Spider-Man TV (1981) Solo - Season 1, Episode 5

Background

Episode #5 of this wonderful classic Spidey TV show from 1981, and at last... "The Sandman is Coming!"

After last episode's wacky and wonderful outing from the Black Cat, I can't see how things could get any better. But I've plugged-in my VHS and rewound the cassette, and I'm ready to enjoy another retro treat.

Story 'The Sandman is Coming'

  Spider-Man TV (1981) Solo - Season 1, Episode 5
Summary: The Sandman becomes invincible after absorbing radioactive soil from Mars.
Executive Producer: David H. DePatie, Lee Gunther
Producer: Art Vitello
Distributor: Marvel Productions, Ltd.
Editor: Robert T. Gillis
Music: John Douglas

A NASA helicopter flies low over a sandy beach. Inside (besides the pilot) is Peter Parker, and a perky blonde pain-in-the-ass named "Sally-Ann Beaumont". Sally-Ann and Peter have been sent by Empire State University to observe the "landing of the first Mars probe". Although there does seem to be some confusion about Peter's role, since Sally-Ann also tells him to "go take some pictures or something", suggesting that he's half-college student and half-reporter.

The probe lands perfectly on the sandy beach, and a NASA technician advances to remove the "highly radioactive" soil sample. But... what is this sandstorm coming out of nowhere? The weather report was for a perfect day! Could it be... surely not... a whirling man forming out of... sand?

The Sandman grabs the soil sample. The NASA guards place Sandman under "military arrest" (wait – since when was NASA part of the military) but they are less successful in their grabbing – their hands pass right through Sandy's body.

Never fear, however. Here comes Spidey. Now, how can he make a grand entrance? Oh, I know, how about a complete waste of webbing by catapulting himself via palm-tree? Follow that up by an instant web-spun-fly-swatter!

Yeah, a fly-swatter vs. sand. That works just about as well as you think it would. Spider-Man gets a dunking in the ocean then splashes off back to talk to Sally-Ann, who is just getting around to wondering where that Peter Parker ran off to. Is she also wondering how Spider-Man just turned up in the middle of nowhere at exactly the same moment that Peter disappeared?

But Spider-Man isn't quite out of ideas yet. He instructs the NASA guy to "turn that radar up to full power.

These high-frequency microwaves ought to blow that Sandman back into harmless dust.

Good thing Peter has no plans to ever have children. Because standing behind a high-powered magnetron is a great way to mess up... oh well, maybe he knows that.

Anyhow, that trick defeats Sandman for all of three seconds. Before you can say "irradiated testicles", Sandman is back and he has grabbed Spider-Man's mask. That's going to complicate things even further.

The Sandman opens up the radioactive sample, causing all of the NASA staff to exercise their appropriate strategic distance-based safety procedures – i.e. to run away. He absorbs the Martian soil sample, making himself "ten times more powerful".

Meanwhile, Spider-Man isn't even trying to stop him any more. Maskless and directionless he flees into the Florida Everglades until he is (a) lost and (b) his web-shooters are all gunked-up. It's really not clear what his plan is. But it's clear what his problem is. Swamp water. And alligators. But his web-shooters are now shooting blanks like Hitler after his second vasectomy.

AD BREAK

And we're back. Spider-Man (sans mask) is surfing alligators. And wrestling alligators. And throwing alligators. And... oh dear. It's like that old Southern saying "Never spit an alligator into the wind, five'll come back at you twice as hard."

Seems like Spider-Man forgot that old saying, just like you did. All he can hope for now is to clear the blockage from his web-shooter. And... there we go. He's off and away...

...and thanks to the power of transition sequences, he's back in a... city somewhere? In... Florida? With... a paper bag on his head? Heh, nice tip of the bag to the Amazing Bag-Man. The citizens look out of their windows and laugh mockingly, to which Spidey replies:

Who do you think you're staring at? The Unknown Comic?

Well, I confess that I had to google that one. But moving on.

Boy, home at last!

Wait? How did Spider-Man get from Florida to New York? And isn't that a bit of a give-away, climbing in through his bedroom window in broad daylight after 20 people just leaned out of their windows to laugh at him?

But he is home. He immediately changes outfits, then chats with Aunt May who tells him to put on a sweater and delivers a just-arrived telegram. Does anybody else remember telegrams?

This particular telegram is from the ESU school board demanding that he turn up at a disciplinary meeting at 4pm that day or be immediately dismisses from school. And it's nearly 4pm now. There's no way that Peter can make that trip in time! He'll have to swing across town as Spider-Man!

Now, let's take a moment and check out this sequence of events:

  • Step 1: ESU sends Peter on a field trip to Florida.
  • Step 2: ESU sends a telegram to Peter in New York arriving minutes before the hearing?

