Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive.
Oscar Goldman: We can
rebuild him, we have the technology. We
can make him better than he was. Better,
Each week The Six
Million Dollar Man opened with that succinct synopsis of the
10-year-olds across the country, myself included, were in TV heaven. A great melding of science fiction, action,
mystery, and spy shows, the program hit all of the bases (including a
story line that worked surprisingly well) and not only started a
marketing franchise of action figures (I never did get that space
turned into a repair bay L ), comic books, bed sheets, and more, but
fashionable to run and mock-fight in slow motion while trying to
electronic do-do-dooo sound effects that signaled the use of bionic
powers. It was a 70's phenomenon that
has sadly been missing on DVD. Until
now. Time-Life has released the entire
series in one extremely cool boxed set.
They've done everything right with this release too. The packaging is cool and there are some
great extras but most importantly they've included everything a fan
want. All three original TV movies, the
entire 5 season run of the show (original and uncut), the crossovers
spin-off show The Bionic Woman, and
the three later TV movies that wrapped up the story.
It's a must-buy set for fans of the show.
The Original TV
I fondly remember my mother letting me stay up late to watch
the first movie, The Six Million Dollar
Man, even though it was playing on a school night and went way past
time. The next day at school it was the
talk of the playground, and I remember my friends and I quickly
consensus that he should have punched the woman who shied away from
Austin after he saved the life of her son.
What I didn't remember was how different this first movie was
series that it spawned.
The movie starts out with Steve Austin, a civilian astronaut
who walked on the moon (he would change into an Air Force Colonel in
movie and keeps that rank from then on) testing a space shuttle
malfunctions and crashes. Both of his
legs are crushed beyond repair, his right arm is ripped off, and he
loses one of
his eyes. The program has suffered a
series of set backs of late and if word got out that a national hero
maimed in such a fashion it would be disastrous. In
steps Oliver Spencer (Darren McGavin) of
the OSO, a slimey, manipulative and mysterious individual.
He has a pet project looking for a
volunteer: he wants to make a super
soldier by replacing parts of the human body with mechanical 'bionic'
devices. He talks Steve's friend and
Rudy Wells (Martin Balsam, to be replace in the series by Alan
into supervising the procedure and ponies up six million dollars to
it. Keeping Austin sedated while the technology
perfected and then replaces his missing limbs and eye with bionic
replacements. This give Steve the
ability to run 60 MPH, lift great weights, and see in the dark, but
still a psychological cost to being half machine.
The thing that struck me about watching this movie once
again after all these years is how different it is from the series that
follow. The pace is very slow, with a
lot of time spent watching Austin
sleeping in bed or even trying to commit suicide when he discovers how
he is. There's a lot of emoting about
how he doesn't want to be half machine, and the action doesn't really
until late in the second half when he takes on some terrorists in the Middle East. Even
then it's over pretty quickly. They also
hadn't decided how to portray Austin
using his powers. The slow motion
running and electronic sound effects that signaled bionic action aren't
yet (they won't appear until well into the first season.)
The second and third TV movies, Wine, Women and War
(featuring the ever lovely Britt Ekland) and The Solid
Gold Kidnapping try out
something different too. In these Steve
Austin is more of a 007 secret agent with built in gadgets more than
else. They even hired Dusty Springfield
to sing a new Bond-inspired theme with the unforgettable lyrics "He's
background: six million dollar) man. Catch him if you can... beat him if
love him if you can... He's the (six million dollar) man.
He attends cocktail parties dressed in tux,
he talks the beautiful babes into bed, and he manages to stop
secret underground hideouts from stealing a Polaris nuclear sub (in the
movie) and retrieve an important kidnap victim with the aid of a sexy
who has had a partial brain transplant (the third movie).
Solid Gold Kidnapping was closer to the series than Wine,
Women and War, neither really captured the fun of the TV
The TV Series:
(Mild spoilers may follow.)
The ratings of the three TV films were apparently strong
enough to warrant a full series. This is
the show that we all remember and love, and it starts out strong from
first episode. Oscar Goldman (Richard
Anderson) is Steve's boss and handler (as he was in the latter two TV
and the SF and action elements are moved to the forefront while
female costars gets pushed way to the back.
Early on Steve has to handle mysteries (who is trying to
kill Oscar on a desert island), SF-themed shows (when an entire city is
dead, and any one who enters screams before they collapse), and action
has to find a downed pilot who has some important documentation). The early highlight of the first season
however is Day of the Robot where
Steve's good buddy, Major Sloan (John Saxon), is kidnapped and replaced
robot. A robot that is better, stronger
and faster than Austin himself. It's a
great episode, and one that I remember vividly even after 35 years.
Battling people (or creatures) that were also bionic is a
theme that's explored several times during the show's run.
These were always my favorite episodes as a
kid, and I'm pretty partial to them now.
A racecar driver who is in an accident, Barney Hiller gets both
legs replaced in The Seven Million Dollar
Man. Barney's mind isn't as strong
as Steve's however, and the psychological toll it places on the man
go berserk, resulting in another epic bionic showdown.
(And a lot of school yard discussion over how
much each bionic appendage costs. If
Hiller's extra arm cost a million, how much does an eye go for?) Hiller would reappear in The
In the second season Steve gets a love interest, if only for
a short time. When Steve runs into an
old girlfriend, tennis pro Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), the romance
quickly rekindled. They're soon engaged
to be married. Everything is going well
until they decide to go sky diving (jumping out of a perfectly good
and Jamie's chute malfunctions. She's
nearly dead, with both legs, an arm, and one ear gone.
