I don't know if the 1981 Spider-Man cartoon ever aired over here in New Zealand. In any case, we didn't watch Saturday morning TV in my family – I was off at music lessons instead, learning to play the flute.
So I cannot give you a misty-eyed, nostalgic, childhood-tinged view of this series at all. I can only give my open-eyed, confused, and somewhat incredulous retroactive adult interpretation.
This seventh episode is titled "The Pied Piper of New York Town", which did nothing to pique my interest at all. I mean... what, some guy in a patchwork quilt is going to play his whistle and drown a bunch of rats? New York City without rats isn't New York City any more!
But my fears were baseless. The opening scene provided immediate redemption as it proudly featured the New York nightclub named "MYSTERIO'S" in neon lights with swirling spotlight beams pointed skywards, including one beam shooting out from a giant eyeball. Well, that's more like it!
|Executive Producer:||David H. DePatie, Lee Gunther|
|Distributor:||Marvel Productions, Ltd.|
|Editor:||Robert T. Gillis|
An eager queue of hip young teens and adults lines up to enter "Mysterio's Disco Palace". The reasons for the excitement are many – not just the brand new venue itself, buth the double draw cards of "Mysterio" and (special opening night disco guest star) Spider-Man.
Yes, our hero Spider-Man is advertised as being present for the grand opening, whether he knows it or not. But who is this Mysterio? A young woman asks her gallant escort the same question is is told:
They say he used to be a Hollywood Special Effects man, until an accident turned him into Mysterio.
Ah, yes. An "accident". The world's most lazy back-story. "[Job title] [name] was an ordinary working guy until an accident gave him [powers] and turned him into [fancy name]. Now he uses his abilities to [fight crime | try and take over New York]."
Mysterio greets the crowd, guarantees them Spider-Man and more surprises, then opens the doors for the premiere event. The cool and beautiful youths flood in and begin their socially-distanced dancing in the sparsely-populated night-club slash TV dance-show studio.
Watching from his video monitoring room high above the club, Mysterio waits for his special guest to arrive. So much for elaborate setups, suspense, and ambiguity. We're 60 seconds into the episode, and Mysterio has already announced himself as the bad guy.
And my trap will be complete!
And here he comes right on cue – Spidey! Having seen the advertising, Spider-Man feels like he has no choice but to turn up in person to take his lumps. But he already has a bad feeling about this, and I really can't blame him.
Entering the venue, Spider-Man now clarifies for us that the event is being live-televised as "The Mysterio Disco Hour Show". He crawls into the venue (Spider-Senses tingling) and drops onto the dance floor. That's the cue for Mysterio to press his special big red button to play a very special tune.
Mysterio's nifty device adds a "hypnotic beat" to the music. And before you can say "Return of the Dancing Dead", all the hep pussycats in the club have gone glazed-over white eyeballs and are under psychic control.
Listen to me! I am Mysterio! I am your leader. You will obey me! Spider-Man is our enemy! You must destroy our enemies! You must destroy Spider-Man!
Of course, Spider-Man simply jumps for the ceiling, then swings over to Mysterio's control room. But unfortunately the door is somewhat Spider-proof, and the zombie kids are meanwhile climbing the railings and advancing on our hero, forcing him to make a dash for the outside.
But now the streets are no longer safe either. Mysterio activates the loudspeakers outside his club, enlisting the zombie mind-controlled assistance of the formerly-fine-upstanding citizens on the street. Painfully outnumbered, Spider-Man decides to avoid the problem by reverting to his civilian identity as Peter Parker.
Mind you, Peter Parker has his own obligations.
Especially since Peter has a play rehearsal to study for.
Sorry? A what?
I get the feeling that the script-writers never went to university. They seem to think that it's like Grade School, but for 18 year olds, and there's a school play that all the kids have to join in, and all the moms and dads come and watch their kids on stage stuttering through their lines.
The reality is that the Arts department will put on a play, with a cast of willing, talented drama students. Peter Parker being way over the hell in his Science department and will not set foot inside the Arts department, and will have not a damn thing to do with said dramatic enterprise except possibly as a paying member of the audience.
But, realism be damned. We must simply accept the fact that biochemistry major Peter Parker has somehow gotten tangled up with the thespian fellows. And hence he is on stage, costumed as a Roman soldier, and being berated by the director (wearing a purple beret and sporting a Van Dkye beard, of course). But our unwilling thespian is incapable of even walking across the stage without falling over.
