Superhero Shorts: Spiderman
Welcome to another edition of Superhero Shorts, where I feature a superhero themed short film and ask a few questions of its creator. This time around I’m going way back, all the way back to 1969 in what is quite possibly the first live action Spiderman movie ever, predating even the 70’s Electric Company shorts. This was the last of a series of 41 amateur short films created by Don Glut starting from when he was nine years old. As usual, you can watch this short below, but there is also a documentary featuring all of these shorts called I Was a Teenage Movie Maker. If you would like to get more information about Don Glut, visit his official website or Frontline Entertainment.
It’s hard to give a real review of this short because it truly is an amateur work of its time. The acting, sound dubbing, effects, are all obviously amateur. But when you look past the amateurish surface, you can see the work of a talented young filmmaker. The editing is quite impressive, especially when you look at the car chase in the latter half of the short. The use of the action figure for the webswinging scenes is charming, but it gets the point across, and the original music used for the score is very catchy. It’s absolutely an amateur film, but it’s impressive nonetheless, and it’s also campy fun to watch. But enough from me, let’s hear from Don Glut himself.
Bubbawheat: This Spiderman short was the last of these amateur films that you made, were there any other heroes or horror works that you would have liked to have made back then, but either never got around to, or just couldn’t figure out how to do within your means?
Don Glut: Actually, I hadn’t originally planned to make SPIDER-MAN. I had decided, after making ATOM-MAN VS. MARTIAN INVADERS (1967) – which was inspired by Republic Pictures’ old “Rocket Man” serials, but with my own original character – that I wasn’t going to make any more amateur movies. But I already had this Spider-Man costume that my Mom had made, so that I could wear it in the costume contest at the World Science Fiction Convention, which was being held in 1966 in Cleveland. It was my friend Bill Warren who, after much nagging, finally talked me into making one last film using that costume. I resisted but finally relented. I reasoned that, anyway, I already had the costume. Also, there was a Captain Action Spider-Man doll on the market that I could use for special effects scenes…and I could also buy a model kit that matched my brand new 1969 Camaro and that I could blow up… So I made SPIDER-MAN.
As to characters I’d considered but never filmed, I did toy with ideas of making THE BLUE BEETLE and COMMANDO YANK movies, both characters from comic books, and also an original Karate-based superhero I named the Black Belt. And, just before making THE ADVENTURES OF THE SPIRIT in 1963, which featured a number of costumed heroes, I was planning to make SUPERMAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE. I actually wrote a script for the latter, but project proved to be way too difficult and impractical, what with all the Edgar Rice Burroughs stuff going on in it; and I wrote a plot outline for THE BLACK BELT. But those projects never went any farther than what I’d written down and envisioned in my head. Also, while still attending USC film school, I’d planned to do another “Rocket Man”-type film titled TORPEDOMAN STRIKES, and a Frankenstein movie called TO BE FRANK, neither of which went beyond the scripting stage.
BW: Your work was featured in what you referred to as the “underground” cinema in the 70’s, do you remember what some of the other works were around that time? Were there many comic book films, or was it mostly horror or other genres?
DG: The so-called “underground” film movement was a 1960s phenomenon. Most of the “underground” films being made at that time were artsy, often very strange, experimental things, like the stuff Andy Warhol was doing. I don’t recall many of those films being in the horror or comic book genres, although, I recall off the top of my head, Warhol did a short called BATMAN DRACULA (Batman wasn’t in it) and also the feature-length TARZAN AND JANE REGAINED, SORT OF… However, a Chicago-based catalog that included four of my superhero movies – SPY SMASHER VS. THE PURPLE MONSTER, ROCKETMAN FLIES AGAIN, BATMAN AND ROBIN and CAPTAIN AMERICA BATTLES THE RED SKULL — also listed a title by one David Cronenberg. So I was in good company with someone who went on to make a number of very original mainstream horror movies.
BW; You’ve also written for many different classic cartoons and many that haven’t aged as well, is there any one show that you worked on that stands out as your favorite for one reason or another?
DG: I’m not particularly fond or proud of most of my TV cartoons. They were just jobs, cranked out to pay bills, and the usually poor animation made a lot of them hard to watch. Most weren’t written for the enjoyment of kids, but rather to appease the network censors – i.e., Broadcast Standards and Practices (BSP) – or, in the case of shows like TRANSFORMERS and G.I.JOE, to sell toys (basically half-hour commercials; we were instructed by our story editors to “push product”). They had to be written according to the show’s “formula.” I learned very early on – and the hard way — that if I wrote a script that was “special” in some way, a little different or wasn’t on a par with all the other “cookie cutter” episodes of the series, chances are I wouldn’t get another assignment. I do have some pride for a few of my animation scripts, like the Captain America and Sub-Mariner crossovers I did for the pre-network, syndicated SPIDER-MAN series (pre-SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS), my “Duck in the Iron Mask” episode of DUCK TALES and “Rumble in Old Detroit” for ROBOCOP.
BW: I was a huge fan of Ducktales and probably have seen that episode, it sounds vaguely familiar based on the title. You’ve had many opportunities to express your creativity, through filmmaking, writing, and music. What aspect of the creative process do you enjoy the most?
DG: I love making movies the most, with music probably coming in second. As far as movie-making goes, I’d say the aspects I love most are the casting process, the actual shooting of the picture and then watching it all come together step in post-production. With both movies and music you often have a finished product in your head before you actually write a single word or put down a note. But seeing and hearing how it all comes together, step by step by step, is – to me, anyway – an incredible experience. Then, when it’s all over and you walk away with a completed product that’s at least close to that original vision, that’s just tremendous.
BW: Is there anything that you’re working on at the moment?
DG: I’m always working on something. That’s one of the things that keep a person alive and vital. Most importantly right now, I’m involved in two motion picture projects – first, a female werewolf movie that is being made through my production company Frontline Entertainment, which I’ve written and will direct, and a Frankenstein movie based on five short stories from my anthology book TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN. As to the Frankenstein project, I’ve written the script and will direct some but not all of the episodes.
BW: And I ask everyone this question, what is your favorite superhero movie?
DG: Hard to say. I really like most of the new Marvel-based movies, especially THE AVENGERS. I loved some but not all of SUPERMAN: THE MOTION PICTURE (Christropher Reeve was fantastic as Superman, but I hated the Luthor and Otis stuff). And I have a real fondness for Republic’s SPY SMASHER and ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL serials of the early 1940s.
I’ve yet to watch any of the classic movie serials, but I do hope to at some point, it’s interesting to see your favorites ranging across such a wide range of time. Thanks so much for answering my questions, I look forward to watching I Was a Teenage Movie Maker sometime in the near future, it sounds fascinating. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.