SMDM & BW VIDEO REVIEW- VOLUME 1
If all you've ever seen of the way in which Colonel Steve Austin, the last American astronaut to walk on the Moon, became THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN is the title sequence of the TV series, or even the flashback two-parter The Moon and the Desert, you need to see this gritty TV movie that first brought bionics to the screen.
Based very heavily on Martin Caidin's 1972 novel Cyborg, we follow two parallel plots for a time; one around test pilot Steve Austin. preparing to try out a new machine for NASA; the other, a shadowy group of government executives who are preparing to make a new weapon out of scrap. It's only after Austin's plane (a forerunner of the Space Shuttle) falls out of the sky, leaving him minus one arm, two legs and one eye, that you realise that he is the scrap they have been waiting for.
The first half of the film follows Steve's alterations into the Bionic Man. including his attempt at suicide, prevented only by beautiful nurse Kelly (IRONSIDE's Barbara Anderson); it's only in the closing fifteen minutes that we See Austin in action. But this is bionics without the slow motion running, the weird sound effects for jumping, or any of the gimmickry that was so easily imitated from the subsequent series: Steve Austin is simply a man, with some extraordinary gifts.
The changes for the series were necessary: Lee Majors' accent changes regularly and Darren McGavin as the OSO (not yet OSI) Boss is too unsympathetic a character Its nice to see the proper Rudy Wells (Martin E Brooks) though.
Wine, Women and War was the first SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN TV movie, and its title sequence displays the changes to the format already made. Alan Oppenheimer replaces Martin Brooks as Rudy, and it's Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) who gave permission for Steve to be made bionic.
Don't be put off by the abominable song that accompanies the titles (Dusty Springfield on the most off day ever!) and watch as Steve Austin metamorphises into lames Bond for seventy minutes. He's still reluctant to take assignments, but once he's underway, just watch him go!. David McCallum, Britt Ekland and Earl Holliman all add to the fun, but the attempts to give
Steve some much needed third dimension amongst all these heroics fall as flat as George Lazenbys acting in OHMSS.
The Bionic Woman contains the two-parter which led to the creation of the spin-off series. Starting as a standard SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN episode Steve cheats the bad guys of some McGuffin with the requisite bending of steel, running at 60 mph and use of bionic vision - it then suddenly becomes the Bionic Soap Opera as Austin returns home to Ojai to Set down some roots. Inevitably he meets with former girlfriend, Jaime Sommers (note the spelling, by the way: it's clear from the first newspaper clipping about Jaime that her name's spelt this way!), and they fall in love.
Lee Majors embarasses himself and us with a mawkish 'Song For Jaime' that tries and fails dismally to be an equivalent to Louis Armstrong's 'We Have All the Time In The World', before the tragic skydiving accident which leads to Steve begging Oscar to turn Jaime bionic. There are some hard hitting scenes between Anderson and Majors, as Oscar calls in his marker, and Lee Majors readily takes a back seat during the second episode, which is far more about Jaime than him The inevitable ending is well handled and it's no surprise that a quick fix was sought But that's another story...