Steve pleads with Oscar and convinces him to
give Jamie the bionic treatment. Soon
there are two bionic agents, in love with each other no less. That is until Jamie's body start to violently
reject her bionic implants. Before they
can come up with a solution to the problem, she dies.
Well, for a while anyway.
In the next season it is revealed that Jamie didn't die, but was
cryogenically frozen instead. They've
developed a cure so that she won't reject her bionic components anymore
were able to remove the brain clot that 'killed' her, but there's still
problem: While in the deep freeze Jamie
suffered some brain damage and can't remember who anyone is, including
Steve. She ultimately decides to leave
and becomes a teacher at an Air Force school, and gets her own spin off
The Bionic Woman.
In 1978 both The
Bionic Woman and The Six Million
Dollar Man were cancelled. But that
wasn't quite the end.
There were three more TV movies made, though the first
didn't appear for more than 9 years after the series ended. In the first, The Return of the
Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman,
Steve Austin ahs been retired for some time when Oscar approaches him
another mission. He initially declines,
but when his estranged son, Michael (Tom Schanley), is severally
injured in a
plane accident, he agrees to take the assignment if Oscar with give his
bionic treatment. Jamie Summers also
returns, to make it a bionic trio.
Two years later another movie graced TV screens, Bionic
Showdown. This time a paralyzed woman,
Kate Mason (Sandra
Bullock), volunteers to receive the newest generation of bionic
order to walk again. With Jamie Summer's
help she goes through the operation successfully. Meanwhile
Oscar has recruited Steve to run
security at the World Unity Games in Toronto, Canada.
someone with bionic powers steals some documents vital to the security
games, everyone who has bionic implants is a suspect:
namely Steve and Jamie!
These two movies were okay, it was nice to see everyone
together again, but they were a bit slower paced than the series. They were obviously trying to reboot the
franchise, introducing new, younger bionic people, who were even more
than the older generation, to carry the million dollar flag. That actually mars the second film a bit,
since more time is spent on other characters (including Oscar Goldman
dealings with his new boss) than on the people that viewers tuned in to
Steve and Jamie.
By the final film, it was pretty obvious that another series
wasn't in the making. That's okay
because they used it to wrap up the big unanswered question from the
series: would Steve Austin and Jamie
Summers ever get together? Yep, they do
in Bionic Ever After? As
the movie opens Steve and Jamie are about to
be married when something goes wrong with Jamie's bionics.
They start to malfunction and she calls off
the wedding. At about the same time a
terrorist group takes over a US
embassy and holds the diplomats hostage, including a friend of Steve's,
to launch a nuclear missile. Steve
travels to the embassy on a rescue mission when his bionics start to
malfunction too. It looks like someone
has given Steve and Jamie a bionic virus.
This was a nice way to wrap up the franchise, though I'll be
the first to admit that it wasn't the best movie. Still,
there is a nice sense of closure at
the end of the film, and the whole series is better with this movie
would have been without it.
All six TV movies and five seasons (100 episodes) of the
show arrive in a massive 40-disc set.
The discs are housed in clear keepcases, one multi-disc case per
which are stored in a very cool box. The
sides are decorated with various bionic circuit boards and iconic
the show. The top has a large lenticular
image of Steve Austin running. Opening
the top to access the disc starts a recording of the show's opening
used to start off this review). It's a
very nifty set up. The set is only
available through Time-Life's web site (click on the "Buy" button under
cover image at the top of this review) until October, 2011.
The two channel DD mono soundtrack is pretty much what you'd
expect from a 70's TV show. The
is rather flat and there isn't a soundstage to use, but the dialog is
relatively clean and clear. There are a
couple of pops, that I noticed, but only a couple through the whole
there was some minor background hiss in a few places, but neither was
The image is actually better than I was expecting.
The full frame picture is free from
scratches, dirt, and other imperfections.
The colors are a bit muted, but not terribly so, and the level
is good for a 70's TV show. Fans will be
Wow. There are a huge
amount of bonus materials included with the collection.
This set is really made for fans of the
show. They'll be pleased with the
copious extras. These include:
Bionics: How Science Fiction Is Becoming Science Fact
Opening: The Six Million Dollar Man Show Open Never Disappointed
Million Dollar Fans: So Loyal, So Bionic!
Million Dollar Man's Best Villains, Best Fights
Bionic: The Untold Story Of The Six Million Dollar Man, Part I, II
The OSI, NASA and Bionics
Reunion Films: Life After The Series
Of The Bionic Age: Pushing The Envelope
Commentaries: Writer Kenneth Johnson on "The Bionic Woman", "The Bionic
Part II", "The Secret of Bigfoot", "The Secret of Bigfoot, Part II" and
Director Cliff Bole on "The Blue Flash" and "Vulture of the Andes"
Mini-biographies of the actors and their characters: Getting to
"Steve Austin", "Jaime Sommers", "Oscar Goldman", "Rudy Wells"
featuring all-new extensive interviews with Lee Majors, Richard
Martin E. Brooks, Executive Producer Harve Bennett and writer/producer
VIPs: A Celebration of The Six Million Dollar Man Guest Stars
Bonus Feature: "Bionic Breakdown"
That's enough to keep any bionic fan happy for hours and
This is a fantastic set.
The people at Time-Life did this right, as they usually do with
great TV series collections. Every
episode (including the Bionic Woman crossovers) is included in their
original broadcast form, all three movie pilots, the three reunion
nice picture, a HUGE amount of extras, and to top it all off, a very
to house it all in. This would be a
magnificent present for that child of the 70's in your life (especially
child is you!) It easily earns our
highest rating: DVDTalk Collectors