Awfully Good: The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)
The Amazing Spider-Man (1977)
Director: E.W. Swackhamer
Stars: Nicholas Hammond, David White, Lisa Eilbacher
When white people begin committing robberies and other crimes, it's obvious that they're simply under mind control and Spider-Man needs to find the true criminal responsible.
Long before there was Andrew Garfield, way past Tobey
McCryFace Maguire, and even pre-dating the animated 90s cartoon… there was 1977's THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. This hour and a half movie also served as the pilot to a TV series that ran for two short seasons on CBS. You can imagine what a Spiderman TV show looked like in the 70s.
The utility belt and web-shooter bracelet were both functional AND fashionable!
To be fair, given the time and circumstances, it's not that bad for what it is. It's just inherently goofy and cheesy at every turn, and proof that you can't really bring a super-powered character to life while pinching pennies. (The groovy 70s soundtrack that makes you think Spidey is going to join forces with Shaft definitely helps.) Due to budget constraints, the series never saw any of Spider-Man's classic villains realized. Instead, the wallcrawler would take on more average bad guys, like corrupt politicians, Chinese businessmen, and paranormal investigators.
Much like Superman in SUPERMAN RETURNS, Spider-Man also enjoyed creeping outside of people's houses.
While some adjustments are understandable, the show does make some bizarre changes for no apparent reason. There's no Mary Jane or Gwen Stacey—Peter Parker's love interest is a reporter named Julie. There's no Uncle Ben to teach our hero about great power and great responsibility and Aunt May is essentially relegated to a cameo. Peter Parker is a student (despite looking like he's in his mid-30s) trying to land a job at the Daily Bugle. They did get that part right. However, this version of J. Jonah Jameson, while gruff, actually likes Peter and remarks how he reminds him of his younger self. No! Wrong! Shenanigans!
This version of Peter Parker had clearly been held back a few years in high school.
When it comes to Spidey's famous super powers and the show's actual action, that's what garners THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN's biggest laughs. Most of the time, they employ god-awful greenscreen for the wall crawling, where the title character sort of just glides across buildings no matter the shape or architecture. Once in a while they tie a stunt person to a wire and pull him up the side of a building unconvincingly. Yet you can tell the filmmakers are so proud of what they accomplished because they insist on dragging out each crawling sequence for five, fast forward-worthy minutes. The superhero's web shooters and Spidey Sense don't fare much better. The mechanical shooters are truly pathetic, revealing a thin rope that can barely hold his weight when he swings from small branches. And his special sensory warning system only seems to work with obvious danger, like when he gets chased by a car going literally 2 miles an hour.
"Oh, no. Ninjas! What do I do?..."
In the pilot movie, Spider-Man faces his most potent adversary—a self-help guru! (Okay, a self-help guru with a mind control device.) When a Caucasian lawyer and a doctor team up to rob a bank, the police are thoroughly confused. But soon a mysterious criminal comes forward and admits that they were actually under his mind control and that he'll make 10 more helpless people kill themselves unless he gets some money. It's essentially the same plot as THE NAKED GUN, even down to the little device the villain makes them wear to do his evil bidding, in this case a mind-scrambling lapel pin.
As ridiculous as the plot is, I do applaud this film's realism. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN does a great job reminding you of real-life reactions and issues facing superheroes. Like Peter leaving an obvious pile of clothes behind whenever he changes in to his costume in public, or having trouble hailing a cab while in full costume, or having to ask his new date for $46 to buy science equipment. At one point, Spider-Man even fights a group of random middle-aged ninjas and when he defeats them, they immediately go and get flame throwers to up the ante. That is 100% the correct reaction to that situation and I don't understand why more henchman don't do that.
"Jazz hands! Run away!"
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN only got 12 episodes before it was cancelled. (You can watch them all here.) There are definitely some Awfully Good contenders throughout, including Spidey taking on fascist Latin American rebels, an evil Spider-Man clone and more mind control, this time in the form of gas. However, the most ridiculous, perhaps, is the one where Peter's college brings a bunch of plutonium on campus for show and tell and some kids get so angry they steal the radioactive element and use it to build a nuclear bomb—just to teach the faculty how dangerous it is. Of course, the next day terrorists steal the bomb and Spider-Man has to save the day yet again.
This may be ridiculous but, hey, at least it was better than Japanese Spider-Man:
Peter explains what Spider-Man is to J. Jonah James and other memorable one-liners.
Some wall crawling, some webslinging and some ninja fighting!
Despite what the porno-sounding music would suggest, everyone keeps it clean.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- The music sounds like a porno
- Spider-Man's Spidey Sense tingles
- The show re-uses the same footage more than once
- A shot is from Spiderman's POV
- Spiderman gets attacked by ninjas
- The ninjas have flamethrowers!