Steve Austin, Astronaut. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better… Stronger… Faster.
The Six Million Dollar Man is another fondly-remembered part of my formative TV-watching years.
Like kids around the world, I could be seen running around in slow motion while humming the theme tune, then mimicking the electronic sound effects while carrying out great (pretend) feats of strength or looking far into the distance with an imaginary bionic eye. Admit it – you did, too!
The show was not an original TV creation – it was actually based on a 1972 novel called Cyborg by Martin Caiden. The character was introduced in a series of three TV movies before settling into the more familiar weekly, hour-long format.
And it is the iconic theme tune and opening titles to the weekly show that so many of us remember so vividly. Here they are, in all their wonderful glory:
An interesting fact about those opening titles is that the crash they show is not faked. It is, astonishingly, real NASA footage of the 1967 crash of a Northrop M2-F2 lifting body aircraft, piloted by Bruce Peterson, during a test flight. He was badly injured but survived and eventually recovered, although he did lose an eye as a result of an infection he picked up in hospital.
As I mentioned, the weekly series, which began in 1974 and ran for five seasons, was preceded by three TV movies in 1973.
The first one didn’t have any opening titles or theme tune, just the credits superimposed over the action as Steve turns up for his fateful flight.
The video below contains the first 20 minutes or so of the movie and, despite what I just said, it does include the familiar credits – however, I assume these were added at some point when the first TV movie was repackaged as the pilot for the weekly show. However, keep watching and you’ll see how the TV movie originally aired.
Note that bionics expert Doctor Rudy Wells is played (for the one and only time) by familiar character actor Martin Balsam (star of classic films such as The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three, 12 Angry Men, All The President’s Men and the original 1962 version of Cape Fear) Also Steve’s familiar boss Oscar Goldman (played by Richard Anderson) is nowhere to be seen and Steve’s superior, who orders the operation that treansforms him, is instead called Oliver Spencer, played by Kolchak: The Night Stalker star Darren McGavin.
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Which brings us to the most bizarre of the Six Million Dollar Man opening titles, which appeared in the other two TV movies. In some ways, the familiar format of the weekly TV show opening titles is starting to come together here, albeit without the familiar computer-style graphics – but then the music starts. Nothing I say can prepare you for the bizarre, cheesy pop song (sung by Dusty Springfield, no less) and which sounds more like it belongs on a Saturday-morning cartoon.