REVIEW: SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN RETRO-STYLE OSCAR GOLDMAN
In the 1970's, a toy company called Mego had most of the pop culture concepts secured for their action figure lines. Along with producing superb, 8-inch, cloth costumed action figures for both DC Comics and Marvel Comics, something that hasn't happened before or since, they also turned out action figure lines for Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Wizard of Oz, Starsky and Hutch, The Waltons, The Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs, Happy Days, and quite a few others.
But they didn't have everything. Mattel, for example, got Battlestar Galactica. Kenner secured the rights to The Six Million Dollar Man. And we all know what happened with Star Wars.
But, suppose Mego had gotten the rights to some of these other concepts? What would those figures have looked like? A company with the rather interesting name of Bif Bang Pow, with some help from EmCe Toys, which has been doing authentic Mego reproductions of such classic lines as Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, even expanding on the former, has decided to answer that question.
Two of the licenses that BBP has secured are Battlestar Galactica, and The Six Million Dollar Man. I've picked up and reviewed several figures from each of these lines, and have never failed to be impressed. So I acquired another figure from the Six Million Dollar Man line -- the Six Million Dollar Man's boss, Oscar Goldman.
The Six Million Dollar Man is a television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for a fictional government office known as OSI. The series is based on the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg, which was the series's proposed title during pre-production.
Following three television movies aired in 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man aired on the ABC network as a regular series for five seasons from 1974 to 1978. The title role of Steve Austin was played by Lee Majors, who subsequently became a pop culture icon of the 1970s. A spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, ran from 1976-78. Several television movies featuring both eponymous characters were also produced between 1987 and 1994.
When astronaut Steve Austin is severely injured in the crash of an experimental aircraft, he is "rebuilt" in an operation that costs six million dollars. His right arm, both legs and the left eye are replaced with "bionic" implants that enhance his strength, speed and vision far above human norms: he can run at speeds of 60 mph, and his eye has a 20:1 zoom lens and infrared capabilities, while his limbs all have the equivalent power of a bulldozer. One can imagine that this kept the studio's prop department busy sculpting large, heavy-looking objects out of styrofoam... He uses his enhanced abilities to work for the OSI (Office of Scientific Intelligence) as a secret agent.
Caidin's novel Cyborg was a best-seller when it was published in 1972. He followed it up with three sequels, Operation Nuke, High Crystal, and Cyborg IV, respectively about a black market in nuclear weapons, a Chariots of the Gods scenario, and fusing Austin's bionic hardware to a spaceplane. None of these plotlines were utilized in the TV series.
In March 1973, Cyborg was loosely adapted as a made-for-TV movie titled The Six Million Dollar Man starring Majors as Austin. The film, which was nominated for a Hugo Award, modified Caidin's plot, and notably made Austin a civilian astronaut rather than a colonel in the United States Air Force. Absent were some of the standard features of the later series: the electronic sound effects, the slow-motion running, and the character of Oscar Goldman. Instead, another character named Oliver Spencer, played by Darren McGavin, was Austin's supervisor. The lead scientist involved in implanting Austin's bionic hardware, Dr. Rudy Wells, was played in the pilot by Martin Balsam, then on an occasional basis in the series by Alan Oppenheimer, and, finally, as a series regular, by Martin E. Brooks. Austin does not use the enhanced capabilities of his bionic eye at any time during the first TV movie.
The first movie was a major ratings success and was followed by two more made-for-TV movies in October and November 1973. This was followed in January 1974 by the debut of The Six Million Dollar Man as a weekly hour-long series. The last two movies, produced by Glen A. Larson, notably introduced a James Bond flavor to the series and reinstated Austin's status from the novels as an Air Force colonel; the hour-long series, produced by Harve Bennett, dispensed with the James Bond-gloss of the movies, and portrayed a more down-to-earth Austin.
The show was very popular during its run and introduced several pop culture elements of the 1970s, such as the show's opening catch-phrase ("We can rebuild him...we have the technology," provided by Richard Anderson in his Oscar Goldman character), the slow-motion action sequences, and the accompanying "electronic" sound effects.
In 1975, a two-part episode entitled "The Bionic Woman", written for television by Kenneth Johnson, introduced the character of Jaime Sommers (played by Lindsay Wagner), a professional tennis player who rekindled an old romance with Austin, only to experience a parachuting accident that resulted in her being given bionic parts similar to Austin. Ultimately, her body "rejected" her bionic hardware and she died. The character was very popular, however, and the following season it was revealed that she had actually survived, having been saved by an experimental cryogenic procedure, and she was given her own spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, which lasted until 1978 when both it and The Six Million Dollar Man were simultaneously cancelled.
