Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spidey's Greatest Challenge

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN premiered on CBS in 1978 with a two-part episode that was later released in syndication and on videocassette as a TV-movie titled THE DEADLY DUST.

Bland Nicholas Hammond plays Peter Parker, a college student and newspaper photographer who gained superpowers as the result of a radioactive spider bite and decided to fight crime while clad in red-and-blue tights and a full facemask. University protestors steal five kilos of plutonium and build an atomic bomb. Arms dealer White (Robert Alda) then steals their bomb and takes it to Los Angeles, where he plans to explode it and blow up the President unless the U.S. gives him $50 billion in gold. Meanwhile, Parker dodges a super-hot reporter (Joanna Cameron) who’s getting all up in Spider-Man’s business.

The curvy Cameron was already famous among prepubescent boys for playing the Mighty Isis on Saturday mornings, and I’m sure many of them tuned in to see her flirting in prime time with their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The excuses used to get Cameron into revealing outfits are hilarious (CBS promos used a lot of bikini shots), and her character even questions why she’s wearing them.

I’ll give credit to producers Robert Janes (who also wrote the episodes) and Ron Satlof for staging a couple of cool stunts, including Spidey dangling from a helicopter and the opening sequence of him rescuing a jumper. But let’s blame them for the sloppy filmmaking too. Subtle changes in the Spider-Man costume from pilot to first episode means the frequent use of stock footage doesn’t match, and the Los Angeles locations look nothing like New York City.

THE DEADLY DUST played theaters in foreign markets as SPIDER-MAN STRIKES BACK. Janes’ (THE FALL GUY) script is okay, setting aside the fact that it bears no resemblance to the Marvel Comics Spider-Man. Satlof (MCCLOUD) handles the action just fine. Simon replaces David White as Daily Bugle boss J. Jonah Jameson, joining series regulars Chip Fields as his secretary and Michael Pataki as police captain Barbera.

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