Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Amazing Spider-Man (1977) - The Con Caper

Spider-Man doesn't have much to do in this episode.

Usually when you hear the words Spider-Man and con being used together, the con in question is a comic convention. But the cons referenced in the title The Con Caper are convicts, and this
episode of the short-lived The Amazing Spider-Man television series isn't much of a Spider-Man story. There's hardly any Spider-Man in it, but it is enjoyable as a '70s TV crime story. 

Directed by Tom Blank and written by Gregory S. Dinallo and Brian McKay, the episode begins with former politician James Colbert (William Smithers) being released on parole after serving 14 months in the East Field Correctional Institution for a violation of campaign law. Colbert is banned from serving in politics, but he still wants to help the public, and the first thing on his agenda is prison reform. He has seen what prison conditions are like firsthand, and he intends to get them improved.

The Daily Bugle newspaper journalist Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammond) supports Colbert's push for prison reform, and so does his co-worker Rita Conway (Chip Fields), who has a history with Colbert and a deep respect for him because he was her first employer. Rita now works as the secretary to The Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson (Robert F. Simon), and at Rita's request and urging Jameson even stops being a blowhard long enough to vouch for Colbert to the board of corrections, despite the negative editorials he has published about the man.

Jameson's first impression was correct, because Colbert is actually the villain of this episode. While behind bars, he concocted a scheme - a con caper, if you will - with fellow prisoners Kates (Ramon Bieri) and McTieg (Andrew Robinson) that involves a riot that leads into several days of fake negotiations conducted by Colbert himself. The rest of their plan involves bombs, a prison escape, ramping a dirt bike from the roof of one building to another, and busting into a vault.

One of the demands the prisoners make during the riot negotiations is for a concert. A concert is held, but apparently they're fine with just any random person playing guitar for them because the musical act is a solo Rita, strumming and singing a song called "Who Am I". Rita gets caught in a bomb blast during her performance, but comes out of it unscathed so she can become a tied-up damsel in distress later on.

While Rita is having these tough times, Peter is figuring out that Colbert isn't a good guy after all, and while trying to get to the bottom of what's going on he ends up partnering with Julie Masters (Ellen Bry), a journalist from rival newspaper The Register, for the third episode in a row.

Foiling The Con Caper only requires a few moments of Spider-Man action. One of them is extremely low-key. A convict drives away from the prison while holding a gun to the head of a guard sitting in the passenger seat, so Spidey hops on the roof of the car and uses a web to raise the hood... risking the life of the guard in the process, since the surprise could cause the prisoner to accidentally fire their gun, but thankfully it doesn't. The convict stops the car, gets out, and Spidey webs his gun out of his hand.

Later we get an "exciting" moment where Spider-Man tries to walk on a cable that's running between two buildings, as if there's any danger if he loses his balance. Which he does, as apparently his feet don't stick to things very well when it's not convenient for the "action". Spidey falls! How can he get out of this? Well, his webs, of course. But instead of a shooting a web up to the top of the building, he decides to catch himself in a web net.

The "con caper" part of this episode is interesting, but it really fumbled the Spider-Man part of it all.

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