Movies That Never Were – Cannon Films Spider-Man Part 1

Arugably Marvel’s most famous character, The Amazing Spider-Man, has had a particularly troubled time when it comes to film adaptations. Such a troubled time of it that this article has to be split in to 3 parts so for the next few weeks we bring you the story the Spider-Men that might’ve been.

We here in the UK had a 1978 Spider-Man movie released in the cinema called Spider-Man strikes back followed in 1979 by it’s sequel Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge. These films however I’m exempting from this article as whilst they were released in cinemas here in Europe they were original a pilot and a feature length episode of CBS’s very short lived The Amazing Spider-Man TV series. I’m really not sure why we had the -ahem- privilege of seeing this on the big screen, and it is an interesting curio that I might dedicate an article later, it’s still not within scope of this article. By the same token I’m also going to exempt the Japanese 1978 completely unrelated Spidey TV series that also had a feature length episode released in Japanese cinemas.

With that preamble out the way let us begin our tale in 1983. Superman III had just been released and it hadn’t made a fraction of the money that Superman The Movie or Superman II made. This lead to a widespread belief in Hollywood that nobody wanted to watch comic book movies.

1984’s Supergirl, again a movie with a weird history as the UK release was in June 1984 with a runtime of 135 minutes whilst the US release wasn’t until November and was only 105 minutes long, cemented this theory. The comic book movie was done before it ever really got started.

Marvel, looking to make some money to help ease some short term cash problems they had, looked to licence Spidey out for his own movie. The only company interested was Cannon films. Cannon, ran by Manahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus, agreed to pay Marvel a scant $225,000 to have exclusive rights to make Spidey films for a five year period. The deal also guaranteed Marvel a cut of any profits the film might ultimate make and had a clause that should, for what ever reason, a film not be made by April 1990 the rights would revert back to Marvel.

I think we need a brief note on Cannon Films here… If you remember a truly awful 1980s movie chances are it was made by them. Their company worked on the idea that you should crank out as many films as possible, for as cheaply as possible, in the hopes that some of them would make money. They said that they expected 7 out of every 10 Cannon films to lose money but if the other 3 did well they’d make money. I reckon Cannon are definitely worth an article of their own too at some point whilst I’m down this rabbit hole of unmade and awful movies.

A director was attached, Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre infamy, and writer Leslie Stevens (who incidentally was the create of the great The Out Limits) was hired to do the screenplay.

This is where things went south for the movie VERY quickly. It turns out that the only bit of Spider-Man Golan and Globus understood was the name and that the name had some brand recognition. They’d never read a single issue however and were under a bit of a misunderstanding as to the idea of who Spider-Man was. They thought that Spider-Man was essentially a rip-off of The Wolfman so poor old Peter Parker would turn in to a giant murderous tarrantula on a full moon. No seriously.

It was with this totally wrong notion in that the script was written. The story for this is as follows (you can use google to find a script for this but seeing as I’m not sure where, legally, you’d stand on that I’m not going to link to one)…

ID Badge Photographer Peter Parker (seriously…) was intentionally bombarded with radiation by some mad scientist types who worked for an evil corporation lead by Dr. Zork. Dr. Zork (again this was a real script that someone paid for) wanted Peter Parker to join his army of mutant evil monsters. When Peter Parker refused he then had to fight his way out of trouble and presumably eventually cured himself from being a human tarantula. Nice to see this one staying so close to the source material isn’t it?

What happened next is the only time in Marvel movie history that Stan Lee himself vetoed the idea as it had zero in common with Spidey other than the fact the lead was to be called Peter Parker. After Stan Lee’s intervention Ted Newson and John Brancato were brought on board to hopefully reflect the Wallcrawler a little more accurately.

It did get as far as having a poster issued by Cannon which is the one you can see at the start of this article. And yes that poster really was issued to cinemas around the land as a form of a very early “coming soon!”

On that note we’ll leave our story here for this week. Next week we’ll see just how bad things can get and the week after that? James ” The Terminator” Cameron gets involved and our Webhead’s cinematic future is saved by the most unlikeliest of heroes.