Sep 13, 2015

Spider-Man: Episode 0 (1978)

As much as I love Batman and Superman, my favourite superhero has always been Spider-Man. I don't know why really, but I suppose it just comes down to being able to relate to him the best. Peter Parker was just an ordinary high school kid who happened to get bitten by a nuclear spider and gain these cool superpowers. He's funny too, so that helps. I was never a comic book reader though, so I got all my Spider-Man exposure mostly from the old 1967 cartoon. Spider-Man (2002) was also my first superhero movie ever which just solidified it all for me. Spidey is definitely my guy.

Anyway, apologies for the complete lack of complete reviews this past little while. Time has been a bit hard to come by lately and I'll just leave it at that. As you can see if you've been reading my "What I Watched This Week" features lately, I've been going through some of the older Spider-Man TV movies which I never saw before like Spider-Man Strikes Back (1978) and Spider-Man: The Dragon's Challenge (1979), both which starred ex-The Sound of Music alumni Richard Hammond as Peter Parker. Then I stumbled on the treasure trove that is Spider-Man: Episode 0 and I just had to share the experience.



At a Glance

Genre: short, action, sci-fi
Directed by: Kōichi Takemoto
Produced by: Susumu Yoshikawa, Hiroshi Ishikawa
Written by: Susumu Takaku, Stan Lee (original concept)
Music by: Michiaki Watanabe
Running time: 24 minutes
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Budget: N/D
Box office: N/D

IMDb entry

Starring: Shinji Todō, Noboru Nakaya, Izumi Ōyama, Rika Miura, Yoshiharu Yabuki, Mitsuo Andō, Yukie Kagawa, Tōru Ōhira, Hirofumi Koga, Shōzō Iizuka




Takuya Yamashiro (Shinji Todō) is a young motorcycle driver who also happens to be the famous Spider-Man. This attracts the attention of INTERPOL agent Jūzō Mamiya (Noboru Nakaya) who wants Spider-Man to join forces with him so that they can fight the scourge known as The Iron Cross Army which is led by the evil Professor Monster (Mitsuo Andō). The Iron Cross Army has been torpedoing oil tankers for some reason and INTERPOL desperately needs Spider-Man's help to stop them.   

One flying Spider-Man car, coming right up.

Words can't describe just how ridiculous Spider-Man: Episode 0 really is. From crazy story elements to the hyperactive action sequences, this is a bad movie fan's dream come true. What's kind of sad however is that I'm not so sure people are all that aware of it. Only 8 people have voted on Spider-Man: Episode 0 on IMDb (including me) and a meager 146 have done the same for the actual TV series. Availability is to blame for that I guess.

Anyway, the first thing that really stands out about Spider-Man: Episode 0 is how wacky the editing is. There's a lot of that "replay it several times because it looked cool" thing going on (even though it's usually replaying something that's the furthest thing from cool) and the sound effects are just pure gold. I mean, the same jumping sound is heard enough times for it to be considered part of the score almost. Spider-Man: Episode 0 might look live-action, but if you were blind you'd swear that it's a cartoon. This is a production for kids at the end of the day though, so it's maybe not something I should be so hard on. 

What I will say is a positive for this Spider-Man "adaptation" is that great effort is taken in making Spider-Man act as spider-like as possible. He sort of half-crawls a lot and he spends a lot of jumping around and using his agility. What I especially like is how he'll jump onto a wall and stay there as his enemies try to get him. He'll even throw punches in this position, rotating back and forth depending on where his enemies are. It's a small detail I suppose, but Hirofumi Koga who was the costume actor for Spider-Man: Episode 0 deserves credit for his physical performance as Spider-Man.

Although the story of how Takuya Yamashiro got his spider powers isn't explained here since Spider-Man: Episode 0 falls somewhere between episode 10 and 11 of the TV series for some reason, it's worth knowing for how silly it all is. Turns out that Takuya got his powers from the last survivor of an alien species who injected his blood into Takuya which then granted him these spider powers. He also received the Spider-Protector (official name of the Spider-suit), the Spider Bracelet which can fire web-lines as well as the Marveller which is a ship that can transform into a massive battle robot called Leopardon. Yup, no joke. Can't forget about the flying car which is dubbed the Spider-Machine GP-7 either. 

The ridiculousness continues to build once you take the Iron Cross Army into account. The evil Professor Monster is their leader and let me tell you, he's got quite the style. He has what I would describe as a half-robot face, a staff which looks like it's from the future as well as a hooded cape because no villain is complete without a cape. His subordinate Amazoness (Yukie Kagawa) also follows the cape style which she wears over what looks like a regular one piece bathing suit in order to show off a healthy amount of skin.

You got to remember though, Prof. Monster and his gang all hail from a different planet which does explain their strange ways and powers. Take the regular Iron Cross Army foot soldier called Ninders for example. They're able to turn invisible believe it or not and they're extremely acrobatic. One of their favourite moves is to create a human tower and turn invisible next to trees. Yup, it certainly fools Spider-Man for about a second. Not sure why they don't stay invisible the whole time during encounters with Spider-Man, but perhaps they have a limit on how long they can stay invisible for. Who knows?

Strangest (and funniest) of all is this bipedal torpedo-launching shark monster thing that works with the Iron Cross Army. Apparently it's a biological weapon that they created called a Machine Bem. I only knew this after reading the Wikipedia entry for the TV series though. He was simply shark guy to me while I was watching Spider-Man:Episode 0 and I was completely blown away when he magically grew to several stories high after having just been in the same room with Prof. Monster and Amazoness not long before. He does battle with Leopardon in the climactic finale and it truly is a sight worth seeing for the sheer hilarity of it. 

Looking fly is just part of Spider-Man's job


So what can I say? Toei has simply taken HUGE liberties with Spider-Man and has transformed it into something... unique. Part Japanese B-movie sci-fi and part Bandai toy commercial, Spider-Man: Episode 0 is a must see for bad movie fans. Consider this review a PSA. For a while, Marvel was actually streaming all the episodes on their website with English subtitles and it's a shame they stopped doing that. #BringbackToeispider-man and all that right?



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