Well, what do I know about these things. I'm no lawyer.

Meanwhile, the irradiated Sandman is up to his... new tricks. He breaks into an armored money truck, and replaces the loose change with a loose pile of "Sand". The guards happily scoop up the bag and take the bags into the bank to put them into the vault. At which point there are three major plot holes.

  1. All the coins that Sandman spilled over the floor of the truck when he emptied the bag have disappeared.
  2. The security guard says "here's the new bills you ordered" but we clearly saw that most of the contents were coins.
  3. The "top-security" vault is situated right next to the main public lobby of the bank anyhow...

...I.e. the entire business with the truck was a complete waste of time. Sandman could have just walked into the bank any time he wanted, watched until the guards opened the vault door, and stepped forward.

Unfortunately for Spider-Man and his 4pm disciplinary hearing, his web-path to ESU takes him past the First National Bank just as Sandman steps outside and laughs in the face of a dozen armed cops. And... oh dear. Shit just got real.

Sandman makes the police car radioactive. As in, so hot it melts, radioactive. That's bad, right? That's "two-headed babies and hair-falling-out" level bad.

Radioactivity aside, Spider-Man drops down and wraps up Sandman in webbing. Yeah, that's also bad. Sandman laughs, then blast-irradiates Spider-Man – leaving our hero weak and floppy, and unable to squirt his web-shooter (Fnur! Fnur!) Then Sandman tosses the web-slinger hundreds of feet up in the air to a handy power substation with a 1,000,000 volt warning on the gate.

Too weak to activate my web-shooter. Too weak...!
AD BREAK

...oh, no. He's not. He must have recovered during the ad break. While falling through the air for 10 seconds after being thrown by Sandman, our hero cracks an entire cartridge of web-fluid and whips himself up a mid-air shock-proof body-suit of webbing before he belly-flops onto the exposed lines.

Good thing my web-fluid's rubber-based.

And that's it for the power station. Spidey has lost sight of the Sandman, but maybe he can make it to the school board meeting which starts in 15 minutes time "across town". Just as long as...

"Attention! Attention! Sandman has just been spotted..." (Police Radio)

First to the scene, Spidey is able to grab the bags of money as Sandman slips down into a drain at the end of a dark alley. After the traditional moment of misunderstanding ("Oh look, Spider-Man has the money, he must be in cahoots with Sandman.") the web-slinger slips down into the subway tunnels where he doesn't have too much troubling finding The Sandy One.

Honestly, Spider-Man really is outclassed by Sandman. It's kind of embarrassing how easily he is KO'd by the glowing radioactive hyper-villain, who bends a convenient steel bar to shackle Spidey to the subway tracks.

That does it. I'm cancelling my membership in the Sandman Fan Club!

Could Spider-Man's situation get worse? (Yes) Could the dialog get worse? (Nope)

Because coincidence, J. Jonah Jameson just happened to be taking the subway, and stepped onto the station platform just in time to see Spider-Man tied to the tracks, and he sees this perfect vision down on the rails.

This is the classic shot of Spider-Man, posing askance, coquet and charming upon the tracks, with his legs stumpy and over-foreshortened, and with one hand cocked behind his ear and propping up his head. His words say "Help, I'm about to be flattened by the Eighth Avenue Express" but his pose says "Jack, draw me like one of your French Girls."

Will Jameson help our hero? Nah. Jonah snatches a camera from a nearby tourist couple and takes a shot as the subway train bears down relentlessly upon our hapless hero.

It seems that things are all over for Spider-Man. But perhaps... one last hope? Maybe... Yes! A blast of web-fluid sprayed at his own waist makes the rail around his waist slippery-enough for him to slide out.

What a terrifying last-second escape! What a relief! And even more pleasing must be the sight of Jonah being lead away by a police officer, quite justly accused of camera-snatching with intent.

But elsewhere things aren't going quite so well. Specifically:

  1. There's one minute to go until Peter Parker's fateful school board hearing, and
  2. Sandman just commandeered a massive gold-shipment atop the New York Gold Reserve.
  3. Peter forgot to shut the door of the closet where he keeps his Spidey costumes.
AD BREAK

First, the Sandman. Spider-Man grabs the gold out from under Sandy's nose, and drops it off the side of the building where it quietly bounces to a gentle halt on a deftly-spun gossamer web-mattress in exactly the same way that a cubic ton of gold bars really doesn't.

But wait. The insanity doesn't end there. Next, Spider-Man spins himself a couple of under-arm winglets and transforms his terminal velocity fall into a gentle gliding landing.

Of course he has achieved nothing yet except move the battle from the roof-top to the pavement level. It's going to take something far more sneaky to clean up a super-villain like the Sandman. At which point we hear the only funny joke in the episode.

