Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rare TV Flix:The Spirit (1986/7)

Yes, this is a thing.  Back in 1986, there was an attempt to turn a Comic Book into a TV Series.  That Comic Book- The Spirit!  20 years before it was royally-messed-up by Frank Miller, this one debuted on CBS.  How do I know what Channel?  Well, the chap/lass that provided the copy I watched took it right from their local CBS Channel (in Seattle) and posted it on the Internet.  Thanks alot!  Who is The Spirit?  He's a Hero of the Swashbuckling/Crime-fighting style that has no powers, but fights for his City.  He's the Spirit of the City- get it?!?  In this adaptation, he's played by Sam J. Jones.  Just over 5 years ago (really?!?), I mentioned how Sam had dark hair in the Film due to playing a role in this Film.  Now we're here.  Some interesting notes.  First, the Pilot was passed over in 1986 and only played on TV in 1987 after a Write-In Campaign by Comic Fans.  Second, this one was Written by Steven E de Souza.  Know him?  He Wrote The Running Man, Commando and Die Hard.  Mind you, he also Wrote Street Fighter, Beverly Hills Cop III and Judge Dredd.  It was Directed by Michael Schultz, who is one of many Directors to start out in Films (The Last Dragon, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and segue into doing TV work in the last Decade or so (Arrow, Gilmore Girls).  Here's another random Fact for you: one of the Producers was William Beaudine Jr, the Son of infamous Director William 'One Shot' Beaudine.  From Billy the Kid vs. Dracula to this- go figure.  Enough fun Facts, I guess.  To find out how this uber rare Film turned out, read on...
Our Hero is a Detective who's Partner is killed before his Book about Art Thievery can be published.
He follows the clues to a big City, but gets no help from the local Police.  He gets shot- alot.
He survives and is saved by a kid named Eubie.  In the Comics, he was 'Ebony White' and very racist.
Our hero takes on the identity of The Spirit to stop crimes and inspire hope.  He reveals himself to the Police Captain, but not to his daughter.  Future Love Interest?
He discovers that someone at the local Museum is copying artifacts and then stealing them.  Complex scheme much?
In a nice twist, the Owner is a Red Herring and this lady is the Villain instead.

Wow, so you can do Female Villains for The Spirit without having Sam Jackson dressed as a Nazi?
In spite of getting beaten up at every turn, our hero continues to fight. Can he stop the bombs?
He saves the day, but the villain escapes (due to the Police not surrounding the place).  He plans to keep fighting...except that this turned out to be a one-off.  Damn.  The End.
Drat- this was actually kind of fun.  It is hard to say how an entire Series would turn out based on just the Pilot.  Nobody remembers the Pilots of Shows like Seinfeld or Friends all that well.  That said, this one could have turned out to be interesting.  Considering all the stuff that got to be on for at least 1 Season, was this one out of the question?  Remember the Westworld TV Show?  Mutant X?  Hell, Rush Hour is going to be a Show next year!  Besides, it is Sam J. Jones- what else do you need?  The Plot is simple enough here and you get everything set up in the first half hour.  It is smooth, simple and innocuous.  Jones has fun in the role, playing up the machismo aspect, while also making him vulnerable.  If anything, they make him look too weak at times.  The fact that he wins out in the end makes it all work out.  It would have been nice to get a costumed Villain here, but oh well. This one could certainly use a little work, but it was a Pilot.  Ah, the things that could have been.  Incidentally, this Version has the Commercials on it still.  Included with the Film is this Beer Commercial using the likeness of a number of Copyrighted Characters like Rooster Cogburn and Indiana Jones.  Did they license this?
Next up, a crazy Art Film that ties into Age of Ultron.  A man, a wife and...a Wolfman?  Stay tuned...

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