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THE MAN WITH THE POWER (1977; Video Screams).

Premiering on May 24, 1977, this tiresome NBC TV-movie was that network's latest, increasingly desperate attempt to land their own SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN style hit series, in the aftermath of single-season duds like GEMINI MAN and THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY. Yet another boneheaded example of grafting a silly science-fiction hook onto stale crime-of-the-week scenarios -- this time with a superpowered half-alien/half-human working as a secret agent -- the concept never proceeded beyond this feature-length pilot, with MAN FROM ATLANTIS getting the series-greenlight instead... At first glance, Eric Smith (Texas-bred newcomer Bob Neill) looks like any anonymous public school teacher. But when this klutz absent-mindedly gets his foot stuck in a railroad track point, some hitherto unknown power manages to halt an oncoming train. Called to Washington by old friend Walter Bloom (Tim O'Connor, from TV's BUCK ROGERS), who heads up a covert government agency, Eric is told a classified story about a human-like alien's peaceful visit to our world 30 years earlier, only to knock up an Earth woman and leave behind a son. Yep, Eric is that grown-up half-breed and, with his dormant psychokinetic gifts unlocked, reluctantly agrees to work for Bloom. After a quick montage of Eric learning to control his ability to move objects with his mind (viewers know that this dude's powers are kicking in whenever there's a close-up of his pupils abruptly contracting), he's soon saving clueless schoolkids from getting flattened by a falling concrete slab, along with convoluted rules about Eric's photon-manipulating skills (such as how he can't use his powers in the dark?) and chintzy apparitions from his dad's home planet. Then Eric is off on his first solo mission -- guarding a foreign monarch's beautiful daughter while she's visiting California, with 1965 Miss India and future STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE baldie Persis Khambatta making her American TV debut as Princess Siri. But instead of pampered royalty, Siri is a regular girl who enjoys cotton candy and pinball at Long Beach's old Queen's Park amusement pier, inexplicably flirts with dorky Eric, and winds up kidnapped by Vic Morrow, who demands a million dollars in gold but also has an even dumber scheme to loot the Federal Reserve. No surprise, Eric uses his middling superpowers to save the day by telekinetically dropping shit onto bad guys' heads or bending their gun barrels... From its hackneyed script (courtesy of producer Allan Balter, a veteran writer for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE) and unremarkable direction by Nicholas Sgarro (a script supervisor on THE EXORCIST and LENNY, who made his feature directing debut with THE HAPPY HOOKER), to its chintzy production values and even-then-outdated effects, this is fourth-rate in every conceivable way. Meanwhile, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13's Austin Stoker (as a government aviation official) and Roger Perry (as a police rep) both have substantial billing but mostly just stand around looking concerned, plus a young John de Lancie appears briefly as a US agent. Even usually-dependable Morrow sleepwalks through his stock-villain gig. Still, the film's overriding problem is its star, since nondescript Neill (whose career never went much further than "Guard #2" in TRON) lacks any discernible acting talent or charm. An hour after watching this film, I couldn't even remember what the guy looked like. That's definitely a bad sign.

© 2017 by Steven Puchalski.