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Spider-Man
The '67 Collection

review by Zach B.

 

 

Starring The Voices Of: Len Carlson, Bernard Cowen, Peg Dixon, Gillie Fenwick, Tom Harvey, Paul Kligman, Paul Soles, Chris Wiggins

Starring: 1,144 Minutes

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $59.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, Dolby Digital Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (9-18 scenes per disc), Six-Disc Set

Released: June 29th, 2004

 

 

No doubt being released to cash in on the guaranteed summer blockbuster "Spider-Man 2," those who love nostalgia and cartoons of yesteryear are probably overjoyed that Buena Vista has now released "Spider-Man: The '67 Collection." This six-disc set features every single cartoon of the series (making for fifty-two episodes total), which aired from 1967 until 1970. And we should all know what this series focuses on, right? Peter Parker is an ordinary guy by working for the Daily Bugle, but he is also the crimefighter Spider-Man - all thanks to getting bitten by a radioactive spider. Spidey battles all the bad guys you know and love (or hate with a burning passion) - The Green Goblin, The Rhino, Mysterio, Dr. Magento, Dr. Octopus, The Vulture and a few more.

Let's face it though: this original cartoon series starring the beloved superhero (which actually came on the scene a few years after the comic debuted) is probably best remembered for all the wrong reasons. The most obvious is the insanely catchy theme song, which you all love but should really be considered a guilty pleasure. Honestly - the chorus singers belting it out are annoying, the lyrics are incredibly cheesy and the tune - a simple, repetitive ditty with no real melodic depth - is probably brilliant if we still can't get it out of our heads decades later. Dammit, I really don't know whether I should love it or hate it. But so many of us know it somehow or another.

Then of course there's the animation and quality, and all the back story that goes with it. This show wasn't well animated to begin with, and it only got worse. The animation style is noticeably jerky - it's not always smooth, there isn't much of a flow to it and it's even pretty static at times - it's almost as if some of the characters are just sliding in the frame. There is also the voices not always matching the mouths - all of this is actually pretty laughable and definitely amusing. The series was also known for recycling shots - even ones from older episodes. This happened quite a bit during the later years when the show's budget got even smaller. In a way this became the series calling card (just like "Space Ghost Coast 2 Coast"), but who can forget the psychadelic colors and trippy art the show featured? (That's how you know it came from the 60s!) And who do we have to thank for that? One person who deserves the kudos is cult animator Ralph Bakshi, who cut his teeth on this show as he was a heavy force on the seires during its later years.

But does this all make it a good cartoon show? Not really - but it adds to the entertainment factor. Even though I really like Spider-Man as a character, I'm not really big on this classic series (I definitely prefer the series from 1994 that ran on Fox, which I thought was great). I'm an 1980s child, so this series was really before my time and I don't think I can appreciate it in all the same ways some people do (but I do understand the connection - more on that shortly). While I did view several episodes on this set, I was actually exposed to the series before thanks to the power of syndication (and I wasn't really in love with it then). As a TV show, none of it really strikes me as being memorable (well, except for the animation and theme song).

I guess the voice acting is pretty decent and fitting for a show like this (but I find Paul Soles having too much of a gruffy voice for Peter and Spidey), but the stories and dialogue are beyond ludicrous. Rich dialogue trancends the ages, but the words spoken on this series... okay, this is a cartoon we're talking about so maybe mentioning rich dialogue is a mistake, but things said are often really corny and livid (maybe some cheeseball lines are memorable, but in a bad way - and why must characters explain things that are happening on screen most of the time?). As far as plots go, this really isn't great storytelling. A lot of the characters in the show come across as too dumb, and the action springs into high gear quickly. There isn't much of a set-up in these stories, and some occurances are just random and direct - the assembeling of the narratives is poor and doesn't usually leave things to sink in. We're meant to go with the flow, but it soon becomes a lot of the same after awhile. And of course Spidey will save the day all the time - going in we know how it'll play out. The villains in the show though aren't menacing, and Spidey's interactions and rivalries with them can be a bit dull. Build-up, mystery and tension matters - the show often tries to have at least mystery and tension but doesn't usually pull through with those elements.

I know there are legions of you out there who love this series and don't mind all the flaws - hell, that's probably a lot of the appeal and overall charm. But I'm sure your love is linked to the nostalgia of childhood, and how you spent so much time watching the show and loving it to death then - not even realizing its flaws, but embracing it and talking about it to death your schoolyard friends. That I can certainly respect and appreciate, and that part I get - I'm sure we all feel that way about at least one television program in particular. And even though some of us have grown wiser about the content of the programs we used to love and recognized that they're far from perfect ("Full House" was corny jokes and manipulative sap after all!), we can't help but love them anyway - it's almost as if we consider media artifacts as people. Anyway, all of this is probably a law of nostalgia and popular culture.

Hang me if you must that I don't find this to be one of the greatest cartoon shows of all time, but I think existing at a certain time when it comes to many (but not all) shows does matter - it is often linked with something more personal, as if we're transported back to a place we can't go again or rediscover certain feelings. I didn't mean to get so deep, but we can't disregard these types of reasonings - we often love something that we grew up with. It's part of the attraction and the overall bond - perhaps there are some things we don't grow out of. But I don't think "Spider-Man" was a great cartoon to begin with, and time certainly hasn't helped it at all.

 

 

All the episodes are presented just as how you remember them - 1.33:1 full screen. These episodes have been digitally mastered (and they're still in color!), and I was really impressed how great these transfers looked. They're not perfect, but the overall image quality doesn't look as if it is from the late 1960s. There are some things to be found on the prints of the episodes of the cartoons - like specks, dirt pieces and blemishes. But they're not in an abundance, nor ever too distracting. Even if the animation isn't great, the colors look pretty decent. Nothing exactly stands out, and while the color palette was limited on the series, the colors do look good overall. The episodes don't look too grainy either, but the contrast seems to be a bit high as there is a good deal of noise. I think if you're a fan, you'll be really impressed by these.

 

All the episodes have English mono tracks, and they all sound good - even if there isn't much to say about them. Of course the dynamics are very limited on these, but these tracks sound rather crisp as there is no distortion or cackling whatsoever. Everything sounds fine - the show's music, the theme song, the overused and dumb sound effects and the voices - it all blends in together with much simplicity. And while nothing individual stands out on the tracks with the sound portions, I was surprised to find that the fidelity was pretty high on these episodes too. Very fine work here, and there are English subtitles and English closed captions to boot as well.

 

Some interviews are a retrospective would have been nice, but there's nothing other than some Sneak Peeks (AKA the usual trailers Disney tries to cram down our throats in all their releases). However, there is a decent written introduction by Spidey creator Stan Lee in the set's booklet (which, might I add, contains the complete theme song lyrics). However, Lee's introduction focuses on the character of Spidey and not the actual series. And if you've ever heard Lee speak, it's the same schtick - pretty much word for word.

 

I am a fan of everyone's favorite webslinger, but I'm not sure if I can exactly appreciate this cartoon series the way a lot of you do. If you're a fan of this series, then you're probably going to get your hands on this. The episodes look pretty nice despite their age, and the sound is fine - but the lack of extras is disappointing. However, you do get every single episode from the series for a pretty decent price making this a rather solid deal. Go nuts, webheads!