Sunday July 26, 2020
John Saxon (1935-2020)
This morning, before the news, if you'd asked me what I remembered John Saxon in, I would‘ve said a sci-fi TV movie from the 1970s in which he winds up in the future or something, in a land ruled by women, and his top is torn off as he’s auctioned off at the marketplace. But after the news, and after I looked at his credits, I realized the first big impression he made on me was in a “Six Million Dolar Man” episode called “Day of the Robot,” where he plays Steve Austin's old army buddy who gets kidnapped and replaced by a bionic robot. At one point, mid-battle, his “face” gets knocked off, revealing the machinery beneath. I know. But he made an impression. He was not necessarily imposing but the character/robot seemed imposing: stolid and blank-faced and forever pushing forward. It was an early look at what the “Terminator” movies might be.
Turns out he was on almost everything I watched as a kid in the ‘70s: “Petrocellli,” “Kung Fu,” “Wonder Woman,” and in a different role in that two-part “Six Million Dollar Man”/“Bionic Woman” episode about Big Foot. I kept turning on the TV and there he was: slightly receding hairline, strong jaw, evil eyes. Did they ever cast him with Anthony Zerbe as brothers? They should have. Even now I get them mixed up. I was like, “Wasn’t Saxon on a ‘Star Trek’ episode?” As a Klingon? Except that's not even Zerbe. It's John Colicos. But all of them should‘ve been Klingons.
Saxon also played the awful, no-nonsense corporate CEO Hunt Sears in “The Electric Horseman,” and he had a small, consequential role in Bruce Lee’s big breakthrough, “Enter the Dragon,” but he's chiefly known, per IMDb and the honors pouring in this morning, for a movie series I never saw and don't have interest in seeing: the “Nightmae on Elm Street” movies. He went on to stuff I didn't care about: “Dynasty,” “Falcon Crest,” “Murder She Wrote.” Where did I last see him? “From Dusk Till Dawn” in ‘96? Maybe. But in truth, a few times a year, I saw him in my mind’s eye as a contemporary man in a future world run by women: “Planet of the Apes” but with women. Not sure why that stayed with me.
Turns out it's called “Planet Earth” and this is IMDb's description:
A man awakens from suspended animation and finds himself in the 22nd century, where he finds that women rule the world and that men are slaves called Dinks.
Dinks? That's a little on-the-nose, isn't it? I'm not sure if it felt anti-feminist to me then or just subsequently, but the odd thing is it's a project developed by the supposedly far-sighted Gene Roddenberry. He created it, wrote it, and gave it to longtime “Star Trek” director Marc Daniels (everything from “The Naked Time” to “Mirror, Mirror” to “Spock's Brain”) to direct. Plus the clothes look like if “Trek” had continued into the 1970s. I might have to revisit one day.