Article #59!

September 30,2012


Horrors of the (Original) Spider Island!


The First Spider-Man Movie?


I’ve always been a sucker for a cheesy black and white monster film. There’s something intrinsically gratifying in watching these films. The acting is usually sub-par, the special effects are usually not that special, and the scares are few and far between. And when you put the entire package together, for some strange reason, it puts a smile on my face. Of course I’m not alone on this, we’ve all heard the phrase “so bad it’s good”, and we each harbor our own guilty pleasures. Now I’d like to share one of mine with you. Lucky you.


It seems like a good time to do so. We’re getting to that time of year when we celebrate the ghouls and goblins and other things that go bump in the night. It’s hard to believe that another Halloween is around the corner – especially for someone who routinely dresses in Batman pajamas. Without further ado, let’s begin our foray into the less-than macabre world of this 1960 silver screen offering…




I’m certain some of you more astute fans, particularly fans of Spider-Man, may recall that “Spider Island” can also refer to the island of Manhattan. In 2011 there was a massive Spider-Man related crossover event that was entitled (you guessed it) “Spider-Island”. In that storyline a ton of people in New York were given the exact same powers as Spider-Man, and wackiness ensued. Will this 1960 silver screen predecessor live up to the expectations of it’s 2011 Marvel Comics namesake? Not having read any issues from Spider-Island I can honestly say I have no idea. Judging from online fan reactions I didn’t miss much either.


Let’s begin the movie…




I am Gary. I am looking for dancers for Singapore.

Not just any dancers mind you – “special” dancers.





I am Georgia. I help Gary in his quest for dancers.

Yes, it’s just as exciting as it sounds.



Gary’s trying to put together a female dance troupe for a tour through, of all places, Singapore. I guess the folks in Singapore were dying for western female dancers back in 1960. Anyhow, we get to spend the next 15 minutes or so of this 78 minute movie watching girl after girl getting looked over by Gary and his assistant/main squeeze Georgia. It should be pointed out that Gary is a connoisseur of fine dance styles…




I am Linda. Watch me… uhm… dance?


Of course it’s not all low brow red-light district fare here. Heck no! We’re also introduced to a ballerina who auditions with about 2 minutes of twirling to music on a record she brought with her. How she could spin around for 2 minutes straight and not get dizzy I have no idea – but it doesn’t help her as she gets kicked out because, well, Gary’s not looking for ballerinas, as the image above clearly explains. I guess ballerinas wear too much clothing? To add insult to injury, they don’t even give the poor ballerina her audition record back. No job AND she loses her record. Life’s a bitch sometimes.



Having selected his dance troupe (10 in all, I think, I lose track of the girls in this film sometimes, they all look alike) Gary and company set out for Singapore. This being a “horror” movie, naturally things don’t go well on the flight… and I have to warn you, the audio dubbing in this picture rates somewhere between awful and ridiculous. Seriously, it’s really, really bad. In case the image below isn’t clue enough that Gary picked the wrong airline, you’re welcome to click on the picture below to open a film clip in a new window…



(the video clips are in .wmv format)




Isn’t it remarkable how the entire dance troupe survives a flaming nose-dive into the ocean by doing nothing more than screaming the entire way down? There’s a safety tip for you – if you’re ever on a flight going straight down in a flaming heap, just sit there and scream, everything will work out just fine! I mean, when did they even have time to inflate the life raft and collect the survival supplies? Heck, when did they even have time to get out of the plane? The stock footage clearly shows the plane going straight into the water, nose first – I’m no expert but that didn’t look very survivable to me.


We also find out that our friend Gary, the only male survivor of this cataclysmic crash, has a bit of a masochistic side. That and he really isn’t good at sharing.


Though exhausted from their ordeal the castaways are able to paddle to a pair of nearby islands. Clearly there are 2 islands, and given the 50/50 choice obviously the castaways end up paddling to Spider Island instead of the much less frightening neighbor island, Gilligan’s Island. Though well toned and muscular, the dancers do not have the stamina of their boss and resident chain smoker, Gary. The guy not only helps paddle to the islands, but he has to pull each of the girls to shore as well! Way to go dude!




Don’t worry, he’s only helping her to shore – she’s not drugged or anything.