The concept has remained popular. Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers returned in three subsequent made-for-television movies: The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (1987), Bionic Showdown (1989), and Bionic Ever After? (1994) in which Austin and Sommers finally marry. Majors reprised the role of Steve Austin in all three productions, which also featured Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks, and Lindsay Wagner reprising the role of Jaime Sommers. The third TV movie was intended as a finale.
For many years, attempts have been made to bring the story of Steve Austin to the movie screen. In the mid-1990s, director Kevin Smith wrote a screenplay, and there were reports later that comedian Chris Rock was being considered for the role. In 2003, an announcement was made to film the story as a full-out comedy starring Jim Carrey, but that project appears to be on hold -- thank goodness. There is currently an ongoing comic book titled "The Bionic Man" being published by Dynamite.
As to the character of Oscar Goldman, in the original novel by Caidin, and subsequent sequels Operation Nuke, High Crystal and Cyborg IV Goldman was the head of the Washington, D.C.-based Office of Strategic Operations (OSO), an American government intelligence agency which recruits former Vietnam War pilot and astronaut Steve Austin as an agent after rebuilding the man with bionic limbs following the crash of a test aircraft.
When the novel was adapted for television in 1973, the character of Oscar Goldman was replaced by that of Oliver Spencer, played by Darren McGavin. When this television film, titled The Six Million Dollar Man, proved to be a hit, ABC commissioned a sequel, Wine, Women & War, which aired on October 23, 1973. McGavin and Spencer were dropped and the agency was renamed the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI). The character of Oscar Goldman was reinstated, with Richard Anderson cast in the role. The opening credits to Wine, Women & War perform retconning, establishing that it was Goldman, not Spencer, who authorized the operation to turn Austin into a Cyborg.
Anderson's portrayal of Goldman was that of a warm, fatherly figure — though he could also be a calculating bureaucrat when the need arose. This differed from McGavin's portrayal of Oliver Spencer who was cold hearted and referred to as little more than a robot by Austin. Following a third TV film, The Six Million Dollar Man became a weekly series in 1974 and Anderson remained with the show throughout its run. He also played the role in the subsequent Bionic Woman spin-off series. Anderson and Martin E. Brooks (as Dr. Rudy Wells) are among the few actors to portray the same characters in two different television series running concurrently on two different networks, when Bionic Woman was moved to a rival network, NBC, in the fall of 1977. The pair are the first known actors to have done so as series regulars.
During the series, Goldman and Austin developed a close, if occasionally testy friendship. Perhaps the ultimate illustration of the men's friendship occurred when Goldman agreed to his friend's request to have bionic surgery performed on Jaime Sommers in order to save her life, despite the cost involved. Despite sending Sommers on dangerous missions, Goldman was particularly protective of her, and bristled when a Senator repeatedly mispronounced her name. Goldman usually referred to Sommers as "babe". Goldman's position within the OSI was considered so important that Goldman arranged standing orders to be killed in the event he was captured to prevent him from being interrogated or converted into a double agent if he was released or rescued. These orders were revealed in the three-part Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman crossover arc, "Kill Oscar".
Oscar Goldman was a snappy dresser, who had a propensity for loud patterns, which were in style at the time. His briefcase was featured in many episodes, and he would often just open it to produce a solution to various problems. Goldman, who served as head of the OSI under six presidents, wielded considerable influence in the Federal government, and was able to get the Secretary of State on the telephone on short notice.
Anderson reprised the role of Oscar Goldman in three highly rated two-hour TV movie sequels to the series that aired in the late 1980s and early 1990s: The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, Bionic Showdown, and Bionic Ever After, indicating that, in the Six Million Dollar Man universe, Goldman remained in a high-ranking position with the OSI well into the 1990s.
As to the actor, Richard Norman Anderson was born August 8, 1926. On the big screen, his many films included the science-fiction classic Forbidden Planet (1956) and the World War I drama Paths of Glory (1957) directed by Stanley Kubrick, in which Anderson played the prosecuting attorney. He was the object of the unrequited love of Clara Varner (Joanne Woodward) in The Long, Hot Summer (1958) and a suspicious military officer in Seven Days in May (1964).
