Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nicholas Hammond: Spider-Man

With The Amazing Spider-Man next month, Andrew Garfield becomes the third actor to play Peter Parker and his masked alter ego onscreen. The second was Tobey Maguire in the '02-'07 trilogy, and the first was Nicholas Hammond, star of CBS-TV's Spider-Man live action series. Commissioned in the wake of the network's huge success with The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man never found its footing the same way, running for a mere fourteen eps from 1977 to 1979, but it's lived on thanks to home vid and syndication in a way that belies that puny number. Check out the '70s-tastic intro sequence below, which manages to be awful and awesome all at the same time:


Not much to look at, granted, but if you were a Spider-fan back then and wanted a live action fix, it was either this or the educational shorts that aired on PBS' The Electric Company. I preferred this. The effects were laughable, the costume wasn't great, and the stories were pedantic, but the one thing they got 100% right was the characterization of the title character. The intellect and haplessness that typified the comic book Peter Parker were conveyed perfectly by Hammond, who I'll go out on a limb and say made for a far more appealing Parker than Maguire. Check out the entire pilot movie here, and see for yourself.

In this lengthy interview with Mark Edlitz of "Hero Complex," clearly a fan of the show, as part of the site's ongoing celebration of Spidey's fiftieth anniversary this year, Hammond looks back on his time thirty-five years ago (!!) as TV's very first Peter Parker, offering up some background on how he came into the part, what he tried to bring to to make it his own, and even giving some very insightful observations on the continuing appeal of the iconic character even after all these decades. If you're like me and still have some fond memories of Hammond's time in tights, I think you'll find it a very pleasant read. Now, can we finally get this show released on DVD?

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