Making Movies: The Return of Spidey

Friday…FRIDAY…FRIDAY!!!! Did I mention that today is Friday? And what could possibly be better than Friday? Just one thing – a Friday with your friendly neighborhood Spider man. Or in this case, another home movie from 1985 with me and my friend Mike bringing the wall crawler to the silver screen.

I have to tell you, these movies were so much fun to make. Way better than playing Dungeons and Dragons or taking a walk downtown to the comic book store.

I think the cost to film just one of these shorts and have it developed was somewhere in the range of $20. Roughly equivalent to a billion dollars as far as a kid from 1985 is concerned. So for us to forego seeing a rock concert or buy a video game and instead try to make a movie was a huge investment and something that we did not take lightly.

Once again, let me set the scene for you:

In our last episode Mime (the bad guy in this story played by yours truly) narrowly escaped the clutches of Spidey (played by my friend Mike). Mime is now sitting on some steps next to a hill contemplating his next move when suddenly he hears someone approaching. He looks and sees that it’s Peter Parker, a young punk kid from school.

At this point Mime (who does not know the kid is actually Spidey) decides to have a little fun. He hides behind a fence and trips Peter as he walks by.

The “clumsy” child falls and then rolls down to the bottom of the hill. Distraught about his predicament and knowing that the evil Mime has just attacked him, Peter starts crying and immediately runs behind the fence to become Spidey. (Hey, no one said our Spidey didn’t get emotional).

That’s when the fun really begins.

This film would be the first to introduce the special effect of teleportation. It was a technique that we would also use in subsequent Spidey shorts as well and was rather simple to produce. Here’s how it worked:

In my role as the Mime I would touch my fingers to my temples to indicate I was about to do some amazing mind trick. Mike would then stop filming and stand perfectly still. Once I was out the scene Mike would begin filming again and PRESTO! I had “magically” disappeared. We did the reverse of this effect to make me reappear somewhere else. Pretty cool huh?

In addition to teleporting, this short also features a comedic showdown on the stairs and a daring escape by the heinous villain.

One word of caution: much of this footage is out of focus so do not adjust your settings. This error was actually the case when we originally got the film back from the developers. But the story idea is still there.


Some notable 1980’s references:

1. You’ve just got to love Spidey’s summertime costume. A red shirt/shorts combination with red mittens for gloves. Believe it or not, Mike’s “Coke is It” red t-shirt was all the rage back then. This was the logo used most by Coca-Cola back in the mid 1980’s.

2. The classic tube socks worn up to our knee caps.

3. The laundry hanging out on the clothes line. It may seem trivial these days but back then washer and dryer combos were quite expensive. Most families only had just the washer and would hang clothes out on the line to dry in the summer or take the wet clothes to the laundromat to dry in winter.

As was always the case when filming, the challenge in making these shorts was that everything had to be done in one take. Any kind of screw up couldn’t be erased. This episode shows two examples of mistakes. One of which we were able to “fix”.

The first mistake you’ll notice is one scene where Mike was filming and you see part of his mitten filling the shot. Obviously, there was nothing we could have done about that. But the next flub we knew about immediately and were able to quickly bounce back from.

Originally, Spidey was supposed to capture the Mime on his first attempt at spinning the web. I was the cameraman at the time and was pulling on the “web” as Spidey shot it but accidentally let go of it and it bounced back onto Mike’s arm.

We spent the next ten minutes trying to figure out what we were going to until at last it dawned on us. We both looked at each other, smiled and said: “Spidey’s Web Shooter Jammed!”. It was the perfect opportunity to film it again and this time get it right.

Having rediscovered and sharing these movies has been a great experience. I’m even considering sending in my resume to George Lucas. I think I’m a shoe-in for a position in the special effects department. What do ya think?

Have a great weekend!

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