When three college students decide to prove the folly of the nuclear arms race by stealing enough plutonium to make a nuclear bomb of their own, it’s up to Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond) to sort them out! He better do it quickly, too, because the police suspect that the plutonium may have been stolen by a grad student named Peter Parker.
However, Spider-Man is not the only person who wants that bomb. The evil Mr. White (Robert Alda) also wants the bomb, though he’s not planning on using it to make the case for world peace. Instead, he plans to blackmail the government into giving him a fortune in gold. Now, Parker not only has to clear his own name but he has to keep Mr. White from blowing up Los Angles while, at the same time, preventing a nosy reporter (Joanna Cameron) from figuring out that he’s really Spider-Man.
Spider-Man Strikes Back was released as a feature film in Europe and was advertised as being a sequel to Spider-Man. Gullible audiences who paid money to see it ended up sitting through a two-part episode of the Amazing Spider-Man TV show, albeit one that was edited into a 90-minute movie and which didn’t have stop for commercial interruption.
Spider-Man Strikes Back highlights exactly what went wrong with the first attempt to do a live action version of Spider-Man. There were several members of Spider-Man’s regular rogues’ gallery who could have stolen that bomb and threatened Los Angeles. It sounds like a typical Sinister Six plot. Even the Kingpin, on a bad day, might be tempted to get in on that action. Instead, the villain is a bland arms dealer named Mr. White. CBS reportedly refused to use any classic Spider-Man villains because they wanted to keep the show grounded in reality but the minute Spider-Man crawled up a skyscraper for the first time, the network should have forgotten about trying to keep it real.
To repeat what I said in my review of Spider-Man, Nicholas Hammond is miscast as everyone’s favorite webcrawler. Hammond is likable but he doesn’t come across as being at all insecure and it’s Spider-Man’s insecurities that distinguished him from other comic book heroes. Spider-Man Strikes Back also suffers because it’s clear that much of the Spider-Man footage was reused from the pilot film.
I still enjoyed watching Spider-Man Strikes Back, though. When I was a kid, Spider-Man was my favorite and, even in something like this, it’s still fun to watch him climbing up buildings and webbing up crooks. Though there’s nothing cinematic about Spider-Man Strikes Back and it’s clearly just an extended episode of a TV show, I still liked that the climax took place in an preserved old west ghost town. That was just strange enough to work.
Though Spider-Man Strikes Back was not as successful at the European box office as Spider-Man, it still did well enough that one more feature film would be crafted from the Spider-Man TV show, Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge.