A professor, who has been paralyzed in an attack by mob hitmen, builds a suit that enables him to walk and fight crime.

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Cast

Cast overview:
David Ackroyd ...
Dr. Nicholas Conrad
...
Emily Frost
...
Raphael Torres
...
Kermit Haas
...
Martin
...
Arthur Travis
...
Wallace Rogers
...
Dist. Atty. Kamenski
...
Jim Yamaguchi
Jonathan Segal ...
Eddie Rubinstein
Martin Speer ...
Ted Kamenski
George Sperdakos ...
Dr. Garrick
Randy Faustino ...
Larry
Nick David ...
Jack
Wina Sturgeon ...
TV Newswoman
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A professor, who has been paralyzed in an attack by mob hitmen, builds a suit that enables him to walk and fight crime.

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18 June 1977 (USA)  »

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(Technicolor)
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The label on a flashing red warning light inside the exo-helmet is misspelled "MALFUNTION." See more »

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Another example of low budget 70s TV superhero SF
29 August 2009 | by (Greater Milwaukee) – See all my reviews

It's hard to remember now what an impoverished time the 1970s were for science fiction and superhero television shows. While the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, BIONIC WOMAN, INCREDIBLE HULK, and WONDER WOMAN seem to have done well in our memories, their budgets were limited and the creativity was hampered by the SFX technology of the time.

But that did not stop studios from trying. And occasionally a network would begrudgingly cough up the money for a pilot in the form of a made-for-TV flick.

In this case, the guys behind the two bionic shows on ABC got NBC interested in their pitch for another Martin Caidin concept. Caidin was the leading "tech thriller" writer of the 60s and 70s. His NASA novel MAROONED (actually three novels) was a famous film. His gritty novel CYBORG was softened into the popular SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. NBC probably asked for "something like the $6M Man but different." They got it.

Caidin again looked to cutting edge technology for his gimmick. NASA and the Pentagon had been working on "man-amplifiers", powered frameworks a user could wear and use to possess forklift-like strength. The chemical industry had developed "memory plastic", materials that could be deformed then spring back into shape when an electric current was supplied. So there was the concept-- a man-amplifier suit that used memory plastic joints to make it work.

Of course this is television so they needed a crisis to compel the hero to build the thing in the first place. In this case, the hero was a college professor who witnessed a crime. The local mobsters tried shutting him up by nearly killing him. Now paraplegic, the hero decided to combine his work with memory plastic with research by his colleagues to produce an armored plastic suit that can walk on its own. And of course, this being TV, he used the suit to get revenge on the mobsters. He even picked up the obligatory street-smart young assistant along the way. The idea looked good on paper. The only problem was, the best mid-70s SFX tech could come up with was plastic plate mail the wearer could barely move in.

NBC took a look at the pilot, let it air once, and quietly forgot about it. As did most of the viewers.

Martin Caidin just cashed his check and went on with his life. After all, he still had the royalties from the bionic shows coming in. A few years later, Caidin decided to recycle the basic ideas behind EXOMAN in his early-80s tech thriller MANFAC. Like CYBORG, this is a very serious, very adult novel that still holds up well. MANFAC also enabled Caidin to have his final say on some of the exaggerated powers of THE $6M MAN, especially that "running at 60 mph" trick (the suit's legs literally run out from under the wearer).


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