Tag Archives: David White

Spider-Man (1977, E.W. Swackhamer)

Someone is mindcontrolling upstanding citizens and making them commit daredevil bank robberies in broad daylight. While New York’s finest detectives–cigar-chewing Michael Pataki and his nitwit sidekick Robert Hastings–are on the case, they soon get some valuable assistance from Spider-Man!

This television movie–a pilot for a series–introduces Nicholas Hammond as the hero. He’s a vaguely annoying, wisecracking suck-up graduate student who intrudes, then gets confused when he bothers people. It’s kind of awesome, since Hammond acts obvious to his behavior. He just walks around with a goofy grin imposing on people. He doesn’t get many subplots in the movie–he’s constantly in search for forty-six dollars to get something for his attic science project, the movie never reveals what he’s making. It’s just something to give Hammond some dialogue when he’s not (ostensibly) in his red and blue longjohns climbing skyscrapers.

Alvin Boretz’s teleplay is pretty weak, but it could be a lot worse. It’s clear it could be a lot worse because Boretz’s writing is so much better than Swackhamer’s direction. With the exception of one special effects sequence, saved by Aaron Stell’s editing, Spider-Man is never visually exciting. Even though Hammond’s clearly overjoyed with his superpowers (he has a convientient dream sequence cluing him into their radioactive arachnid origins), none of that enthusiasm carries over to his cavorting around. Instead, it’s just weak composite shots and stuntmen on wires failing to appear to scramble up buildings.

There are a handful of exceptions–that sequence Stell make or when Hammond foils a purse snatching–especially since the reused effects footage does make Spider-Man, always pausing and repeating movement (the same composite at different scales apparently), seem like a spider. Sadly, none of it keeps going in the third act, which is a rough, nonsensical sequence of events, with way too much of Pataki (who has a certain charm, but not enough of it) and of Thayer David’s self-help guru who knows something about the case.

David’s an unlikable creep, which does make the part function all right. Hammond goes to him for help with ostensible love interest Lisa Eilbacher, who doesn’t receprocate Hammond’s interest. Maybe because he’s chatting her up as her father (Ivor Francis) is losing his mind and committing bank robberies.

The first half gets a lot of help from the Spider-Man origin narrative, with Hammond hanging around the Daily Bugle and David White and Hilly Hicks. White’s fun when he’s berating the grinning, obtuse Hammond, with Hicks solid as Hammond’s champion. To some degree. It’s never clear if Hicks likes Hammond or just wants him to stop hanging out at the paper and annoying them.

As Spider-Man goes on, the plot disintegrates, Swackheimer’s direction gets worse, good characters disappear from the screen, replaced with Pataki or, worse, Hastings. There’s occasional character moments, but it’s a TV movie and they barely last half a minute. I suppose the movie does wrap up pretty succiently, even if when Hammond finally gets in the last word with White he inexplicably walks away from his ride. You’d think he’d have more respect for someone getting such a good parking spot in New York.

Some of Spider-Man is shot on location in New York; a lot of it is California. The New York exteriors are solid. The California ones not so much. But, again, it’s Swackheimer’s fault. He really doesn’t have any good ideas for the movie. Especially not showing the bad guys are bad by shooting them from low angles.

Spider-Man is never really offensive, it’s just lukewarm, unambitious, and confused. Is Hammond supposed to be likable because he’s a goof or is likably goofy? If he’s so unreliable, what’s he doing running a lab and getting his Ph.D.? Why does he reference his lack of income when hitting on Eilbacher? All good questions, all ones Boretz’s script ignores.

Still, it could be a lot worse. And goofy or not, Hammond’s a perfectly solid Spider-Man.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by E.W. Swackhamer; teleplay by Alvin Boretz, based on characters created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; director of photography, Fred Jackman Jr.; edited by Aaron Stell; music by Johnnie Spence; produced by Edward Montagne; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Nicholas Hammond (Peter Parker), Lisa Eilbacher (Judy Tyler), David White (J. Jonah Jameson), Michael Pataki (Captain Barbera), Thayer David (Edward Byron), Hilly Hicks (Robbie Robertson), Robert Hastings (Monahan), Ivor Francis (Professor Noah Tyler), Larry Anderson (Dave), and Jeff Donnell (Aunt May).


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Intruders (2015, Adam Schindler)

Should Intruders be good? It should be better, no question, but should it be good. It’s about an agoraphobic (who’s an agoraphobic solely as part of the film’s gimmick) who has to fend off intruders into her home. Beth Riesgraf plays the agoraphobic. She’s quite good in the first act, then she loses her own movie to one of the villains. Because it turns out Riesgraf isn’t a damsel in distress and is able to return the intruders’ ferocity.

I’m trying to give the spoilers a wide berth, but Riesgraf doesn’t whether their reveals well. Partially because it’s terribly written and terribly directed, partially because she just doesn’t. At the same time, writers T.J. Cimfel and David White–along with director Schindler–give Jack Kesy a whole bunch to do. He goes from being “vicious redneck #1” to Sherlock Holmes Jr., complete with qualifications to his attack on Riesgraf and her response. It’s exactly where Intruders shouldn’t go. It isn’t capable of asking big questions. It’s capable of offering working television actors a nice change of pace in a reasonably well-directed thriller. And I don’t think Intruders necessarily wants to ask big questions, but shutting Riesgraf out of her own movie to showcase Kesy’s acting? It defaults and becomes a pain to watch.

