In spite of their relatively low mass appeal, two superhero (sort-of) movies have made their way to the DVD market for the first time this month, compliments of the Warner Archive, a program where you can order DVDs directly from Warner Home Video’s website and get them printed-to-order. The program has been going for a while, but seems to have picked up steam lately, with not only Steel (starring Shaquilled O’Neal and based on the character from the Death and Return of Superman story) and Doc Savage: Man of Bronze, but also some other genre titles like The Amazing Captain Nemo (which starred Burgess Meredith of Rocky and G.I. Joe: The Movie fame as its villain). You can also buy a handful of motion comics titles, including Batgirl: Year One and Superman: Red Son on the site.
Steel is that movie that has a decent script (not good, mind you), but a terrible cast and a number of flaws, not least of which is a running “free-throw” gag that revolved around the fact that its star, Shaquille O’Neal, was well-known for having no skill at shooting free throws. They removed all but the tiniest of details that bore resemblance to the comic, and Judd Nelson vamps and screams his way through every scene he’s in. All that said, it’s a lot better than I remembered it; of course, the last time I saw it, my friend and I were the only two in a 200-seat theater on opening weekend–and we didn’t pay because he worked for the maintenance company that cleaned the cinema.
Doc Savage, meanwhile, is a charming little camp movie along the lines of the old Batman TV show. It’s such a blatantly pro-US, pro-military movie that you actually get to see the “USA” in John Philip Sousa flash red, white and blue in the credits. At a time when DC has launched a new Doc Savage series after the debut of First Wave, there probably wouldn’t be a better time to reissue this DVD (at least unless or until the feature film that’s stumbling along finally gets made). It’s fun to see this different interpretation of the Arctic Fortress of Solitude, and the characters have potential, even if their execution is typical ’70s action camp.