The 1960s found Anderson making appearances in twenty-three episodes of Perry Mason during the series' final season as Police Lieutenant Steve Drumm, replacing the character of Lt. Tragg, played by Ray Collins, who died in 1965. Before he became a Perry Mason regular, he made guest appearances in two 1964 episodes: as defendant Edward Lewis in "The Case of the Accosted Accountant," and Jason Foster in "The Case of the Paper Bullets."
He also appeared on The Untouchables, Stagecoach West, The Rifleman, Daniel Boone, Death Valley Days, Thriller, The Eleventh Hour, Redigo,Combat!,Twelve O'Clock High, I Spy, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Fugitive (as brother-in-law to the protagonist Dr. Richard Kimble), Bonanza, The Green Hornet, The Invaders, and The Big Valley. In 1961-1962, Anderson co-starred with Marilyn Maxwell in an ABC production of Bus Stop, a drama about travelers passing through a bus depot and diner in the fictitious town of Sunrise, Colorado.
In addition to his appearances on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman in the 1970s, Anderson guest starred on other TV series, including the Disney TV series Zorro, Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, Ironside, Columbo and The Love Boat. He also appeared in the made for TV movie, The Night Strangler as the villain, Dr. Richard Malcolm. Anderson was just as busy in the 1980s on Charlie's Angels, Matt Houston, Knight Rider, Remington Steele, Cover Up, The A-Team, The Fall Guy, Simon & Simon, and Murder, She Wrote.
In 1985, he played murderer Ken Braddock in the first two-hour episode of Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr, titled "Perry Mason Returns." Anderson had a recurring role as Senator Buck Fallmont on Dynasty from 1986-1987. He portrayed President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1987 miniseries, Hoover vs. The Kennedys.
In the 1990s, Anderson served as narrator and a recurring guest star for Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. In 1999 and 2000, he costarred with Dick Van Patten, Richard Roundtree, Deborah Winters, and Hugh O'Brian in the Warren Chaney miniseries, Y2K - World in Crisis. In 2007, Anderson was honored with a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars.
So, how's the figure? Very impressively done, and there's something quite interesting about it.
Somewhere between the initial assortment of BBP's Six Million Dollar Man figures, which included two versions of Steve Austin, as well as Bigfoot, a character who made several appearances in the television series, and the assortment that includes Oscar Goldman, something changed. And I'm pretty sure that something was a working agreement with EmCe Toys that didn't previously exist.
If you compare the Oscar Goldman figure with the Steve Austin figures, there's a few differences. Oscar's head is a little better proportioned to the body. Steve's head is just a little too big. Not egregiously so, but if you compare him to other Mego-type figures, it becomes a little more apparent.
Secondly, Oscar Goldman's body is more specifically derived from the Mego design. The hands, in particular, are a dead giveaway. I had a ton of Megos when I was a kid, and I immediately recognize the body style, and the hands, which I always thought were an excellent design. And Oscar Goldman's are a dead-on match for them, Austin's? Close, but not quite.
There's also a slight difference in skin tone. Austin looks just a little washed out in comparison. It's worth noting that BBP's Battlestar Galactica figures have many of these same attributes. Rather pale skin, slightly larger than average heads (which in the case of Galactica, some of which could be attributed to hair, but still...), that sort of thing.
This doesn't make either the Galactica or the Steve Austin figures bad figures. Not at all. I like them very much and I'm glad to have them. But at least until BBP apparently entered into some sort of working agreement with EmCe, and I have no idea what the details of that might entail, BBP could not reproduce exact Mego-type figures. EmCe had the rights to that, with their Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and a few other lines.
Apparently now BBP has the rights to produce more exact Mego-type figures, and have clearly chosen to do so. I don't really feel this makes the Oscar Goldman figure incompatible with the Steve Austin figures, but there are the aforementioned differences.
I know that BBP has some other Six Million Dollar Man figures in the works, as well as more Galactica figures. I'll be interested to see how these work out.
There is one articulation issue, however. The body design that BBP created prior to using the EmCe-created more Mego-exact body had an upper arm swivel. This is something that Mego figures lacked in the 1970's, and it is something that the new Mego-based bodies also lack. So while the Steve Austin figures have an upper swivel arm, Oscar Goldman here doesn't, and I think that's just a bit unfortunate. It's a useful articulation point.
The figure is otherwise very well articulated, and is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. No complaints there whatsoever.
