Opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the author, David C. Matthews (unless otherwise indicated). Images used are copyrighted by their respective owners, and appear under the "fair use" provisions of the copyright laws.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Episode Review: #7, "The Spider Man" - Sept. 30, 1967


A group of strange creatures - large, vaguely humanoid-shaped spider-like beings riding huge ant-like insects - traverse one of the jungles of Amzot.

Their leader orders a halt to the procession,,,

…they've arrived at the treehouse* residence of Zandor and his family.

Dorno, the only one we see at home, slides down a rope to the ground; the spider-men advance.

Tara calls out for her son…

…but we see he's in no position to respond.

Dorno finally wriggles out of his captor's grasp just enough to yell a warning: "Look out, Tara!"

She gasps as she sees spider-men charging her from both sides! "Gloop!" she calls.

Gloop and Gleep, sitting on the branch of a nearby tree, hear Tara's cry.

Gloop stretches down to pluck Tara out of the path of the onrushing ant-steeds…

...who collide painfully with each other.

Gleep blows a call on a shell-horn hanging from another nearby branch…

…a call which is answered by Igoo…

…and Tundro.

Zandor hears the alarm horn as well, and launches himself into action.

Igoo stands ready with a large tree-trunk serving as a club…

…clobbering an approaching spider-man and his conveyance.

The unhorsed (un-anted?) spider-creature confronts Igoo, wielding a staff. It fires a glob of some sort of sticky substance…

…which pastes Igoo's fists to nearby tree trunks.

From his vantage point high above the scene, Zok fires eye-beams which knock Igoo's assailant off his feet.

Another spider-man has seen his comrade's plight, and fires his weapon upwards (presumably at Zok).

But Tundro takes exception to the attack on his dragon-friend, and charges the spider-man, dodging blobs of paste and firing several energy rocks.

The fleeing spider-man fails to notice the cliff they're heading for…

…Tundro stops just in time to watch the attacker plunge to his fate at the bottom of the cliff.

Zandor and Tara embrace; "Are you all right, Tara?" "I'm all right… where's Dorno?"

"If the Spider Men have him, we've got to intercept them at the entrance to the Endless Caves!"

Zok screams his distress at Dorno's plight.

Meanwhile, Igoo strains at his bonds…

…uprooting the trees!

He's then able to throw off the trees themselves.

Zandor, flying on Zok's neck, lands in a clearing. He orders Zok to find Igoo, and follow. He then strikes out for the Endless Caves.

The Spider Men, still holding Dorno captive, are suddenly confronted by a large, very angry dragon, blocking the narrow pass they must cross to reach their home.

Zok is able to dodge the globs fired at him.

Zandor watches the Spider Men approach Zok, still firing their weapons. "Zok can't use his power ray because of Dorno. But if he can keep them busy, it may be my chance!"

Swinging Tarzan-style from a convenient vine, Zandor snatches Dorno from the grasp of his kidnappers.

"Come on, Dorno! We've got to move before they use their web-guns!"

But the Spider Men are already aiming their weapons…

"Zandor, look out!" But Dorno's warning comes too late: two well-placed blasts paste Zandor's hands to the rock wall! "Too late for me, Dorno! Run!!"

But Dorno, too, falls victim to the weird webbing.

Zok, watching from the pass, attacks the Spider Men with his eye-beams.

Two Spider Men jump from their steeds just as Zok disintegrates them.

Taking to the sky, Zok notes two more arachnid antagonists climbing the rocks to reach Zandor and Dorno. They notice him as well, and fire web-bolts that barely miss him.

"Zok! Get Tara!" Zandor calls out. Zok zooms off.

Tara, riding on Tundro's back with Gloop and Gleep, with Igoo following closely behind, answers Zok's summons.

From behind a boulder, Tara surveys the situation. "With Zandor and Dorno in their power, we can't make any mistakes!"

She quickly issues orders: "Tundro, you'll have to get past them and seal the entrance to the Endless Caves!" Tundro charges off to fulfill his mission.

But two bolts of web-stuff restrain Tundro between two cliffs.

Commercial break…

Still unable to break his bonds, Tundro fires off several energy rocks.