Eventually Gary and the girls settle in for a good night’s rest. The next morning Gary’s up and exploring the island. Almost immediately he finds fresh drinking water and he wakes the girls and they start drinking. Once full they decide to explore their new home. One of the girls comes across an interesting tool and promptly shows it to Gary who displays his keen intellect…



(the video clips are in .wmv format)





Yes, that’s right, from this hammer Gary surmises someone on this island is surveying for URANIUM! Why Uranium, exactly? Why not gold or silver or dinosaur fossils or anything else for that matter? Well, it was 1960 and the height of the cold war. Uranium was used in the manufacture of atomic bombs, so I guess it could be that everyone had nuclear energy on the brain and Gary’s conclusion seems entirely reasonable given the era the movie was filmed in. And yes, one of the girls actually asked if you could eat uranium. And no, these aren’t the smartest girls in the world. The fact the girls adamantly trudge through this jungle in high heels should speak volumes on their intelligence (I’d have just broken off the heels to make walking through rough terrain a bit easier – just saying)…


Elated that there may be people on this island (and completely uncaring that they may be walking on an untapped radioactive hotbed) they trudge on and come upon a cabin. Could this be their rescue at long last? The girls think so as they eagerly run to the cabin and fling open the door…


The girls then scream and run away…


Why would they do such a thing, you may ask?




Meet the Professor. No island is complete without a professor – even a dead one.



Gary spends no time in carting the professor’s corpse away and burying it (man, what would they do without the guy?). Now fit for habitat the girls head back into the cabin, because, you know, it must be safe now that the body’s been removed. There’s no chance that the giant arachnid that killed the professor is still there, I mean it just wove a gigantic web. It’s a well known fact that once woven spiders generally abandon their webs – right?


So, the girls pretty much take over all the professor’s worldly possessions. They inventory the food, use his shower, divvy up his clothes and blankets, wash his dishes and read his diary! Oh the horror! Turns out the professor was looking for uranium, and he found the radioactive stuff on this very island, enough to make him supremely wealthy. Apparently blinded by joy he began doing his “happy dance”, tragically becoming ensnared mid-leap into the gigantic spider web directly in front of him.


Sure it sounds stupid, but how else do you explain how the professor ended up in that pose in the spider web??? What, the spider’s got artistic license or something???


Gary finds the professor’s gun and ammunition and decides to hang onto them. Good call Gary, after slapping around some of the girls earlier it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on any weapons that come your way. Before they know it night’s fallen. With it comes an unbearable heat and the girls decide to sleep in their underwear in and around the cabin (ah yes, night, the hottest time of day). Gary takes his shirt off and heads outside where Linda’s waiting…





…and obviously Georgia wasn’t too pleased. Blaming the heat for the sudden stirring of his loins, Gary decides it’s a nice time to take a walk away from the cabin of temptation…


…alone in the jungle… at night… after finding a cabin with a strung up human being… just before a thunderstorm is about to hit…


I know this is a B-horror movie and all, but just how stupid can you get? At least he remembers to take the gun with him.


So Gary trudges out into the woods – let’s see how he manages, shall we?



(the video clips are in .wmv format)




Get used to seeing Gary’s backside – from this point on you’ll be seeing more of it than his face, and that’s a fact.



So, yeah, guess it wasn’t such a good idea after all. You know, for a guy who carried all the girls out of the ocean, buried the professor, found fresh water and so on, Gary sure had a tough time fighting off the rubber spider. Guess the unbearable night heat was too much for his muscles – or something.


This clip is also a weatherman’s nightmare. I thought it was hilarious that while there’s a raging thunderstorm at the cabin, Gary, whom I can only guess walked all of 100 yards from the cabin, is bone dry. The storm literally brought the roof down at the cabin, but not a drop for Gary. That, dear friends, is one severely concentrated weather system.


It’s also funny that the radioactive, mutant spider bite was enough to kill the professor earlier, but for Gary it merely transforms him into a really hairy spider/human hybrid… a Spider-Man if you will…


Wait a minute here.


Bitten by a radioactive spider and obtaining characteristics of the creature… where have I seen that before?




Cue up one radioactive spider!





Induce radioactive spider bite (or in Gary’s case, radioactive spider necking)!





Ah yes, 1962, Amazing Fantasy #15 and the debut of the Amazing Spider-Man – a full 2 years after Horrors of Spider Island was released. Interesting coincidence there, eh? One can’t help wonder if Stan Lee was somewhat inspired after watching a badly dubbed low-budget horror movie to create one of the world’s most well known superheroes. The timing is certainly right. If so, thank you Steve Ditko for going as far away from the image on the above left as possible. Could you imagine if Spider-Man actually looked anywhere like Spider-Gary up there? Well, there was that story arc where Peter Parker mutated and looked more insect like, but that was (thankfully) very short lived.


