Chuck Connors and Doc Savage

“Ride Beyond Vengeance” was a western feature released on April 21, 1966, in Dallas, Texas. The film’s budget was $650,000, which would be close to $6 million in today’s dollars. The production company was Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions. Therein lies the rub. Newsweek carried an article in 1966 stating that Goodson-Todman Productions was preparing to film “The Thousand-Headed Man” with the possibility of a Doc Savage television series coming out for the 1967-1968 season. It is apparent the production company was interested in a Doc Savage movie and/or television series after the release of “Ride Beyond Vengeance.”

Chuck Connors (1921-1992) was the star of the show. He was a popular actor who was best known for “The Rifleman” series that ran for five seasons (1958-1962). He also appears in the series “Branded” which aired forty-eight episodes 1965-1966. Prior to his acting career, Conners worked during the 1940s as a professional athlete playing baseball and basketball. He moved into acting in 1952. Connors went on to act in movies with prominent actors such as Charleston Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Gregory Peck, James Gardner, and Doris Day. Connors stood an impressive six foot six inches. He was an excellent candidate to play Doc Savage.

There is one conflicting story going around about the movie “Ride Beyond Vengeance.” It presents the idea that the cast was to be part of a Doc Savage movie. Discovering that Conde Nast did not control the movie rights, “Night of the Tiger” became the new story and working title. The film was released as “Ride Beyond Vengeance.”

The movie featured a cast of notable actors. The cast included performers who were well known or would later rise to prominence: Chuck Connors, Michael Rennie, Gary Merrill, Bill Bixby, Claude Akins, Jamie Farr, William Bryant, Frank Gorshin, and James MacArthur.

The items listed below are newspaper articles from 1966-1969 that featured news about a proposed Doc Savage movie or television series. No information appeared that would confirm the idea “Ride Beyond Vengeance” was originally a Doc Savage move.

January 12, 1966 – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article notes Raymond Burr’s company, Harbour Productions, will produce the pilot film for Doc Savage.

May 23, 1966 – Newsweek featured an article titled “The Man of Bronze.” The piece stated that Goodson-Todman Productions planned to produce a movie version of “The Thousand-Headed Man.”

June 10, 1966 – The Daily Transcript mentioned Doc Savage in a column titled “Tashman on TV.” The author stated that he had personally brought Doc Savage to the attention of a production company. The firm considered the idea and rejected it.

August 28, 1966 – The Fort Worth Star Telegram published an article on Chuck Connors titled “Anybody Need a Cowboy Hamlet?” This was a feature article that mentioned Conners’ recent movie “Ride Beyond Vengeance.” The article noted that Conners planned one more movie and then a Doc Savage television series.

November 15, 1966 – The Decatur Daily Review published a small one-paragraph article titled “Series for Connors.” It stated that work on a Doc Savage television series is moving forward.

March 29, 1967 – The Los Angeles Times reported that Format Productions under the direction of President Herb Klynn has acquired movie rights from the Kenneth Robeson estate. The first movie planned will be “The Phantom City.”

April 14, 1967 – The Los Angeles Times published a new article on Format Production’s planned movie production of the Doc Savage series. The first five films will be “The Lost Oasis,” “Murder Melody,” “The Thousand-Headed Man,” “Quest of Qui,” and “The Phantom City.”

April 22, 1967 – The Charlotte News reported that five movies will are planned based on the Doc Savage pulp series. The first movie will be “The Thousand-Headed Man.”

May 17, 1967 – The Los Angeles Times carried a short article stating Format Productions under Herb Klynn has scheduled filming for “The Polar Treasure.”

April 1, 1969 – The Calgary Herald stated that a Doc Savage film will be made next year. Chuck Connors and producer William Dozer own the rights.

July 20, 1971 – An agreement between Mrs. Norma Dent and Conde Nast Publications was signed this day regarding movie and television rights.

Lester Dent had contracts with Street & Smith for motion picture, television, newspaper strips, and radio. These agreements were signed June 22, 1933, June 25, 1934, and July 10, 1935.

In return for selling these rights, Mrs. Dent would receive an initial payment of $2,000 and another $8,000 from the net monies the movie generated. The payment thereafter would amount to 50% of the net profits received from the movie. These monies would be paid to Mrs. Dent or to her designated survivor, her sister Victoria Gerling. All payments would cease upon the death of both parties.

Due to the lack of concrete information, there can be no conclusion. However, the absence of proof is not proof of absence. All we can do is examine the known facts.

  • “Ride Beyond Vengeance” features a cast that would been a good fit for Doc Savage and his men.
  • Newsweek carried an article stating the movie production company was considering a Doc Savage television show.
  • Chuck Connors, the star of “Ride Beyond Vengeance” was mentioned prominently in association with a Doc Savage television series and the rights to produce a show.

Each person will have to make their own decision about this. But as the old saying goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Just for fun, here are my picks for the characters. The photographs are all circa 1966 reflecting the actor’s age at the time.
Actor – Height – Character

Chuck Connors – 6’6” DOC SAVAGE

Michael Rennie – 6’4” JOHNNY

Gary Merrill – 5’8” RENNY

Bill Bixby – 5’9” HAM

Claude Akins – 6”1” MONK

Frank Gorshin – 5’8” LONG TOM