So much for "studying" for his play rehearsal. All that study, and he still can't walk straight.
Elsewhere on the campus of Empire State University, in the President's office Mysterio has arrived, and is demanding the president's cooperation. A little mind-control gets the job done, and it's clear that the next phase of the villain's master-plan has something to do with Empire State University...
Curiously, the office door says "Principal", but the chief clearly describes himself as the "President".
We don't have to wait long to see what the next step is. You probably guessed it already. Mysterio has decided that the best zombie slave is a university-educated zombie slave, and so he has placed his loudspeakers all over the campus. Before you can shamble two paces and groan "HIIIIGH... QUAAAALITY... BRAINSS..." the whole university is under the command of the evil ex-special-fx-guy.
Everybody that is... except Peter Parker.
Fortunately my Spider-nervous-system isn't affected by Mysterio's hypnotic beat.
Shame. Would have been funnier if it it was. Oh well, I guess this way works better for the plot.
Mysterio gets his army on the move with the help of a VW van with loudspeakers on the roof. It looks kind of like the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, but obviously it's a Mysterio Machine. The van rolls out, followed by the population of ESU, including the cast of Peter's show, and Peter Himself – sporting a nifty set of shades disguising the fact that he hasn't gone all white-eyed like the other victims.
I do hate to nitpick, but despite picking up more victims along the way, a quick head-count from the aerial shot gives only 30 zombies. Not a particularly impressive showing, really. I'm a bit disappointed in Mysterio, really. But he carries on, with Peter Parker following, still dressed as a Roman palace guard and still wearing his dark shades.
From up in his tower office, J. Jonah Jameson complains "there hasn't been a decent crime all day!" Is that supposed to be related? I'm not sure that 30 people following a van for 10 minutes is going to seriously dent the crime statistics for the city. But hey, I'm no journalist!
In his eagerness to observe, Jonah firstly very nearly falls out the window. But then he quite definitely gets hypnotized into a Mysterio-slave, and joins in the march while still on the umpteenth floor of his building! Time for a quick rescue by Spider-Man.
Peter slips away from the crowd via the expedient of "falling" through an open man-hole cover. He webs up his Roman costume and races off to the top of the building to give Jonah a just-in-time rescue, turning our favorite publisher around 180-degrees in the process and directing him back to his office window.
As for Mysterio? Well, sadly his plans are painfully predictable. Once more, it's bank robbery. Mysterio directs his mind-controlled-mob to enter the bank and take all the money. Could Mysterio have simply mind-controlled the teller or the bank manager? Yes, of course he could. Yes. He could.
Spidey pops the front window out of the van to find... nobody. It's a robotically-controlled vehicle! And Mysterio unleashes his most potent weapon:
A new disco beat I've created especially for you!
Unfortunately, the sound-track library they licensed doesn't include any disco music. So we get some funky 60's trumpet hot jazz instead. And then we're back to the same-old line.
I am your master! You will obey me! Destroy Spider-Man!
Once again, Spider-Man is surrounded. But this time his mind is not his own. The web-slinger passively allows himself to be lifted by the crowd, as Mysterio instructs them to take Spidey into the bank and lock him into the vault.
Meanwhile, the staff inside the bank have barricaded the doors and called for the police. Sadly that doesn't do much good. Firstly the newly arrived police reinforcements succumb to Mysterio's hypnotic jazz/funk, and then the bank manager and security guards go white-eyed and surrender to the villain's commands.
Our hero is dutifully carried-in, dumped, and then locked into the (now-emptied) vault. And with the sound now cut-off, Spider-Man quickly recovers his own will. But that still leaves him locked in an air-tight chamber with limited oxygen supplies.
But not for long. Despite an increasing shortness of breath, Spider-Man pulls the cover off the back of the vault door to reveal the tumbler dial. Wait... the dial is on the inside of the lock? Behind a massive metal cover that only super-powers can access? What the heck kind of safe is this?
Apparently it's a bank vault safe that Spider-Man can crack in 3 seconds flat by listening carefully to the clicks. And... he's free!
Jonah meanwhile has left his desk at the Daily Bugle to come and report on the story that Spider-Man has apparently robbed a bank. But before even entering the doors of said banking facility, Jonah is once again zombified by Mysterious Magic Music.
And that's how JJJ ends up following Mysterio to the local nuclear missile base. Mysterio has decided to move up from banks to... ICBMS. What exactly he intends to do with a stolen missile, I have no idea.