"They slowed him down, but they didn't stop him!" observes Dorno, as the explosive rocks slam into the rocks surrounding the mouth of the Endless Caves, causing a rockslide that blocks the opening.

Gleep comes bouncing up the hill toward the Spider Men harassing Zandor and Dorno.

The arachnoids fire their web-guns, but Gleep is able to avoid their bolts by assuming various shapes.

"Go help Gleep, Igoo!" implores Tara.

The Spider Men are once again attacking Zok, until Igoo lifts, from below, the rock they're standing on…

…and tosses them at the blocked cave entrance.

Zok finds Zandor and Dorno, freeing them from their web-bonds with carefully-placed power beams.

"You all right, Dorno?" "I'm fine." But the web-bursts splattering the nearby rocks, too close for comfort, remind them that they won't stay all right if they don't find shelter!

From their vantage point, Tara remarks to Gloop, "At least Dorno and Zandor are free!"

But below them, the Spider Men discover their presence. "They're shooting at us!" cries Tara.

One of the Spider Men notes a precarious-looking pile of boulders balanced on the edge of a cliff overlooking Tara and Gloop.

They use their web-guns to dislodge the rocks, to crush Tara and Gloop. "Look out, Gloop!" shouts Tara…

…but it's Gloop who protects Tara from a rocky doom, and the Spider Men barely escape becoming victims of their own trap, dodging the rocks that bounced off Gloop's back. "Thank you, Gloop! That shook them up, all right!"

The Spider Men resume their attack on Zandor and Dorno. "They haven't given up yet!" says Dorno. Zandor, slingshot at the ready, replies, "And neither have I!"

Firing energy rocks, and dodging web-bolts, Zandor tries to make his way closer to the mouth of the Endless Caves.

But the persistence of the Spider Men creates a standoff. "They don't know when to quit! It looks like we'll have to team up the Herculoids! Zok! Down here! Igoo… Tundro… Gloop… Gleep… Get ready!"

Tundro, finally freed from the web-bolts, responds to Zandor's call by stretching his ten legs to a towering height.

Igoo uproots a thick tree.

"Wait for my signal!" commands Zandor. Zok, Tundro and Igoo ready their weapons; Gloop stretches up to a pile of boulders on a nearby cliff, while Gleep is ready with his own little rock.

Slingshot cocked, Zandor shouts "NOW!!"

The cave mouth, already covered by the earlier rockslide, is now barraged by an onslaught of boulders, tree trunks, energy rocks, and power beams!

But are the Spider Men gone? Zandor uses Gloop as a perch from which to survey the site: "Looks like they managed to squeeze through those rocks!"

"You mean they're back in the Endless Caves?" asks Dorno. "Yes," answers Zandor, "and once they're in there, we'll never find them!"

"Someday I'll have to go in there and make sure they stop these raids!"

Tundro growls; patting his cheek, Zandor reassures him, "And if I do, Tundro, you can come with me!"

* I'm calling that strange, giant plant they live in a "tree" until I can find out for certain what it's called.


A quibble with the title: why "The Spider Man" (singular) when the story involves a goodly number of them?

A welcome change from the series of extraplanetary enemies the Herculoids have faced in recent episodes: a "homegrown" menace, so to speak. We do need an occasional reminder that the population of Amzot consists of more than just three humans and five animals, after all! So, so far we've "met" the Parrot People, the Monkey People, and The Mole Men. Now we can add the Spider Men (are there any "Spider Women"? or do they reproduce asexually? or what?) to that list. And I have a sneaking suspicion we'll be meeting more in future episodes…

I thought that was Gloop charging up the hill at Zandor and Dorno's nemeses, until Tara refers to him as "Gleep". Sounds more like Gloop to me.

Continuity blooper: when Dorno is captured, the arachnoid is covering his mouth with his upper left hand…

…but Dorno slips out of the grip of the Spider Man's upper right hand! (something I didn't notice until I was making these screencaps.)

The other day, I had an epiphany concerning the Herculoids; and it came courtesy of a writer who poses as a redneck movie reviewer.

Years ago, our local paper would run a syndicated column, "Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In".  (The column may still exist for all I know, but the paper no longer carries it.)  The author, John Bloom (a.k.a. "Joe Bob Briggs"), reviewed low-budget exploitation movies like Maniac Cop, Lobster Man from Mars, and Vampire Circus.

