Tag Archives: Sam Raimi

The Amazing Spiderman

Spides like us
With news of the new Peter Parker/Spiderman casting setting the world in a (ahem) spin it got my spider sense tingling with fond memories of the original Spiderman live action adventures, not those of Tobey Maguire and co but those featuring a former Von Trapp child from the Sound of Music, Nicholas Hammond, in the titular role as old ‘Web head’ swung onto screen s for the first time in the 70s, The Amazing Spiderman.

Not only was it a TV series, but over here in the UK several episodes were spun together to create movies that were released theatrically, one of which being my first ever foray into the cinema with a trip to my then local ABC Cinema, thanks Dad.

Whereas DC were taking over the silver screen in the 70s with Superman and making us believe a man could fly, Marvel had to make do with us seeing a body builder with a green paint job and a rather bad wig and Spiderman, whose wall crawling left more than a little bit desired, but who cared, it was just great to see that red and blue costume for real and he had far more impressive and authentic web shooters than the Sam Raimi films.

The ace of spides
Some 30 years later it may all look a bit low rent and kitsch but Spidey looked no better or worse than other action-packed shows of the time, including The Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman and the already mentioned, The Incredible Hulk.

It also had some great locations including Hong Kong, clearly jumping onto the martial arts bandwagon, and a whole host of villains. The only disappointment here is that these weren’t exactly super villains and were more low rent types or crime lords as seen in the likes of other dramas at the time, like Kojack and Starsky and Hutch, rather than any of your Sinister Six, like Doc Ock, Kraven, The Vulture, or even the Green Goblin. But, this did at least ground the show in a sense of reality and made Spiderman all that little bit more believable as well.

Stan Lee, who of course made a cameo appearance in all three recent big screen outings, even penned two episodes of the show and acted as its creative consultant, which only lasted 14 episodes over two very short seasons, although he was on record as feeling the series was too juvenile.

The three aspects of this short-lived but fondly remembered show that I loved were Spidey’s spider tracer, which were spider shaped device used to track people to great effect. The music, mostly by Stu Phillips, who also had scoring duties on Battlestar Galactica, and is something that has just stuck with me in my head to this day.

Should have gone to spec savers
Finally, I also loved it when Parker’s Spider sense started tingling as his eyes flashed white and we got to see a negative image of what Parker was seeing unfold as well, their equivalent to Bill Bixby’s green eyes in The Incredible Hulk I guess.

One of the early Spiderman episodes  also dealt with a terrorist with designs on the World Trade Center, which does link this 70s pre-cursor to the original Raimi film, as in its teaser trailer it featured a helicopter being caught in a giant web between the two buildings and some initial posters had a reflection of the Twin Towers in his giant eye, both of which were removed after the 9/11 atrocities.

Raimi’s creation may have had the state-of-the-art sfx and the mega budget but there is always something cool about seeing a live action

A towering success...cancelled after only 14 episodes
Spiderman taking out folk on the TV screen. As good as he# looked in the Raimi movies, when he is flying through the air he is CGI, at least here it is all done for real and sometimes you just can’t beat that , so for me this will always be the real Spiderman and not one created in a computer.

Pat’s Labyrinth: Horror auteur ‘exorcises’ his horror demons in Essex

Hollywood had Universal and London had Hammer, and now Essex is having a ‘stab’ at horror thanks to Jinx Media, founded by husband and wife team, Pat and Pippa Higgins.

Higgins in horror mode

With an output of five movies, TrashHouse (2005), HellBride (2007), KillerKiller (2007), The Devil’s Music (2008) and Bordello Death Tales (2009), in as many years Jinx Media is proving to be anything but jinxed, with it being as productive as the likes of those studios that unleashed Lon Chaney and Christopher Lee into our nightmares. Dean Newman caught up with Director, Producer, Writer and Editor, Pat Higgins, and found out what influenced his frankly warped and deprived mind.

Pat’s most recent release, The Devil’s Music, has just premiered on DVD in America, but us lucky folk in the UK, however can catch the horror mockumentary, described as ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ meets The Omen’, for free on http://www.indiemoviesonline.com/watch-movies/the-devils-music, uncut, no adverts, no horrible software to install. It is something which Pat sees as a really pioneering website and a great outlet for film fans and filmmakers alike.

DN: Who are your influences?

PH: It’s mainly filmmakers that went out and just did it regardless of any obstacles that may have been in their path, so very much people like Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriquez, and Kevin Smith. People who had no money and little professional experience but just decided right I’m going to put together a screenplay, put together the best package that I can and just go out and actually make it.

In terms of tone I’d definitely also add Joe Dante to that list, if there is anyone I owe a huge debt to with comedy horror hybrids then it his him in particular. I vividly remember seeing Gremlins when I was about 11 and it just had this huge impact on me. And not forgetting Fred Dekker as well, with Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, again very 80s but it’s just a nice fusion of comedy and horror. 

DN: What horror movies do you hold in high regard?

PH: I’ve got a lot of love for The Shining, which I think is perhaps the greatest horror movie ever made, the original Robert Wise version of The Haunting and The Exorcist. I think The Shining is pretty much the perfect horror movie as its just got images that drill into your head and just stay there.

Stephen King was not a huge fan and called it a beautiful car without an engine, but I don’t actually think he is right, there is an engine there and is revving really fast but it is so beautifully made that you can’t hear the engine, it doesn’t leave the traces you might usually get.

The Exorcist is smart, is not afraid of its subject matter in a way that a lot of movies dealing with that sort of thing might be and is willing to credit its audience with some intelligence. And The Haunting is just a beautiful, crisp, perfect movie. I love it, a lot, but do have a huge amount of hatred for the remake. Although I think the greatest scare shot of all time for me has to be in the much butchered The Exorcist III.

DN: The likes of The Exorcist have become an established horror franchise, have you ever been tempted to do a sequel to one of your own films?

PH: I’d love to, I’ve got ideas for all of them but I get side-tracked by new ideas that bubble up. I’m a bit like a dog chasing a car as I’ve just got to go after stuff, but I’ve certainly got treatments and in some cases whole screenplays for follow ups to what we’ve already produced.

 
 

 

Cranks the fear up to 11

DN: Getting the right mix of horror and humour is notoriously hard to get right, what do you see as the secret to success in balancing those two areas in film?

 

PH: I think you have to love your characters and love your script. If it’s not breaking your heart to kill one of your characters, which is someone you’ve lived with for months and years in the back of your head, on the page and finally in front of the camera, you can’t expect anyone else to remotely give a shit about them.

I think that particularly with horror comedies people think they can back away from the script and think we can set this up and then this up, the wacky best friend dies at this point, so on and so forth and I think that people can get very dispassionate about it and more often than not it really shows. You end up with characters as just cannon-fodder that nobody cares about, including the people who have written and made the movie.

In terms of the gags I think it is a matter of approaching it in a smart way and ensuring that the script is as tight and as entertaining as it can possibly be, because the writing process is the only one where low budget directors can get a leap on Hollywood.

If you are going crossbreed horror and comedy then you have to do it with loving care.

DN: A lot of horror comedy is played straight as well, such as An American Werewolf in London and Shaun of the Dead, isn’t it?

PH: Absolutely, Shaun of the Dead is a movie that really loves its characters, the way that the mother’s death (Penelope Wilton) is handled is just heartbreaking. And I think that is what marks that film out over less successful scripts as it is written by someone that cares.

Pat is clearly someone who cares a great deal about horror and next time, in Pat’s Labyrinth II: The pitfalls and the pendulums of producing low budget horror in the UK, Dean will be catching up with him to talk about the trials and tribulations of making low budget horror.