Sunday, 10 January 2021
The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War (TV movie, 1973)
The fact that Glen A. Larson had now come on board as executive producer may explain a great deal of this. He also wrote the script, and he was certainly a man with the right instincts as to what would work on network television.
The first movie was a ratings success but it was probably fairly obvious that the tone was too dark for a successful weekly series.
The first movie had been based (loosely) on Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg. This second movie is based (very loosely) on Caidin’s follow-up novel Operation Nuke.
Steve Austin was a civilian in the first movie but now he’s magically transformed (without any explanation whatsoever) into an Air Force Colonel.
Unfortunately the most interesting character from the first movie, spymaster Oliver Spencer (Darren McGavin), has been replaced by a similar but much less interesting and less colourful character, Oscar Goldman (played by Richard Anderson). On the plus side the supporting cast is pretty impressive. There’s the very underrated Eric Braeden as arms dealer Arlen Findletter. There’s David McCallum once again playing a Russian as he did in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (this time he’s a Russian rocket scientist) and there’s Britt Ekland (soon to be a Bond girl in The Man with the Golden Gun) adding some glamour. In fact adding lots of glamour.
As for the lot, it’s basic but more than competent. Steve’s original assignment was to steal one of Findletter’s arms catalogues since the OSI has reason to believe that the items Findletter has listed for sale include both American and Russian ballistic missiles complete with thermonuclear warheads. It seems impossible but what if it’s true? The Russians believe it’s true, which is why one of their top rocket scientists has been sent to the Bahamas (where Findletter has his headquarters) to open negotiations with the arms dealer. The Russians have no desire to deal with such a criminal but they also believe they have no choice.
Steve thinks his mission is over but he is about to be manipulated once again. Still, it’s not all bad. He does get to spend a lot of time with two gorgeous babes. And he does have a personal score to settle.
There are some hints of the darkness of the first movie. Steve is shocked by Oscar Goldman’s casual acceptance of a girl’s death as being just part of the job. And Steve is still a reluctant super-spy and he is still being manipulated, and he still doesn’t like it. But he’s not really the same character. He has none of the self-doubts that the first version of Steve Austin had. None of the self-pity. None of the things that made that version of the character such an interesting hero. This new version is smoother, more self-confident, more brash. He’s more Bond-like. He’s pretty cool and it works but there’s no way you’re going to buy the idea that this is the same man.
Eric Braeden manages to be totally and convincingly evil without ever needing to overact. Which of course makes him scarier. He’s a cold-blooded reptile of a villain. David McCallum is very good and Britt Ekland is both fun and gorgeous.
Steve Austin gets lots of chances to show off his superhuman powers - the scene where he’s swimming underwater while trying to avoid a depth-charge attack is a highlight.
While the first movie tried (with some success) to be serious science fiction Wine, Women and War is more overtly light-hearted escapist entertainment. Maybe it’s less interesting in some ways, but it’s a lot more fun. Definitely recommended.
There was a third TV movie, The Solid Gold Kidnapping, which I’ll get to shortly.