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"Special Federal Agent Sam Casey was assigned to Operation Royce Explorer, to retrieve an unidentified satellite from the ocean floor. During the course of the salvage operation, the submerged satellite exploded. The radiation from the blast left Casey alive but invisible. The Intersect Radiation Lab fitted him with a 'DNA Stabilizer'. This enables Casey to both become invisible and to materialize. The complete details are Top Secret: File #487384."
—Opening Narration to '''Riding With Death
Gemini Man, based VERY loosely on H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man, was a TV series from 1976 which followed the adventures of government operative Sam Casey, who worked for a CIA like agency known as INTERSECT. After a radiation accident in the first episode, he was rendered invisible, but he was supplied with a watch-like device called a "DNA Stabilizer" that allowed him to control the invisibility - with the catch that he could only stay invisible for 15 minutes per day or else he'd die. The series was canceled after only five episodes.
Most mid-70s action series with a lifespan that short would quickly fade into obscurity. However, a TV movie compiled from two episodes of the show entitled Riding with Death was released five years later that continued to run on television for many years. The episodes used were series premiere "Smithereens" along with "Buffalo Bill Rides Again", the latter of which didn’t air in the network run, and are linked via the common themes of vehicles Made of Explodium and country singer Jim Stafford.
The show made use of many tropes common among action/adventure fare of the era, among them:
- Adventure Towns: We don't remember their names, and neither will you.
- Applied Phlebotinum: the DNA Stabilizer, an LCD wristwatch Casey uses to become visible again.
- You Fail Biology Forever: Apparently people have an invisibility gene. Who knew?
- Bald of Evil: Dr. Hale, the patent-paper wielding villain.
- Blessed with Suck: If Casey stays invisible too long, he dies or gets stuck that way. He can monitor how long he's been invisible with a display on top of his DNA stabilizer. The stabilizer turns invisible, too...
- Compilation Movie: A clumsily-done example, to be sure. You'd think having an invisible character would make ADR dirt simple, but noooooooooooo.
- What makes it hysterical is that Casey claims that Driscoll grew a thick, bushy mustache in a single month!
- At the end of the first half of the movie, after Casey turns invisible in a purportedly comedic moment, Driscoll has a poorly and obviously dubbed in line, "You're more elusive than Robert Denby!" This serves as a link to the villain of Part Two.
- Abby has absolutely no purpose in the second half of the...er, film, but to forge some sort of link to the first half we occasionally see her watching the action on a monitor, mumbling some pablum.
- Crystal Clear Picture: The monitor Abby uses to...monitor Casey in the second half of the movie has a better resolution than the rest of the film.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Dr. Hale's supposed gasoline additive is actually a explosive three times more powerful than Nitroglycerin and can be made from common chemicals. He concocts an elaborate scheme to defraud the government rather than just selling his new, cheap, explosive that is vastly more powerful than Nitroglycerin. Of course, this makes perfect sense when you inevitably realize as the movie goes on that Dr. Hale is kind of an idiot.
- Distressed Damsel: Abby in the first half of the movie.
- Drives Like Crazy: Averted for the most part. Casey sensibly drives the speed limit even before he learns about the explosive properties of his cargo. He's a bit of a spaz behind the wheel of a racecar, though.
- Fashion Dissonance: Bell-bottoms and seventies hair abound, but Casey wears a jacket so bad it's a good thing he can turn invisible.
- Femme Fatale: Cupcake, believe it or not.
- Flashback with the Other Darrin: Averted in the Riding With Death version. The first half of the "movie" used a clip from the pilot episode to establish the origin of Sam Casey's powers and made no attempt to cover up the fact that Driscoll was being played by another actor in those scenes.
- Form-Fitting Wardrobe: Abby and Casey.
- Framed for Heroism: Casey often uses his invisibility to help others accomplish certain tasks or feats. Like helping Buffalo Bill win a bar fight using a huge whiffing air-punch that would make a pro westler roll his eyes in disgust.
- I Love Nuclear Power: It makes me invisible and stuff! Sadly, since the series was canceled, we'll probably never see a continuation titled The Invisible Cancer Patient.
- An Insert: When making Riding With Death, they needed something to tie the two episodes together -- so they overdubbed some dialogue in both episodes to tie them together, added some footage they had of Reasonably Okay-Looking Scientist Abby watching a viewscreen which featured the events of the second episode. Occasionally Footage-Abby would chime in with overdubbed dialogue, quite possibly taken from yet a third (fourth?) episode.
Footage-Abby: Go get 'em, Sam! Give it the old college try!
- There's also a flashback during the first half of the movie that is actually a clip from the pilot episode. The flashback has no relevance within the actual plot other than to clumsily shoehorn exposition regarding the origins of Sam Casey's powers.
- Informed Ability: Even though Tripolodine is allegedly much more powerful than nitroglycerin and capable of "blowing the whole town to smithereens," the explosion from the semi carrying it could only "maybe singe the side of a bed n' breakfast." Casey himself allegedly graduated from Harvard...
