Riding With Death (1976)

My record collection as a kid was made up of stuff found in the cut-out bin. Albums were expensive and my family didn’t have much money, so much of what we got was stuff that no one else ever wanted, kind of like the Power! Records album for Gemini Man.

Yeah, I was kind of obsessed with that Neal Adams — well, his Continuity Studios at the very least — cover art. The Gemini Man TV show only played from May to October of 1976, with only the pilot and five episodes airing. It was made to be a cheaper version of David McCallum-starring The Invisible Man series, but with Canadian tuxedo-wearing, motorcycle-riding secret agent Sam Casey (Ben Murphy, Alias Smith and Jones) working for a government agency called Intersect (International Security Techniques), using the powers of radioactivity-given invisibility for fifteen minutes a day. Why fifteen minutes? Well, if he uses his powers any longer, he dies.

While the show died a quiet death over here in the colonies, the UK loved it, hence the album that I received — for some reason, discount chains in Western Pennsylvania got weird stuff from England, which would explain all the Letraset transfer sets I had as a nine-year-old — and a hardcover annual comic book.

Power! probably got the rights to this because it was made by Harve Bennett and they thought it would be the next Six Million Dollar Man (and hey, we just did an entire week of Lee Majors movies).

This film was assembled from two episodes — “Smithereens” and “Buffalo Bill Rides Again” — and sold to overseas markets, which was common practice with TV movies and even episodic TV in the 70s. They also took some footage from the pilot to explain our hero’s powers as well as footage and sound effects from Colossus: The Forbin Project. Oh yeah! Andrew Prine and Richard Dysart are in this!

This film has two fathers. No, not Greg Evigan and Paul Reiser, but two directors. They would be Alan J. Levi (who made The Return of Sam McCloudKnight Rider 2000The Stepford Children and the insane Blood Song) and Don McDougall (speaking of movies made from TV shows, he directed Farewell to the Planet of the Apes and Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes, as well as Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge, which was “The Chinese Web” episodes of that series). It was written by Leslie Stevens, who directed Incubus, a movie that finds William Shatner speaking in the universal Esperanto language. He also directed the aforementioned The Invisible Man series, as well as creating The Outer Limits, developing the 70s Buck Rogers revival and writing the TV movie Probe. Oh man, he was also behind the Sheena movie and Return to the Blue Lagoon. What a career!

You can watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version on YouTube.

 

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