Philip José Farmer’s Film Treatment for the second Doc Savage movie

After the critical and box office debacle of the 1975 movie Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, what had been intended as a series of films came to an abrupt end. But in the final credits of that film, a second movie was announced, Doc Savage: Archenemy of Evil.

That movie was never made, but the first steps toward its creation had been taken when the plug was pulled on the hoped-for franchise. Several possibilities for a story were in development, among them one by author Philip José Farmer, based on the Laurence Donovan novel Murder Mirage.

Farmer did not get so far as to create a shooting script, but he did do a screen treatment, which is a shortened version of scenes and dialogue for a proposed film. Though some of the captions edge in the direction of humor and caricature, it did scale back the disastrous camp approach considerably, and was a relatively faithful adaptation of the original novel.

The timing of the story is altered a bit — at the end of The Man of Bronze film, the teaser for the next installment takes place around Christmastime, and that is carried forward into the film treatment. So the bizarre summer snowstorm that is featured in the original novel is a more timely winter storm.

Original title illustration for Murder Mirage – art by Paul Orban

The scene where a fleeing woman is assaulted by Bedouins in the heart of New York, which results in her being blasted into nothing but a ghastly shadow, is retained in the script. An interesting Farmer-esque character note is the change of name from Lady Fotheran in the novel, to Lady Clayton in the proposed film.

Some of the descriptions of the villains are a bit gimmicky — Farmer uses references to actors from the film Casablanca, such as Sidney Greenstreet, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre, in his depiction of figures in the “Archenemy” film. The Arab characters also suffer from stereotyping — which was of course common in the 1930’s when Murder Mirage was originally written — and had the second film been made with that tone, those stereotypes might have led to objection from audiences as the decades passed.

The film would have included Pat Savage, who uses the exploding shoe gadget from the novel at one point in an attempt to escape the bad guys. She is also dressed in a nightgown from beginning to end in the film treatment, as she is kidnapped in it and never has an opportunity to change.

The film also retained a female villain, relatively rare for Doc stories.

As I mentioned, it edges toward camp at times (for instance in one scene various bad guys get knocked down, and the instructions for a sound overlay are for a clip of bowling tenpins falling to be played over the action), but overall it was nowhere near as overtly campy as the first movie.

Had The Man of Bronze not failed so drastically, bringing the movie series to an screeching halt, this film might have gone far toward repairing the damage and putting the film adventures of Doc Savage on more solid ground. At the end of the film treatment there is a teaser for another installment in the franchise, Death in Silver, which would have been a great story to bring to the big screen. The novel The Mental Wizard was also floated as a possible sequel, called Doc Savage in Klantic Country.

Rumors have abounded that at least some scenes from the second film were done simultaneously with the shooting of The Man of Bronze, but that was put to rest pretty definitively by Ron Ely (who played Doc) — in subsequent interviews, he has flatly stated that no such additional filming was ever done.

So to this day, despite quite a few attempts to bring Doc Savage back to the movies, we are still waiting.

Painting by Fred Pfeiffer for the Bantam reprint paperback of “Murder Mirage”. Makes a great potential movie poster!

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