The Six Million Dollar Man pilot telefilm (1973)

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The Six Million Dollar Man pilot telefilm (1973)

Post  BoG on Sat May 14, 2011 10:33 pm

based on the novel by Martin Caidin  Arrow   Air Date: March 7, 1973
written by Henry Simoun, Howard Rodman and Steven Bochco  Arrow  Directed by Richard Irving

The Six Million Dollar Man 1 of 4 by RenaudMan
This was the original made-for-TV pilot film which introduced the general populace to the concept of bionics and, specifically, to Steve Austin, the former astronaut (he was one of the men who walked on the moon) and now test pilot. Austin, as played by Lee Majors, had a slightly more cocky attitude than how he was later portrayed on the regular series, with a definite anti-authority strain. He was the type to give an impatient general some of this 'tude, just before the fateful test flight which ends in a terrible crash. There was no Oscar Goldman in this pilot; instead, Darren McGavin (famous as Kolchak at that time) played a limping, callous government man named Oliver Spencer; he spearheaded the project to create the special agent which would be Austin. Martin Balsam played the ahead-of-our-time doctor Rudy Wells, the one who performed the actual operation on Austin - and he also happened to be a personal friend of Austin's.
After the accident, Austin's cockiness evaporates and he is left only with anger & bitterness (again, in stark contrast to his behavior on the regular series). But, his new bionic arm, legs and eye alleviates some of this tension; as  he adapts to his new body, he regains some of his positive attitude, though he is suspicious of where  this is all going. Barbara Anderson plays his nurse, who soon falls for him. It turns out, Austin's suspicions are warranted; Spencer sees him as little more than a wind-up robot, to be activated at the proper time for special missions, usually involving violence & death. Austin wants no part of such a life, but the story soon inexorably focuses on just such a mission, which becomes more a test of Austin's resolve & mindset, besides the obvious special skills it tests.
This was a very effective sci-fi/action TV film in 1973 and there was none of that slow motion running as would be de rigeur on the series; when we first see Austin running at 60 mph, it really looks like 60 mph (sped up footage, of course). Majors also made an effective central hero. Harve Bennett, the producer who came aboard later, recognized that Majors was best as a laconic, cowboy Gary Cooper-type hero, toothpick in his mouth, not the James Bond-styled hero of the next 2 telefilms. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10

Bionic Trivia: for syndication, this first film was split into a 2-part episode renamed The Moon and the Desert. It contains added
scenes utilizing stock footage from later episodes, including the first sequence of Austin rocketing to and walking on the moon.
The next telefilm in the Six Million Dollar Man saga was Wine, Women and War, airing in October, 1973.
Star Trek TOS actor alert: Barbara Anderson appeared in the episode The Conscience of the King
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