- Inspector Javert: Whiny Scientist Guy thinks Leonard Driscoll is one of these, because of his devotion to busting (The Elusive) Robert Denby. He's wrong.
- Inspired By: H. G. Wells The Invisible Man. Very, very, very loosely.
- Invisibility: But remember, if Casey spends more than fifteen minutes invisible, he stays that way FOREVER! Or dies. Sources conflict. Maybe he dies and nobody can find the body.
- Jive Turkey: Casey
- Large Ham: Driscoll.
- Jim Stafford is made of ham.
- Law Enforcement, Inc.: Intersect
- Live Action Escort Mission: Though the treacherous Dr. Hale is trying to be The Load and get Casey killed.
- Lying to the Perp: Casey does this to determine whether Dr. Hale is really inside his truck or not.
Casey: Sorry about that last bump, Doctor.
- Made of Explodium: Tripolodine, mere drops of which form an explosive violent enough to knock papers off of a desk.
Mike: (after the truck explodes) I'm not sure that would have taken out the whole town.
- Magical Security Cam: So in Riding with Death Abby's watching
the second episodethe second half on the movie on a monitor that can apparently follow Casey or other random characters around, pick up important aspects of the story, switch angles, and film inside buildings and race cars. Are there invisible camera fairies flitting about? Are they watching you? Right now?
- Magic Brakes: Actually averted. Though the sinister mechanic Carl sabotages the brakes of the semi, the movie acknowledges this isn't a huge problem. The huge problem would be the series of vicious switchbacks and hairpin curves Casey is bearing down on at high-speed.
- Misapplied Phlebotinum: Sure it doesn't boost mileage, but what military wouldn't want such a potent explosive?
- Missing Episode: The show got less than half of its completed episodes on the air. The Compilation Movie partially justified itself by using one of the missing episodes for the second half. The linking factor was that both episodes featured guest shots by country/novelty musician Jim Stafford, as well as being about dangerous vehicles (hence the movie's title.)
- Neutral Female: Abby. But she's some gal!
- Nitro Express: The premiere features the hero driving a semi across the country to deliver a fuel additive, along with it's creator. Halfway through, it is revealed the creator is pulling a Face Heel Turn: After finding that Tripoline inevitably breaks down into an unstable explosive, he decides to embezzle ten million dollars from his research firm and then use the substance to fake his own death when some random pothole the truck runs over sets off the bottle.
- No New Fashions in the Future: Set in the '80s, it is painfully obvious the wardrobe is from the '70s.
- The Other Darrin: Richard Dysart played Casey's superior Driscoll in the show's pilot, but was replaced by William Sylvester in the actual series. The Riding with Death version uses footage from the pilot in one flashback which had Dysart as Driscoll.
- Outdated Outfit: Even by the terms of the 70s, Casey's hideous jacket was dated.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Buffalo Bill. Like most comic relief, he will make you wince every time he opens his mouth.
- Pull the Thread: At one point Sam calls Dr. Hale to apologize for a bump in the road that didn't actually happen. When Hale plays along and acts like it did, it reveals that he's not in the truck at all.
- Put on a Bus: Abby's character was dumped mid-series. Riding With Death clumsily deals with that.
- Recycled Script: One of the original five broadcast episodes shared a script about a look-alike infiltrator with The Bionic Woman.
- Red Scare: Turns out Denby had his bomb-car outfitted in East Germany.
- Rummage Sale Rejects: Gaze upon the page pic and despair!
- The Seventies: And how. In fact, it was in 1976 when truckers and CB radios were a popular fad, with C.W. McCoy's "Convoy" being a #1 hit, and the kid's board game "10-4 Good Buddy" released as well.
- Springtime for Hitler: The inventor of the faulty fuel additive in Riding With Death planned to fake his own death while Casey was driving the truck he was hidden in.
- Stock Footage: The part of Intersect's mainframe will be played by "Guardian" from Colossus The Forbin Project.
- "I'm running a film now of a previous pilot ejection."
- Riding with Death features spliced-in footage from the pilot in order to show Casey's origin story.
- Superhero: Casey, theoretically anyway.
- Syndication Title: The only themes tying the two episodes together were vehicles, deadly explosions, and an annoying country musician, and apparently "Riding With Death While Yodeling" tested poorly.
- This Cannot Be!: "This can't BE?! You're DEAD?!"
- Traitor Shot: Of Karl the mechanic after we see the brakes on Casey's truck cut.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Gemini Man was set in the far-flung future of 1983, but it's hard to tell considering how much the show's atmosphere conjures up the era when it was made.
- Visible Invisibility: Casey's awfully clumsy when he's invisible...
- Word Salad Title: "Gemini" ostensibly refers to the 'dual' nature of the hero (as visible and invisible), but that's rreeeeeaaaaalllllyy stretching the definition of the word.