In light of next year’s Spider-Man reboot with The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield, I’ve decided to revist past incarnations of the web-slinging superhero. The upcoming reboot will not be the first live-action incarnation with the title The Amazing Spider-Man. It turns out the first was the TV movie/pilot for the short-lived series on CBS, airing sporadically from 1977-1979.
Nicholas Hammond played the title role of Spider-Man and his real identity of Peter Parker. Hammond is most notably known for his roles as Friedrich von Trapp in The Sound of Music, as well as Doug Simpson on the Brady Bunch, who breaks off his date with Marcia after her nose is broken by an errant football. He has ran the gauntlet of 70s and 80s series, appearing in Gunsmoke, Hawaii Five-O, Eight is Enough, The Love Boat, Dallas, and Murder She Wrote, among others. He is still active in Hollywood.
The part of always angry J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle newspaper, was played by David White, known for his roll of Larry Tate on the TV show Bewitched. He did not reprise his role for the 13 episodes of the series. Michael Pataki, Hilly Hicks, Lisa Eilbacher, Jeff Donnell, and Thayer David round out the cast.
The Amazing Spider-Man Pilot
The two-hour pilot starts off with a prominent doctor and lawyer inexplicitly robbing a bank in broad daylight. They getaway and crash their car into an alley, which, due to the special effects budget (or lack there of) contains all the excitement that a 10-MPH crash can muster. Two men are seen taking the loot from the heist while the bank robbers are left in a coma.
We then meet Peter Parker, a budding photographer and college student, hawking his pictures to J. Jonah Jameson and looking for a job. A breaking news alert interrupts and informs them the bank robbery is the result of an extortionist who claims that ten New Yorkers have been programmed to ‘destroy’ themselves at his command unless he receives 50 million dollars. Peter then has to run off to his laboratory job at the university while J.J. and Robbie Thompson discus the headline and layout for the story on the mind-controlling extortionist.
In the lab, Peter and his lab partner are involved in an intense process of using a robotic arm to pour radioactive waste into a container, when unbeknownst to them a spider gets zapped with some rads. On his way out, he is bitten on the hand by the glowing spider. A short while later another robbery takes place and Peter’s new found Spider Sense starts going off when he the robber’s car slowly makes its way down the street. Rather than just staying out of the way, he runs down the dead-end alley the car turns in to. Peter launches himself up the wall as the car crashes. He is too preoccupied with his new powers to notice the two men taking off with the cash from the robbery. After being questioned by gruff police detective Capt. Barbera, he runs home to take a nap.
After waking up from his afternoon nap filled with dreams of the days events, Peter goes out the window and starts crawling around on his Aunt’s house while background music straight out of a 70′s porno movie starts playing. He spends several minutes climbing upon the house, along the roof, down the drainpipe. The wall crawling and other action effects throughout the show are nothing to get excited about; sometimes done with hidden wires, and other times with blue screens. After climbing back inside, big smile appears on his face due to the discovery of what he can now do. Peter heads back out and finds a building on which to practice his wall-crawling abilities. Now would be a good time as any to note that while this takes place in New York City, filming was actually done in and around Los Angeles. While climbing around, Peter puts an end to a purse snatching by shouting at the thief while hanging on a wall. A crowd gathers, and next thing you know the city is abuzz with talk of the Spider-Man.
Doing The Things That A Spider Can
Back at the newspaper, Jameson is uninterested with Peter photos of the latest robbery, and instead the discussion turns to Spider-Man. J.J. wants to know who he is and what he can do, while Peter repeatedly explains that he isn’t a spider, but like a spider. J.J. wants pictures of the Spider-man, and Peter promises to get him the picture. He rushes home to fashion a costume, delaying dinner with Aunt May in the process. After viewing himself in a mirror for the first time, he erupts into a fit of giggles. He finds himself an alley and sets the timer on his camera to photograph himself climbing a wall, while the aforementioned music plays. His costume must not fit right because every time he appears as Spidey he is hunched over in a weird crouch.
Peter goes back to the Daily Bugle, attempting to sell his Spider-Man photos, when the call comes in of another robbery and another crash. J. Jonah Jameson reluctantly sends Peter out to take pictures and investigate. While on the scene, Capt. Barbera questions why Peter is always underfoot and gets suspicious. While everyone’s back is turned Peter uses his spider strength to extricate the driver of the car, a professor at the university Peter attends. Professor Noah Tyler is the only robbery suspect who didn’t end up in a coma. His daugher Judy shows up at the scene, and her and Peter head off to the hospital. Meanwhile, one of the men who collects the cash from the robberies relays the fact that Tyler is alive to an unknown man. After pressing several buttons on his sophisticated computer, the man sends the message to have Professor Tyler destroy himself.
Professor Tyler is then seen sitting on the ledge of his hospital window, several floors up. Cue the music and the wall-crawling, as Spider-Man is seen climbing to the roof of the building. Once on the roof, he climbs down to Tyler’s window. And then for no reason, rather than putting Tyler back into his room, Spidey grabs him and carries him to the roof of the building. He climbs back down, changes back into Peter, with Judy wondering where he was at the time of the rescue. For some reason, Judy tell Peter she will give him the money he had been hounding Jameson for. Judy lets Peter know that her father had been attending meetings with a new-age guru, Edward Byron, and together they decide to pay him a visit.