man.

Bionic Review: The Six Million Dollar Man TV movie (1973)

Posted in pop culture, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2012 by Paxton

Bionic Review

SMDM Book

Steve Austin first appeared on TV in the made-for-television movie The Six Million Dollar Man which was broadcast in March 1973.  It appeared as the ABC Wednesday Movie of the Week. Here’s an item from the TV section of a 1973 newspaper announcing the airing of the movie. SMDM newspaper ad You can see Lee Majors’ picture in the upper left and the mention of the movie is in the upper right. Majors is sporting a pretty hardcore 70s mustache in that picture which he does NOT have in the movie.

Unlike the other bionic TV movies (and TV show), there really is no “title sequence” per se in this special. This particular movie starts with a computer screen telling the viewer the definition of the word cyborg and then cuts directly to a desert airfield and the movie title over Lee Majors walking towards camera.smdm_pilot1 The very first scene is the airplane crash that will create the future bionic man.  We then get all the setup with the OSO, or Office of Special Operations (changed to OSI, Office of Scientific Investigation, in the subsequent movies and TV show).  A man named Oliver Spencer, Oscar Goldman won’t appear until the second movie, is petitioning for money to create a “cyborg” for use in special ops.  Oliver Spencer is played very cold and calculating by Darren McGavin who would famously play the Old Man in A Christmas Story.  Spencer approaches Dr Rudy Wells, played by Martin Balsam, to convince Steve to volunteer to become their cyborg.

Most of the TV movie follows the original book, Cyborg, fairly closely. The movie focuses on Steve coming to grips with his bionic limbs and being trained to go out on missions. Majors plays Austin as very reluctant to accept the limbs and even when he does accept them, he still has a lot of problems understanding why they would want to do that to him and what is eventually going to be the cost to him. After all of the psychological drama, Spencer sends Austin on his first mission and we find out that it’s essentially a suicide mission.  One that Spencer wants to see if Austin can complete.  He remarks to Rudy that they can always build another bionic man.  Totally cold and hardcore, that Spencer.

This was a pretty good beginning.  It wasn’t great, but it was good.  A little slow in parts, but overall, I enjoyed it.  It should be noted that the bionic sound effect most identified with the show is not present here.  It had yet to become a staple in these early adventures.  It’s honestly weird to see Austin perform bionic feats and not have the bionic sound.  It just doesn’t sound “right”.  Other than that, I like Lee in this role and I look forward to the two other TV movies.

It’s interesting to note, though, that years later this TV movie was subsequently re-edited for syndication as a two-part episode called The Moon and the Desert.  This newer edit puts a later season intro on the episodes which is confusing considering the episodes’ content.  Also, Martin Balsam returned to do some voice over work to help bridge some of the disjointed scenes.  That in and of itself is off putting since Balsam never played Rudy Wells on the TV show, it was Allen Oppenheimer.  Also, since this syndicated cut was created after the show had gone off the air, there were several other scenes that were added from later season Six Million Dollar Man and even Bionic Woman episodes.  It’s a pretty crazy and baffling amalgamation of footage.  Surprisingly, the syndicated “Moon and Desert” episodes are included as a bonus feature on the complete series box set.  However, they are really only good to watch as a curiosity and not very entertaining.

Bionic Reviews: Cyborg #3 – High Crystal by Martin Caidin (1974)

Posted in Bionic Man, books, pop culture, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by Paxton

Bionic Review

SMDM Book

The third book in Martin Caidin’s Cyborg series starring Steve Austin is Cyborg #3: High Crystal. It was published in hardback in 1974.

High Crystal hardback High Crystal US pb

The story for this book has it’s origins in another popular book from the early 70s called Chariots of the Gods, which I read many years ago. Essentially, Chariots involves an investigation of ancient civilizations that display a certain “technology” they had no way of obtaining.  And the theory of how these early civilizations got that technology was…aliens.  Yes, that book is a little ridiculous.  The situations it investigates are very real, but the theories used to explain the situations are “out there”.  But High Crystal takes the ancient civilization and their access to “high technology” and uses it to form an interesting mystery.  Honestly, based on the fact that this book had it’s roots in Chariots of the Gods and revolved around what seemed to be a “magic energy crystal”, I was not looking forward to reading this book.  It sounded straight up 70s and Bohemian.  Not exactly what I was looking for in a Six Million Dollar Man book.  But due to my current obsession with all things bionic, I read the book anyway.