So, let’s compare how our resident arachnid-men measure up. You’ve got Spider-Man with the proportionate strength and speed of a spider, a warning system called his spider-sense, he can climb up walls, spins a web, any size – and he’s got a cool theme song. Then you have Spider-Gary, who has a furry face with pointy teeth, claws for hands, and who can no longer speak English. Looks like Spider-Gary got the raw deal here folks.


I wonder how Spider-Gary will use his newfound powers. Spider-Man went into showbiz first off – Gary’s already in showbiz so he’s got an advantage there.


So, in the morning (because it was raining last night – at least around the cabin) the girls head out and look for Gary. All except for Linda, as punishment for her attempts at manhandling her man, Georgia forces Linda to stay behind at the cabin alone. Okay, I’m sure that works out well…




I am Linda, and I am auditioning for CSI: Singapore as bloated corpse #4. My head IS underwater, but don’t worry, I can hold my breath a real long time… ahem.


Spider-Gary has decided that he’s more interested in committing murder than showbiz. That would be a rather large departure from the Spider-Man mythos. After hearing Linda scream the girls rush back and find her dead. Stunned by this turn of events they pull her body out of the water with one of the girls taking a moment to cop a feel…




Thought I was kidding about the girl-on-girl action, but no, I wasn’t.


They bury Linda and later that day, the girls decide to rationally discuss their options…




I know what you’re thinking, but they’re actually fighting. Get your mind out of the gutter. Oddly enough, the blonde on top is the same blonde that felt up Linda’s cold corpse earlier. She’s an odd one, I guess.


Having come to the conclusion that they’d best just carry on with their lives, the girls stop fighting and we cut to ONE MONTH LATER!


Seriously, just like that the movie skips a month for no good reason. You wouldn’t even know it except one of the girls mentions it. It’s an absolutely useless plot point that does nothing more than tell you how useless a monster Spider-Gary is. So, in his first day of existence Spider-Gary kills one of the girls and then does nothing else for 4 weeks? What’s he surviving on all this time? Did he get stuck in his hollowed out tree house (seriously, the guy lives in a hollowed out tree)?


Anyway, the girls are still taking time to look for Gary now and again. After a month of searching they finally find Gary’s gun and the corpse of the mutant spider a mere 100 yards from the cabin. Remind me not to hire these gals for any search and rescue missions. You’d think a mutant spider corpse would have rotted a lot after a month out in the open, but this one looked just as fresh as ever. It’s almost like it was made of rubber or plastic or something.


Soon enough, in an attempt to move the plot along, the girls have visitors. Seems the late professor had associates who would periodically stop by and deliver supplies. Sure enough the girls encounter the two strapping young men.




I am Joe. I’m being held up by a half naked girl with an empty gun. It’s okay though, I’ve had much worse first dates.





I am Bobby. My method of dealing with women is much more effective than Joe’s.



Thrilled that they’ll finally be rescued, the girls decide to throw a party for the boys and surprise them with their “island costumes” (yes, they’re bikinis and underwear with flowers). Sure Gary is missing and presumed dead and Linda and the professor are pushing up daisies, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun!




I’d say something witty about the images above – but words escape me for some reason. And why am I in the mood for melons?



The party seems to go on forever. I think it clocks in at about 12 minutes of this 78 minute movie. Taken together with the dance auditions earlier it means almost half of this film is pointless filler. During the party Bobby gets to play around with pretty much each girl while Joe focuses on only one of them. Bobby makes a date with one girl to meet her by the cliffs later that night.


To recap. Bobby tells the girl, Gladys, to meet him alone… after dark… by the isolated cliffs… on an island where 3 people have died/gone missing… and where one giant killer mutant spider has already been found. I think Bobby went to the same school of logic as Gary.