As to the Oscar Goldman figure on his own, setting aside comparisons to prior figures in this line, it's a very capable likeness of actor Richard Anderson as Oscar Goldman, very much in the Mego style. Now, let's be fair here. Action figures tend to be a lot more detailed in their sculpts these days than they were in the 1970's. If some company were to do a line of entirely modern-looking Six Million Dollar Man figures, doubtless those figures would be a good bit more detailed than these. But that's not the point of these figures. The point of these figures is to present modern renditions of retro-style figures, that in the case of the Six Million Dollar Man line, look like the figures that would have most likely been produced if Mego had had the license back in the 1970's instead of Kenner.
And in that respect, BBP has done an excellent job. The headsculpt looks very much like what I believe Mego would have done in the 1970's to capture the likeness of actor Richard Anderson in the style that Mego was producing at the time. It looks very much like Anderson as Goldman. A somewhat slender face, prominent forehead, rather stern expression. About my only criticism would be that there's no line above the eyes to represent eyelashes. I believe one should be there. Yes, Anderson had rather narrow-looking eyes. But I still question leaving out that particular detail.
One of two accessories that the Oscar Goldman figure comes with is a pair of stylish sunglasses, which Goldman frequently wore. Quite correctly, they have dark yellow lenses. Clearly, the glasses were molded in the transparent yellow, and the very nicely detailed frames were painted in silver.
Honestly, this is a detail I'm not sure Mego would have done in the 1970's. I don't recall that it was even a detail that Kenner did when they had the license, and they were producing 12" scale figures, not 8" ones. Need it be said these sunglasses are a pretty small and fragile-looking piece, and they don't stay put all that well. They rest well enough on the figure's face, but if you sneeze too closely to him, they'll come off. I honestly think he looks a little better with the sunglasses, and if you are inclined to agree with your own figure, I might recommend a couple of small drops of glue, carefully placed near the ears.
Let's discuss the clothes. The background I turned up on the character indicated that Goldman was something of a snappy dresser -- for the time period. And the figure reflects this to a certain degree, without being really loud about it. Oscar Goldman is dressed in a light tan shirt with a brown necktie, and a brown check-patterned jacket and trousers, with black shoes.
The jacket and trousers are very well made, and the pattern is actually woven as part of the fabric, not just printed on. This is extremely impressive in my opinion. You can actually look close and see the intricate stitching of the fabric that, at an 8" figure scale, produces a most effective pattern.
Although the jacket seals on the front with a velcro strip, there are three small dark gold buttons on one side of the jacket, which help with the authenticity. The shirt, as far as I can determine, is a full, long-sleeved shirt, not just a sleeveless vest or something. There's definitely sleeves present, but I was reluctant to remove the jacket entirely, since I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to get it back on over the shirt effectively. The shirt seals in the front along a velcro strip. The necktie is a strip of fabric, folded over and neatly seamed, attached to an elastic strip that tucks under the shirt collar. It's really quite impressive. I expected it to have just been something sewn to the shirt, but it's a separate piece.
Overall, the clothes are most impressively made, but when you start trying to do suits and really anything other than a tight-fitting super-hero costume -- which Oscar Goldman would probably look rather ridiculous in -- at this scale, you sometimes have a bit of a problem with the fit. And there's a slight problem here, where the jacket looks just a little stretched at the collar, and it's probably because it had to be put on over the shirt. Trying to hike up the jacket just tends to hike up the shirt collar with it. It's not that bad, and I doubt that Mego could have done much with it in the 1970's, for that matter. It really just comes down to the physics of scale and fabric.
Along with his sunglasses, Oscar Goldman also comes with a briefcase. It's not any sort of trick briefcase, and it doesn't even open. It's just a briefcase. But the figure wouldn't seem quite right without it, and it is a nicely made and well-detailed piece.
So, what's my final word? I greatly enjoyed The Six Million Dollar Man when it first aired, and I'm pleased that the series is being released in DVD these days. I had many of the original Kenner figures, and I believe that Bif Bang Pow is going a great job with these retro-style figures. I am very impressed with this Oscar Goldman figure, who certainly looks like a "blast from the past", and I'm glad to have him. If you're a fan of the series, or of classic Mego-type figures, then I'm certain you'll enjoy him as well.
The OSCAR GOLDMAN figure from Bif Bang Pow's retro-Mego-style SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN line definitely has my highest recommendation!