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The Amazing Spider-Man Pilot

When people say that Tobey Maguire was the first live action Spider-Man, that's not entirely accurate. There was a t.v. series in the late seventies that starred Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker. The series began with a made for t.v. movie (that was shown in theaters in some countries) and it is possibly the most 70's thing I have ever seen. It starts off with a shot of Spider-Man crawling around on a building and peeking in windows.  I think it's supposed to create awe in seeing the hero display his powers, but it just makes him look like a peeping tom. Then we cut to scenes of a doctor and a lawyer hearing an odd sound and walking off, later getting together to rob a bank. They crash into a wall at a low rate of speed (seriously, none of the cars that crash in this movie could have been moving faster than 5 mph) but this causes the car to crumple up and the driver and passenger to get put into a coma.

Now we meet Peter. He's trying to sell photos to J. Jonah Jameson. Robbie Robertson is also there. Pete doesn't have his powers yet, as we'll find out. Later we'll see him get bitten by the radioactive spider (who doesn't get killed in this iteration, so presumably it's off giving others spider based powers). Anyway, at the Bugle office we find out the robbery was caused by mind control. We find this out when a news break interrupts scenes of a dog running and jumping. Apparently programming in the 70's was weirder than I realized. The mind controller has let it be known that if the city doesn't pay him 50 million dollars he will make 10 random people kill themselves. After this we get the aforementioned lab scene, and Pete soon discovers his new wall crawling skills when he dodges a car driven by another mind controlled robber. (There's no Uncle Ben or great power, great responsibility speech here, making Tom Holland the second iteration of Spider-Man to ignore this central part of the character's story.)This is when we meet the ultimate 70's stereotype of a detective (he's gruff and he always chews an unlit cigar, what a character!).

Peter plays around with his new powers, crawling on his house on some of the worst special effects shots I have ever seen. They accomplish the wall crawling in two ways in this. Sometimes they superimpose him crawling over a still shot of a building which looks awful. Somehow even worse though, is when the use a wire to pull him up the side of a building and he acts like he's crawling even though half the time his hands and feet don't even touch the wall. He gets spotted and the rumors start, and the next time he goes to the Bugle he finds out he has been named Spider-Man. He's explaining to Jameson that Spider-Man can crawl on walls and spin webs and has super strength (even though he hasn't displayed the strength yet and hasn't created his web shooters yet), but doesn't mention the Spidey sense in this exposition bomb. Speaking of the Spider Sense, in this it apparently doesn't just tingle when he's in imminent danger. It can also warn him about more vague dangers, giving him flashes of what's happening that might lead to trouble for him.

While he's at the Bugle they find out there's been another mind control robbery and Peter gets sent on the assignment. The robber's daughter Judy is introduced. Peter's camera gets knocked open, ruining his pictures, but he invites himself along to the hospital with the daughter. He hangs around while they talk and he's leaving with her when the mind controller sends a signal to the dad that he has to destroy himself. He starts to climb out the window but is just sitting there, allowing him to be spotted. Peter has time to change into his Spidey duds and climb up and save the man in front of the daughter and the detective. Afterward Peter comes up to Judy and she tells him he missed everything. He looks weirdly upset by this. Peter and Judy have apparently become strangely close, as he borrows $46 from her. She agrees because he's done so much for her, which made me ask out loud 'What the hell has he done for you?' Remember, she doesn't know he's Spider-Man, so she doesn't know he saved her father.

The movie at this point feels like it has been going on forever. Judy randomly decides to go to her father's new age support group, not out of any suspicion but because she thinks it will make her feel better. She takes Peter and they meet the group's leader, who is a complete dick. He tells the members they are stupid and just behaves rudely to everyone. Of course, this is the guy behind the mind control. Peter goes back as Spider-Man and there are ninjas hiding behind the curtains. Just in case you didn't get that, let me repeat it, there are ninjas hiding behind the curtains. Spidey fights them and gets away. He goes back as Peter and gets himself mind controlled. He then goes back again as Spidey and this time the ninjas were hiding out on the roof, and they had flame throwers with them. Speaking of people just weirdly being places, in the middle of this there's a scene wtih the detective and his partner in their office talking. There's no indication that they have called Peter in, and they are just talking about the case. Then the detective says to send Parker in and Peter turns out to be waiting just outside. Did they have him just sitting out there all day on the chance they might decide to talk to him?

Anyway, Peter figures out how the mind control works and clues in the detective, but is then signaled to go to the Empire State building with his mind control device, so that he can jump off. Luckily the protective barrier put in place to keep people from doing that knocks his mind control device off his jacket (where apparently Peter attached it after his brain washing as it's a different jacket than he was wearing at the time). The detective picks up the goons that work for the mind controller. Spider-Man goes back to the support group building and uses his webs to pull down the satellite dishes that apparently broadcasts the mind control signal. Somehow this causes the mind controller's board to light up and makes him get brainwashed himself. Spidey bumps into the ninjas in the hallway, but tells them he reversed the microwaves (I guess pulling down the dish caused them to reverse?) and asks if they can be friends now. They smile and agree and unlock the door for him. I'm not sure if they were mind controlled, or just don't want to fight him now that he's already foiled the plan. They don't seem to face any punishment. Spidey tells the mind controlled mind controller to turn himself in to the detective.

The detective shews out Peter for bailing on him and says a couple of times that Spider-Man saved the day, even though he has absolutely no way of knowing yet that Spider-Man did anything. The dish was brought down in time to prevent the other victims from killing themselves. All of this insanity was done to a soundtrack that sounds like rejects from Rocky and Shaft. Oh yeah, and in this pilot (but not the rest of the series) Jameson is played by the guy who was Mr. Tate in Bewitched. The most amazing thing about this Spider-Man movie is that it manages to be so bat shit crazy and utterly boring at the same time. Of course, I remember seeing this in reruns on TBS as a kid, years before Sam Raimi got the chance to bring the wall crawler to life. Back then, I thought this show was the coolest. It may be that other episodes are better, but AI doubt it. It was probably just that this was the only live action Spider-Man you could get (not counting the appearances on The Electric Company) Unfortunately, it hasn't aged well at all. If you like generic funk soundtracks and want to see 3 dudes in kimonos hit another dude in a Spider-Man costume with bamboo sticks, this is your movie. If that doesn't sound like a good time to you, this might not be to your taste. The movie originally aired on September 14, 1977 and was up against Eight Is Enough and Charlie's Angels.


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