Nor do I understand just exactly how why there's a nuclear missile site within walking distance of Manhattan. All those entranced followers are on foot, following behind that van. They're going to be damn tired by the time they've walked to New Jersey!
And as for the numbers... I am equally confused. Spider-Man says that he has "never seen New York this empty." Yet there are only a few dozen people in Mysterio's travelling troop. Were did the other million people go to?
Swinging around that In that "empty" city, Spider-Man hears a army "Mayday" alert broadcast on a radio sitting by an open window. How does that even work? None of my local radio stations seem to have "army alert" integration. I guess that's the price we pay for going nuclear-free here in New Zealand.
But that sends Spidey racing off to the nuclear missile site
So here we go. Mysterio's 15 unarmed civilians turn up at the base. And together with the (freshly hypnotised) General and his two soldiers, they make themselves at home. Deep in the villain's thrall, the General and J. Jonah Jameson make their way to the missile launch room.
Why is Mysterio sending a newspaper editor to the launch room? Look, I'm pretty sure I pointed out that (a) I'm not a journalist, and (b) I'm just as confused as you are.
Fortunately (despite the General refusing to say the password) the guard on duty decides to let them all in anyhow. You don't want to make a General angry, right? And now... Mysterio is unstoppable. Unless... oh. Right. Spider-Man!
Oh, you know what happens now.
Now hear this. This is your master. You must obey. Spider-Man is on the base. Find him! Destroy him!
Yawn. I kind of feel like we've done this already.
But this time, Spider-Man simply webs up the van's loudspeakers.
Now, remember that all this time, Mysterio has been controlling everything from back in his secure control room at "Mysterio's Disco Palace." That's where it all began – and that's where it all ends up. Spider-Man swings in through the front door and starts applying webbing. First he blocks up the loudspeaker that was playing the hypnotic sounds.
But then... and I'm really not sure what's going on here... Spider-Man activates some other record player that is... playing something else? Some special window-breaking music? It seems to serve that purpose pretty well. Spidey webs the turntable speed knob up to maximum... which... shatters the unbreakable glass of the sound booth.
At this stage I'm just nodding. Maybe the hypnosis finally kicked-in. I feel my will is weakening... weakening... cannot resist...
But things aren't over yet for Mysterio. He pulls out the classic "hologram duplicates" and the "turns to smoke" bag of tricks. But Spider-Man drops a ladder on all six versions of him and snares the real one.
And so it is that Spider-Man has a gift for the police at the local precinct.
Spidey returns to the sewer just in time to rescue his Roman guard costume from the rapidly rising rain-waters. And so it is that Peter Parker (in a dripping wet costume) gets to play his tiny role to a packed house including Jonah Jameson and his Aunt May.
He has one line. Again I ask... just what the hell was he "studying" for?
We never do get to discover what Mysterio planned to do with his giant missile.
Nor do we understand his motivations. He wanted money... but... he also loves nuclear war?
And... dancing? Why did he need the disco? Couldn't he just have used the van? In fact, why did he need to bring people all the way from New York to the missile base. He easily hypnotized the general and the guards, the crowd he brought from New York did nothing at all except create a disturbance.
In fact, why did he threaten the president of the University? He just picked up 15 random people and then went to the missile base.
No. None of this makes any sense.
This is pretty daft stuff.
How do you rate an episode like this? It's not funny. It's not clever. Is this... a plot? I barely recognize it as one.
There are no characters – there's not even much action. Just people walking from place to place.
Yeah, I think were' down in the two-webs area. If not worse.
Web-Wonders: The only innovative webbing I spotted was some neat "stitching" webbing that tidily tacked close Jonah's window after the rescue (to stop him from just leaving again).
But as for our "biggest bullshit" moment? There's no question on this.
When a hypnotized Jonah steps off the edge of his office building... does Spidey swing past and grab him? Does the web-slinger spin a nice bouncy net? No!
Instead, Spider-Man climbs to the top of the office block and then shoots his web straight down to grab Jonah by the head.
Yep. You got that right After falling several for several seconds off a skyscraper, JJJ is caught by his head, from above.
BY HIS HEAD!
And I don't care how tough that old man is. By any of the laws of physics, that webbing should have one publishers head attached to it, and maybe a few inches of moist spinal column. That's no Gwen Stacy "snap". That's a full-blown "SPLOTCH!" That's decapitation, pure and simple.