High Crystal UK pb

The story begins with a spy plane being downed in the mountains of Peru. The one surviving member of the crew discovers a man-made roadway traveling through the mountains where no civilization currently exists, or any civilization has existed in thousands of years.  So, when he returns to his superiors, they are obviously interested in what’s going on.  Steve joins a group of scientists and soldiers on a mission to discover the road and find out where it came from and where it leads.  Along the way they discover that a criminal organization will do anything to keep the discovery to themselves.

I was surprised how much better this book is than Operation Nuke.  There are still some problems with Caidin’s overly descriptive writing, which is odd considering his books are usually sub-200 pages.  But the feel of this book was fun and much more energetic than the last book.  This book’s events had the historical roadtrip feel of something like Matthew Reilly’s 7 Deadly Wonders or even Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And there is lots of bionic action by Steve Austin.  Since they are trudging through the Peruvian jungles, there are plenty of places for Steve to methodically chop through underbrush or stare down a cougar (yes, that actually happened).  And it helped that Steve and his group were being chased by the criminal organization throughout their trip which gives you the “ticking clock” suspense that was lacking in the second book.  Once they discover what is at the end of the road, it isn’t disappointing.  And the group seems to barely escape whatever happens to them.  The book even leaves a sort of “not quite finished” ending you expect from a story like this.  So this was a MUCH better read than the last book and it felt like it could have been a later season episode of the series.  However, unfortunately, this book was not adapted into an episode of the TV series.  There were some elements like the ancient civilizations that made it into the third Six Million Dollar Man TV movie, Solid Gold Kidnapping, but it was just one small element and none of the rest of the story made it.  It’s a shame, this would have been a good episode (or TV movie).

There’s only one more book left in the original Caidin Cyborg novels, Cyborg IV.  I look forward to reading it.  It sounds like it could be amazing.

Bionic Reviews: Cyborg #2 – Operation Nuke by Martin Caidin (1973)

Posted in Bionic Man, books, Six Million Dollar Man, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on August 27, 2012 by Paxton

Bionic Review
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This is an ongoing feature where I read, watch and review books, comics and TV shows featuring The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman.  Click the Bionic Review banner to see the Bionic Review archive page.  Click the smaller banner to see only those specific reviews.

One year after Cyborg, in 1973, Caidin released his followup Steve Austin novel, Operation Nuke.

Cyborg 2 Cyborg #2

The original hardcover release is on the left.  At this point, the original book was being adapted into the first The Six Million Dollar Man TV movie. As you can see, the paperback cover for this book on the right follows the same design as the later cover for Cyborg with Lee Major’s face and the mention of the TV show at the top.  By the time this book hit paperback, The Six Million Dollar Man had three TV movies and was beginning its regular season run.

Cyborg 2 Operation Nuke

This is a good 70s “spy novel” but it’s not a great Bionic Man (or Cyborg) novel.  Literally, Steve Austin doesn’t use any of his superhuman bionic abilities until like page 135 (of 175 pages).  And he doesn’t use them again after that either.  Also, at the beginning of the novel, when he’s getting his assignment, he is asked how much he knows about nuclear devices.  Steve says that he had to actually build a nuclear device for one of his instructional classes with the military.  This is very convenient considering the plot.  And for something he did so long ago, the book makes Steve out to be a nuclear physicist with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of all nuclear bombs.  That got old after a while.

Steve Austin spends most of this book infiltrating a criminal military organization in order to find out who is the leader and where they are getting their nuclear weapons.  A task that doesn’t require the use of any bionic limbs.  He finally uses his bionics at the end of the book when he has to carry a nuclear device from one room to another and he manages to disarm that device despite not ever seeing the insides or how it was built.

So, this was a less than satisfactory story if you are coming in expecting bionic action like the first novel.  Even for a regular 70s spy novel it leaves a little something to be desired.  Another thing that makes it tough to read is Caidin’s writing style.  Caidin tends to describe things a lot.  He may start off a chapter or section of a chapter by talking about certain objects or the surrounding environment and it’ll take a page and a half before people start talking or some action pertaining to the story happens.  It causes the reader to “skip ahead” a bit to get things moving.  So, all in all, this was a very disappointing book.  Hopefully the next book will deliver more bionic goodness.