In 1977, we didn’t have too many options when it came to superhero movies. Superman was a year away and otherwise, we would have to make do with repeats of the 1960’s Batman show and a Spider-Man TV series that was so cheap, his web shooters were a grappling hook. Yes, it was pretty bleak.
Into this sad landscape strides — well, waddles — Exo-Man, a made-for-TV movie that I definitely watched and drew — and redrew — again and again for weeks after it aired. What can I say? 1977 didn’t have much else after Star Wars and the made-for-TVThe Incredible Hulk.
Dr. Nicholas Conrad (David Ackroyd, The Dark Secret of Harvest Home) is injured and paralyzed in a mob hit, so he has to use his research into exo-suits to become, well, Exo-Man. It takes literally 75% of the movie’s running time before he’s finally in the costume and lumbering his way toward the bad guys.
Based on a book by Cyborg author Martin Caidin — that original story became The Six Million Dollar Man — this movie also has plenty of 1970’s guest stars, like future Alf mom Anne Schedeen; soap star A Martinez; Rosemary Clooney’s two-time husband Jose Ferrer and one of the stars of The Sentinel; the man who would chase TV’s The Incredible Hulk later in 1977 as tabloid reporter Jack McGee, Jack Colvin; Dragnet and M*A*S*H* star Harry Morgan, Invasion of the Body Snatchers star Kevin McCarthy; and Donald Moffat, who appeared in John Carpenter’s The Thing.
It’s all directed by former supporting actor Richard Irving, who was behind plenty of episodes of the formerly mentioned The Six Million Dollar Man. Supposedly, Calder hated the costume but was told that Universal TV’s marketing department had created it with the hope of making toys. Despite high ratings and the hopes for a series, that never happened, probably because NBC picked up the canceled The Six Million Dollar Woman and decided to turn The Man from Atlantis into a series after four made-for-TV movies.
Obviously, five-year-old Sam had more patience for superhero movies than forty-six-year-old Sam. You can watch the entire movie here: