Shane Black! ‘Doc Savage’! Christmas comes early!

10.26.09 8 years ago 5 Comments

Boris Vallejo

Okay… now is the moment on “Sprockets” when I celebrate.

Normally I’d go into a deep, depressive, near-catatonic state at the news of someone taking a shot at “Doc Savage,” since I dearly love these books and it’s been a longtime dream of mine to get my own chance to bring Doc and his team of friends to life on the bigscreen.

But if Shane Black’s the guy with the gig right now, consider me stone-cold thrilled to just sit on the sidelines, because I have a feeling if anyone can get the character right, he can.

There have been many attempts to bring “Doc Savage” to the screen over the years, and for a while, one of the best candidates was the script that David Leslie Johnson developed under the supervision of Frank Darabont.  That script understood the tone of the original Lester Dent stories, and they understood the appeal of the material.  Reading that script actually made me think “Doc Savage” could work on film in a way that the George Pal version convinced me it could not.

So of course it didn’t get made.

Last I heard, Michael Uslan was the producer on the film and Michael Chabon was the guy writing it, which sort of bummed me out.  I like Chabon as a novelist quite a bit, but I think as a screenwriter, and particularly as a screenwriter of pulpy fun material, he’s a bust.  I hated his “Spider-Man” work, and I think he’s a perfect example of a guy who loves certain material but who has no knack for actually creating it.  Much like me and horror films, if you agree with my most vocal critics.

On Saturday, Harry ran a story over at Ain’t It Cool based on an encounter he had with the great Shane Black at the Highball, Tim League’s latest exercise in awesome.  In the story, Harry confirmed that Black is now the official screenwriter of “Doc Savage,” and he mentioned that the film was set to be produced by Orci and Kurtzman, two of the busiest men in Hollywood.

Turns out half that story is true.  Shane Black is indeed writing and may even direct, according to Collider’s Matt Goldberg, but it’ll be for Sony Pictures and producers Neil Moritz and Ori Marmur, the guys behind “The Green Hornet” and “Battle: Los Angeles.”

Here’s what really excites me about the idea of seeing a period adventure film using “Doc Savage” as source material… pulp fiction is a fetish of mine, but more than that, “Doc Savage” is a mania for me.  I’ve been buying and revisiting the “Doc” novels for the last few years, and they are positively delicious.  Doc is a great character, raised by his father as a sort of experiment.  He’s physical perfection and mental superiority, all created by design, and his father also left him a remarkable fortune that funds his various adventures.  Doc has one goal in the world:  to help those who can’t help themselves.  And to that end, he’s joined by his friends, who are all the best in the world at what they do… or at least, the best besides Doc, who outshines them all even in their chosen fields.  They travel around the world fighting villains of extravagant nature, and it seems like everyone’s always trying to bump them off for their efforts.  They find themselves racing from one cliffhanger to another, and they only survive by the most fortuitous circumstances, time after time.

Lester Dent was the real architect of “Doc Savage,” although the stories were credited to Kenneth Robeson, the house name for publisher Street and Smith.  Dent was one of the best writers of his era, fast and inventive and nimble with both character and action.  If you love things like “Raiders Of The Lost Ark,” you can thank Dent because he was a master at that breathless type of storytelling.  And he was funny, although his sense of humor tended towards the subtle.  There are so many great Doc Savage stories in the series that if Shane Black can get the franchise kickstarted, it would be easy to keep the series going for year.

The one thing that I see as a major difficulty moving forward is the same thing that’s always been tough with the character:  Dent created him as more perfect than any other human on the planet, so who do you cast to play that person?  It’s a good challenge to have, and I hope it’s one that they solve soon.

Trust me… HitFix will be all over this one as it continues to be developed, and if there is more “Doc Savage” news, you’ll definitely read it here.

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