One of the things he'd complain about most often in these movies was expressed with the phrase, "Too much plot getting in the way of the story."  To illustrate his meaning: the "story" of Friday the 13th was the serial killer wiping out a group of teenagers one by one.  The "plot", then, was the mechanics of getting the killer and the victims together so the "story" can commence.  When those mechanics get too involved, or start trying to flesh out the characters beyond a brief description (the busty blonde party girl, the brainy geeky shy guy who can't get dates, etc.), then there's "too much plot getting in the way of the story." (Although JBB will also use the phrase to describe movies in which too much is happening that has nothing to do with the plot or the story, but were thrown in because the filmmakers thought it'd be cool to do 'em.)

Seen in that light, the "story" of every Herculoids episode would be Zandor and co. using their skills and fantastic powers against their enemies.  When you only have nine or so minutes to tell that story, there isn't much (if any) time for plot.  So it is with "The Spider Man": the spider men show up, kidnap Dorno, the Herculoids follow them back to the Endless Caves, mayhem ensues.

To facilitate the story, then, we note that Zandor already knew, not only of the existence of the Spider Men, but the fact that they lived in the Endless Caves.  And one of Zandor's last lines in the episode implies that the Spider Men make a horrendous habit of conducting raids upon the other races of Amzot.  Why they targeted Zandor's family this time isn't explained, but it shouldn't be difficult to speculate.  Perhaps, if Zandor not only knew of the Spider Men's predations but attempted to stop them in the past, then their "visit" to Zandor's home was motivated by revenge.

So, as much as I complain about some stories suffering from a too-short running time, maybe "The Spider Man" is one of the few that still works well as a nine-minute cartoon, and wouldn't necessarily be better for expanding the story. There is a fine line between "expanding" and "padding"...

I'm happy to see Tara given a bigger role in the story than usual… Hmm: a thought just occurred to me: maybe the reason Zandor has Tara staying behind every other episode (seemingly) is not because of the male-sexist attitudes of the writers, but because Tara (and Gleep, who's usually the one left behind to "guard" her) are the "reserves", so to speak. They're the ones who can come in and rescue Zandor and the others if things get out of hand, as they did this very episode. So maybe this is Zandor being a brilliant strategist.

…or maybe it really is Zandor just being a male-sexist pig.

The closest we have to an "Oh, come ON!" moment is when we see Tundro stretching his legs:

Okay, I can accept that he shoots energy rocks out of his forehead horn; I could probably even speculate on how, if pressed to do so.  But stretching his legs 20 feet or so?  Nuh-uh!

Notice that his legs remain the same width as they grow; they're somehow adding mass.  From where?? (They'd have to, to continue supporting his weight at that height - and I'd say Tundro weighs at least as much as, if not more than, a full-grown bull elephant.)

And, ultimately, for what?  The next time Tundro appears, he's apparently down to his normal height. So what was the purpose of showing him doing that?  With budget and running time at a premium, this was a waste of both.

And you know you've come to the end of the review when you get to the Tara pic:

I just like posting pics of Tara…

1 comment:

  1. You bring a good point there with Joe Bob Brigg's argument of "too much plot getting in the way of a good story". I've seen a number of movies (including a few horror flicks) that were way too plot heavy and the result bogged down the story. The best example, imo, is the Halloween remake by Rob Zombie. He practically went with an origin story on how Michael Myers became the monster and, to me, it pretty much ruined it. The original version by John Carpenter worked better because its far more scarier when the murder in question has no logical reason.

    That said, its even harder to convey a story when you've only got nine minutes or less to tell it. With "The Spider Man" episode (maybe they should have gone with The Spider People or something other than nearly infringing on another character with the same name), Zandor offered some details to their methods without weighting down the episode. This allowed the viewers at home to connect the dots themselves without having to stop everything to explain the who, what, when, and so on.

    Also, I do agree with you on Tundro's leg stretching. I saw the episode and even I felt that was a heck of a leap. ^^; As for the Tara being left behind to be the backup just in case, I have seen some episodes where she did come in for the rescue but I wish the series would have offered more of that. Again, its just one of my nitpicks.

    Another great review David and I certainly liked the first picture of Tara at the end of the review. ^_^