Vaguely amusing support from Martin Starr as a psychopathic thug (with what appears to be a glued on lumberjack beard). Rory Culkin’s good as Riesgraf’s flirtation, though he eventually just becomes the film’s damsel in distress (which it probably could have gone further with, but didn’t). Kesy’s fine. Riesgraf ranges from great to weak. But there’s nothing she could do after a certain point. The script breaks both Kesy and Riesgraf’s characters, his for the better, hers for the worse. Neither move helps the film at all. It’s just to drag out the narrative.

Schindler’s got some solid directorial moves on Intruders. He knows how to make a limited budget seem bigger, he does fine with the actors. Bad music by Frederik Wiedmann. Eric Leach’s photography is competent but lacks any personality.

Some of Intruders is pretty good, but when it goes bad, it doesn’t stop. Is that a saying? It is now, I want to be done with Intruders.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Adam Schindler; written by T.J. Cimfel and David White; director of photography, Eric Leach; edited by Brian Netto and Schindler; music by Frederik Wiedmann; production designer, James Wiley Fowler; produced by Lati Grobman, Erik Olsen, Jeff Rice and Steven Schneider; released by Momentum Pictures.

Starring Beth Riesgraf (Anna Rook), Martin Starr (Perry Cuttner), Jack Kesy (J.P. Henson), Joshua Mikel (Vance Henson) and Rory Culkin (Dan Cooper).


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Madison Avenue (1962, H. Bruce Humberstone)

Madison Avenue somehow manages to be anorexic but packed. It only runs ninety minutes and takes place over a few years. There’s no makeup–which is probably good since Dana Andrews, Eleanor Parker and Jeanne Crain are all playing at least ten years younger than their ages.

Director Humberstone doesn’t do much in the way of establishing shots–I think there’s one real one. Most of the exteriors are obviously on the backlot (even the real one is probably somewhere on the studio lot). He does have some decent transitions from interior to interior, but he never visually acknowledges all of the time progressions.

And there’s no real conflict. Andrews is an ad man who loses his job and tells his ex-boss (an extremely amused Howard St. John) he’s going to come get his accounts. To do so, Andrews has to team with Parker. The problem with Avenue is its actors are good, its script has some good scenes, but there’s no depth to it. Norman Corwin can write decent back and forth banter, just not a real conversation.

Parker’s got an unfortunate arc, but her performance is fine. She’s really good at the beginning. Andrews is appealing and doesn’t look fifty-four. He looks about forty-five, but he’s probably supposed to be playing thirty-one. Crain looks more contemptuous of her material than the other leads; she does okay.

Nice supporting turn from Kathleen Freeman as Andrews’s secretary.

Avenue’s a studio picture fifteen years too late.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by H. Bruce Humberstone; screenplay by Norman Corwin, based on a novel by Jeremy Kirk; director of photography, Charles G. Clarke; edited by Betty Steinberg; music by Harry Sukman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Dana Andrews (Clint Lorimer), Eleanor Parker (Anne Tremaine), Jeanne Crain (Peggy Shannon), Eddie Albert (Harvey Holt Ames), Howard St. John (J.D. Jocelyn), Henry Daniell (Stipe), Kathleen Freeman (Miss Thelma Haley), David White (Brock) and Betti Andrews (Katie Olsen).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 3: BARONESS.

A World of Difference (1960, Ted Post)

It’s another man in a weird world “Twilight Zone” from Richard Matheson. This time, Howard Duff is a regular American middle class guy who all of a sudden wakes up in a world where he’s an actor playing that regular guy.

There’s a lot of great panic from Duff–he’s startlingly effective. Matheson and director Post keep finding ways to make it even worse for Duff. Post’s direction Eileen Ryan’s scenes (as Duff’s alternate universe wife) is outstanding.

Matheson’s script leaves a lot unsaid, including any explanation for Duff’s character losing it, but the episode’s best moments are the ones when Duff visually responds without a dialogue. The madness plays across his face.

After Ryan departs, David White takes over as a somewhat supportive ear (another Matheson “Twilight Zone” norm), but he’s nowhere near as compelling. When Ryan starts doubting reality, she’s wondrous.

Besides a rush finish, Difference is excellent.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Post; written by Richard Matheson; “The Twilight Zone” created by Rod Serling; director of photography, Harkness Smith; edited by Joseph Gluck; music by Van Cleave; produced by Buck Houghton; aired by CBS Television Network.

Starring Howard Duff (Arthur Curtis), David White (Brinkley), Frank Maxwell (Marty Fisher), Eileen Ryan (Nora Reagan), Gail Kobe (Sally), Peter Walker (Sam), Susan Dorn (Marion Curtis) and Bill Idelson (Kelly).


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