Before his date a drunken Bobby continues to – ahem – enjoy the other girls’ company. At one point Bobby decides to tease a drunken Joe for only picking one girl when there are so many more to play with. Taking umbrage, Joe asks Bobby to discuss the point in detail inside the cabin…




One choreographed fight later and they laugh it off and Bobby goes to meet his Gladys by the cliffs. A short while later Gladys leaves the party and heads off to meet Bobby. Ah, young love, you know nothing on earth could possibly tear these two lovebirds apart. Well, almost nothing. It is a horror movie after all (I have to keep reminding myself that every 15 minutes or so when nothing happens). Gladys meets up with Bobby, only to find out he’s dead! Click on the image below to see the incredible action as Spider-Gary returns and chases after Gladys…


Incidentally, ladies please understand that Joe DOES NOT represent all of us men! I’d like to think that most men out there are a lot more chivalrous and intelligent that Joe was in this clip below. And in Joe’s defense, he is completely hammered.



(the video clips are in .wmv format)




Gladys is having a plane crash flashback after finding Bobby’s corpse.



I couldn’t stop laughing after watching this short stretch of “movie magic”. Where do you begin? There’s Joe, the hero, who TRIES TO USE AN EMPTY GUN! Then he gallantly ORDERS THE GIRLS TO GO HELP GLADYS AGAINST THE MONSTER WHILE HE RUNS BACK TO THE CABIN! Fat lot of good that did poor Gladys. Joe then RUNS THE WRONG WAY!!! He just came from the freaking cabin, how could he forget how to get there so quickly??? After finding Bobby’s corpse Joe then runs back the right way and is confronted by Spider-Gary and they fight it out. I guess Spider-Gary does have some augmented strength since he manhandled Joe’s attacks with some of the WORST CUT AWAY CLOSEUPS EVER! Seriously, you can tell Gary doesn’t have his makeup on in the long shots, and he’s fighting Joe in a relatively open area. Yet in close-ups Spider-Gary has trees and twigs almost hitting him on the head. It’s hilarious!


Joe manages to get to the cabin before the monster. Get this; Georgia also makes it back before the monster too. A monster that WAS RIGHT BEHIND JOE SECONDS EARLIER!!! Just how fast is Joe anyway? Or Georgia for that matter? Did Spider-Gary repeatedly trip and fall during the chase?


Spider-Gary breaks into the cabin and attacks Joe, almost killing him until Georgia intervenes. She lights a flare and the fire scares Spider-Gary. Sure, the guy’s brave against girls and drunk sailors, but a lit match – well, gee, he’s not Superman. My theory is that if any open flame got too close to Gary’s makeup he’d go up light a roman candle. Sadly the movie didn’t have the budget for that effect.


Thrilled that they’ve found Spider-Gary’s weakness, Joe orders all the girls to light up and they proceed to chase Spider-Frankenstein-Gary with their torches in a bid to, well, I don’t know what they were going to do actually. Spider-Gary is clearly stronger than all of them and their gun is out of ammo. Just what were they planning?





Ah, nothing says HORROR like when the bikini mob lights their torches to chase the monster.





Dude, that light’s murder on my contact lens!



Undaunted by Spider-Gary’s adept hiding techniques, the girls (and honorary girl, Joe) manage to herd Spider-Gary around until Spider-Gary just WALKS INTO THE QUICKSAND PART OF THE ISLAND. Apparently this was a part of the island Joe knew about, but that the girls had no idea even existed. So, in their month on the island the girls couldn’t find Spider-Gary OR the very large area of quicksand nearby… how did these girls manage to survive a month without pre-mutated Gary’s help is remarkable to say the least.


What’s weird about Spider-Gary’s demise is how he holds up his hands while walking into the muck, almost like he didn’t want to get the prosthetic claw makeup on his hands dirty. He’d trip and fall, get up and keep walking, all the while holding his hands up in the air.




It makes no sense because later on Gary actually falls into the muck, makeup and all, in his final death scene. I don’t know what else to say, except weird.




The producer told me not to get mud on the claws, and now there’s mud on the claws! My career’s finished!


There you have it, the very first Spider-Man movie. I don’t want to give the impression that Stan Lee used this movie as the basis of Spider-Man. Sure, certain aspects are similar, but as you’ve seen Spider-Gary is a very different beast from Spider-Man. It’s possible that Spider-Gary’s origin served as an inspiration for the origin of Spider-Man, however, as the timing of the movie’s release (1960) certainly comes close to Spidey’s debut (1962) with enough time in-between for character and story development. We all draw inspiration from different areas (heck, Hulk = Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Thor = Norse mythology), but what truly makes the creative endeavor is how we build on it.


Well folks, that’s all for now, until next time…