Marvel movies: 'Spider-Man Strikes Back' (1978) is even less amazing
Last week I re-watched the 1977 TV movie The Amazing Spider-Man, which brought Peter Parker into live-action for the first time ever so he could do battle with an evil self-help guru (yes, this was definitely the ‘70s). This surprisingly proved to be so popular that it warranted an entire series, and even a cinematic sequel. Hence, we got Spider-Man Strikes Back one year later.
When Strikes Back begins, Spider-Man has been going more public with his exploits since the last movie, and he’s been making more headlines in the newspapers. He’s getting so much attention that a hot reporter named Gale Hoffman decides she wants to get the inside scoop from Spider-Man himself. And presumably into Spider-Man’s blue tights.
Yes, as you can imagine, this is the appointed woman with whom Peter will have awkward sexual tension. She’s also the designated victim who will be kidnapped no fewer than two times before the hour and a half is up.
Oddly enough, we actually get to see Peter attending college classes. We so rarely see him in class, so it’s very easy to forget that Peter is still a student. Especially when he looks like this.
Peter is arguing with his professor, who is planning to operate a reactor he’s building with some plutonium he had shipped in (and no, it’s not from the Libyans). The professor tries to assure his concerned students that it’s all cool. He has all the clearances and the government gave him the thumbs up.
Wow, the ‘70s really were a mellower time. I’m going to assume that the guy at the Department of Energy who signed off on this was smoking some very potent grass in his office.
Peter and the other students protest that having plutonium in the area is incredibly dangerous and that it would be easy for terrorists (like the Libyans!) to steal it and build a bomb.
The professor just gives a hearty laugh and dismisses his students’ fears by assuring them that the mall cops he’s hired are protecting the plutonium right now. Besides, he says, even if somebody did happen to break in, it would take a super-duper intelligent and sophisticated person to build a bomb that could actually explode. (The pre-9/11 world was such a simpler time.)
To prove their point on the dangers of this experiment, a few of Peter’s fellow students decide they will be the ones to take the plutonium from their professor’s lab to build a bomb of their own. They manage to steal the radioactive materials quite easily. The university must have forgotten to pay those Rent-A-Cops for overtime.
The theft triggers Peter’s spidey-sense. He heads to the university to investigate, but the students make off with all the plutonium. Also, Peter’s spider-sense is depicted here as a red and blue flashing in his eyeballs. I thought for a minute he was being summoned by the brainwashing guru from the last movie.
And this is where we have our antagonist introduced. Don’t get excited, we’re still not getting any cool or notable Spider-Man villains — this is a ‘70s Marvel movie, after all. No, once more, we have another old, white guy villain. In fact, that is his real name!
This is our bad guy: Mr. White (no first name).
Mr. White lives in Switzerland where he is very rich. We know this because our first sight of him is in a bathtub where he is bathed by bikini models. And we also know he’s evil because he owns recording studios in L.A. Is this guy one of Jeffrey Epstein’s old buddies?
I did not need to see that image. I did not need to see an old, wrinkly, naked guy in a bathtub. Now my dinner is churning in my stomach.
Anyway, Mr. White learns about the plutonium theft in the newspaper and decides to head to New York because he wants that stuff for himself, for reasons.
Hot Reporter pursues Peter because she figures he can get her an exclusive interview with Spider-Man. Naturally, Peter isn’t having this and goes into such excruciating detail as to why she can’t meet Spider-Man that you’d have to be a complete dumbass not to realize that he’s actually Spider-Man. Luckily, Hot Reporter is not that swift.
Meanwhile, the students who stole the plutonium are keeping it at their apartment. But because they are stupid and can’t regulate radiation in a residential building, one of them ends up with radiation poisoning. When the doctors at the hospital have to report this to the authorities and word gets out, Mr. White’s minions are able to steal the plutonium.
Spider-Man tracks Mr. White to Los Angeles where he plans to detonate an atomic bomb unless the government gives him $1 billion. Peter manages to get to L.A. under the guise of covering the story for The Bugle along with Hot Reporter, who is still in hot pursuit of Spider-Man.
At the climax, Hot Reporter ends up getting kidnapped by Mr. White’s goons (she’s been grabbed in two other altercations, so her hostage quota for the movie has been met). She’s taken to Mr. White’s L.A. mansion where… she’s forced to wear a bikini.
Why? Because he likes women in bikinis. That’s literally the answer he gives when Hot Reporter questions this attire. Oh yeah, and some B.S. about how bikinis don’t leave any visibility for weapons. While this may be true, come on, dude, you’re a horny old pervert, that’s what this all boils down to. And that goes double for all the producers of this movie who okayed this (and that bathtub scene shudder).
Of course, Spider-Man is able to locate and defuse the bomb before it can go off. Unfortunately, Mr. White escapes in his helicopter, swearing that he and Spider-Man will meet again.
Are you kidding me? This guy gets away? Even the brainwashing guru in the first movie got arrested at the end! I don’t actually care that this villain escapes, but if there’s another Spider-Man TV movie in this series that I have to review, I just don’t want to see this pervy old villain ever again.