This is one way to launder money!

...quips Spidey as he roller-skates several tons of gold-bars into a nearby car wash.

And right after him follows Sandman.

...through the rollers.

...through the rinse cycle.


But before a spring-cleaned Sandman exits the car-wash, Spidey takes a moment to casually leverage the tray of gold bars up to the top rooftop of an under-construction building where it can no longer be seen. Then Spidey jumps into a nearby cement mixer, and Sandman duly follows. Into. The. Cement. Mixer.

Spidey immediately hops out of the mixer, and adds cement and water. Sandman hops out also, but after having been tumbled-mixed. And a few seconds later there's a Sandman statue ready for the police to take away. Is he dead? Spidey doesn't care, he's already overdue for his meeting at ESU.

But first he has one more thing to "clean up". Heading back via the car wash, Spidey whips up a web-shovel (his seventh and final infeasible web-based creation for the episode) to scoop up the missing Martian Soil Sample which was rinsed-out during Sandman's pass-through, somewhere between the pre-soak shampoo and the wax spray.

So back at ESU. Peter Parker is being expelled for "cowardice". No joke. His crime was running off and not staying to protect Miss Sally-Ann Beaumont from Spider-Man and Sandman.

Fortunately for Peter (who couldn't make it to the meeting) an unexpected ally turns up at in his place. Specifically, Spider-Man, who returns the soil sample, and explains that Peter Parker helped him recover it. Bravely.

Having cleared Peter's name, Spidey doesn't stop there. In a piece of rather gratuitous cruelty Spider-Man adds injury to insult by drops down some photos that show Sally-Ann herself doing the running-away. The board's anger then turns against Sally-Ann, who doubtless in the spirit of feminist gender-equality will herself be charged with cowardice in the face of enemy forces.

As I've always said: Who lives by the college court-martial, dies by the college court-martial!

And the final wrap-up, a dangerously curious Aunt May says:

Oh my! Peter left his closet door unlocked. I've always wondered...

Well, what a snoopy little bitch Aunt May turned out to be. Who on earth would go digging in a college student's usually-locked cupboards? Odds are pretty good you're not going to discover anything that brings happiness to either party involved!

I guess it could be worse. May could have stumbled across Peter's hashish pipe, a ball-gag, and a stash of Playgirl magazines. Instead it's just a Spider-Man costume, which Peter has carefully preempted by bringing home a Hulk costume and spinning a tale of an upcoming costume party.

General Comments

The car-wash trick worked pretty well. But other than that, it really did feel as though the writers were flailing a bit and struggling to make sense of anything.

The school board "expelled for cowardice" plot-line was particularly daft.

And the battles were laughable. Radioactive Sandman could have destroyed Spider-Man any time he wanted! And seriously... the final battle scene? Put yourself in Sandman's sandals for just ten seconds and have a think about it. Pop quiz:

Spider-Man has just jumped into a cement mixer. Do you...

  1. Stand at the mouth of the cement mixer and pound him with your rock-hard fists?
  2. Laugh, and wait for him to come out.
  3. Jump in there, there's always room for two in a cement mixer!

Overall Rating

The Black Cat was a tough act to follow.

Still, there was just enough brain-bending lunacy here to keep me from being able to look away.

Three-point-five metric webs.

Footnote

Web-Wonders: Web-catapult. Web-fly-swat. Web-gimp-suit. Web-lubricant. Web-hyper-mattress. Web-wings. Web-shovel. This was truly a bonanza episode for way-out webbing wizardry!

As for the stupidest and most implausible moment? Well, I mentioned Sandman chasing Spider-Man into a cement mixer, that was pretty crazy.

How about dropping a trolley piled-up with a few dozen gold bars off the side of a sky-scraper, then thrown back onto the top of another tall building – and not a single bar is bumped out of place in the process?

Oh, wait. What's the number one quality of Spider-Man's webbing? It's STICKY, right? So it would literally be the most STUPID thing to squirt into a metal constraint if you wanted to SLIP through it. That is pretty damn dumb.

Hang on! I just remembered the bit where the reason that Spider-Man's web-shooter stopped working in the Everglades. A small fish swam up his nozzle (Fnur! Fnur!) BACKWARDS! You see the fish get squirted back out and then the shooters start working again.

But that's not the most ridiculous thing in this entire episode. The height of incredulity for me is when Spider-Man wades and web-slings his way back through the Florida Everglades, all the way back to New York, goes back to his apartment, AND DOESN'T TAKE A SHOWER!

Seriously. Peter just peels off one Spidey suit and immediately puts on another, then slips a clean shirt over the top. And I assume that Aunt May has lost her sense of smell, because he doesn't even put that swamp-stinked-up suit in the laundry. Nope, back into the closet you go, stinky-suit!