The Cannon Film versions
The chronology of a film that could have been.
By Matthew Daniels
Link to this page : www.cannon.org.uk/spiderman.htm
That's a copy of the text in a note sent to Menahem Golan which was attached to the November 1985 Ted Newsom and John Brancato script for Cannon's Spider-Man.
When I first saw Cannon’s Spider-Man I was glad that it was to talk about the untold part of Spider-Man’s movie history. But I was disappointed that it had very little to offer as to what the movie was about. Soon I found a book called Spider-Man Confidential by Edward Gross that explained the history of Cannon’s Spider-Man. The main reason it never got made was always about Cannon’s financial problems and the numerous script rewrites. I wish that this will provide any Cannon or Spidey fan a look of what could have been Spiderman’s first movie adventure.
Menahem Golan (AKA “Joseph Goldman”, Spider-Man writer) and Yoram Globus
Albert Pyun, Joseph Zito and Tobe Hooper
Ted Newsom, John Brancato, Barney Cohen et al...
...The Script Chronology
First story treatment 1985
Writer: Leslie Stevens
Director: Tobe Hooper
Summary: Summary: Peter Parker is an ID Badge photographer working for the Zyrex Corporation, run by Dr. Zyrex. The corporate scientist intentionally performs experiments on the unsuspecting Parker, subjecting him with radioactive bombardments. The result of radioactive bathing, possibly with a spider in the way, turns him into a half-human, half-tarantula eight- legged hybrid. Zyrex tempts the monster “Spiderman” to join his master race of mutants. “Spiderman” refuses to join him, and spends most of the story battling one of his mutants after another in Zyrex’s laboratory basement.
First Draft Script 1986
Writers: Ted Newsom and John Bracato
Director: Joseph Zito
Summary: The film starts with Doc Ock trying to recreate the Fifth Force in the basement laboratory of the University of New York. He then informed by the deans that he’s late for his class, as for nerdy Peter Parker rushing to there before time runs out. He talks with love interest Liz Allen who teases him and then Flash Thompson bullies him. After school when Harry Osborne pulls a prank in the school library, Peter tries to apply to the Daily Bugle as a photographer. Later that night while Peter spends time with Uncle Ben and Aunt May, Doc Ock tries using the “waldos” (mechanical tentacles) to further explore the Fifth Force when a tiny spider got caught in the way and caused the whole laboratory basement to implode. That morning Peter sneaks into the restricted lab site to photos for J. Jonah Jameson who happened to be at the site. While snapping some shots, the tiny spider now dosed with radioactivity swings onto Peter’s hand and bit him before dying. Doc Ock gets hospitalized with the waldos still attached to his chest. The Heads of the university come to visit him and tell him that they are firing him. Enraged, Doc Ock kills one of them with the waldos and escapes the hospital. JJJ is not impressed with the photos Peter had. Soon he starts to notices something weird and begins to test his newfound powers. In order to make money, Peter (while wearing a rubber fly mask) fights Hulk Hogan and wins. Hulk then suggest show business to Peter and finds a manger who gets him on The Tonight Show with David Letterman. First Peter changes his costume to the one we all know Spidey from.
Spidey is enjoying his newfound fame after doing David Letterman. He’ drinking champagne at disco clubs, flirting with other girls that he ignores one thief who gets by him. Peter gets home to discover a thug has murdered his Uncle Ben. Spiderman catches him at an abandoned warehouse. When he caught the thug it was the same thief he let get away earlier. Peter is now guilty of irresponsibility.
While Spidey was enjoying the high life, Doc Ock tries to get the things need to rebuild his anti-gravity machine. When told he needed money, Ock sets out to rob banks. With everything now paid for, he sets out to rebuild his machine. Once he starts testing it, electronics starts exploding, roads begin to turn into quicksand, and people are momentarily floating in midair.
During sometime, Peter is having difficulty balancing his life. One as Parker dealing with school, his friends and romance with Liz Allen and the other as Spiderman whom The Daily Bugle, under the command of JJJ, has him branded as a criminal.
The climax takes place at the science university building where Doc Ock has brought his machine to show off the world. Liz gets in the building nearby while Spidey confronts the insane Dr. Octopus. Ock activates the machine, which causes the entire building to lift up into the air as Spidey Octopus fight on the surface of the Empire State University building. Doc Ock gets vaporized by the energy cloud while Spidey tried to deactivate the machine. Spidey and Liz and a university professor (named Roz who tried to stop Octavius from the beginning) escape as the E.S.U. building crashes into Central Park.
The last scene is Peter Parker and Liz Allen kissing and walking off into Washington Park holding hands.
Second Draft Script 1986
Based on the first Draft
Writer: Barney Cohen and Joseph Goldman (Menahem Golan)
Based on draft by Ted Newsom and John Bracato
Summary: Pretty much the same as the one above, with exception that in this version Doc Ock has a catchphrase: Ookey dokkey (LAME), and a comical sidekick named Weiner who performs acts of criminality for his boss. One of the crimes he does is responsible for the death of Peter’s Uncle Ben, thus tying the connection between our hero and villain. Menahem Golan added very little to his own version of Spiderman. His “contributions include JJ referencing Spidey to “The Hillside Strangler” and making him for like Charles Bronson. For example: Peter parker is humiliated by Flash at a school disco and steals his girl. He gets his revenge on Flash as Spiderman who beats him to a pulp afterwards.
New Second Story treatment 1989
Writer: Don Michael Paul
Director: Albert Pyun
Summary: Same outline as past two, except the villain is The Night Ghoul, a combo human and vampire bat via genetic manipulation (for example a poor Morbius rip-off). The creature was originally a scientist who sets out to avenge the death of his group of scientist friends who were murdered. From I’ve heard, it’s very bloody and violent.
Third and Last Draft (at Cannon) 1989
Writer: Ethan Wiley
Director: Albert Pyun
Summary: Peter Parker lives in the rougher part of Queens, a contemporary ghetto. He works for a disabled doctor (paralyzed from the waist down), a paraplegic who had been ostracised by the medical community because of practices they considered unethical. Because of this community refuses to finance him and his experiments which he considered incredible groundbreaking advances in genetic experimenting. Peter gets duped into working for him who he sees a father figure in him. Soon or later he gets bitten by a genetically mutated spider possibly one of the doctor’s experiments. Doc (let’s just call him Doc) discovered a by-product in one of his testing that becomes a super cocaine-type drugs that becomes very dangerous. In order to finance more of his experiments Doc sells the drug called T-Devil to mob. T-Devil would give the people who take it superhuman powers then ultimate high and finally cause their hearts to explode! Meanwhile Peter, who helped Doc with T-Devil unknowing, goes on the David Letterman show to showcase his powers, but gets humiliated by Letterman before given a chance. Soon the drug is killing many teenagers, many of whom Peter has associated with. Doc, who soon wants to walk again, creates and injects a dangerous serum using genetic scorpion DNA. When Peter realizes that he had a responsible hand in manufacturing the drug that has killed his high school friends, he realized that the father figure in Doc and kept faith in authority has betrayed him. He dresses up as Spiderman and heads for doc’s warehouse to confront him with the evidence. When he arrives, Doc has now become a half-human/half-scorpion monster. The two duke it out destroying the warehouse along with Scorpion Man. Peter takes an understanding that it wasn’t though any fault of his own, he didn’t look deeply enough that caused him to ignore the early warning signs that something wasn’t right. He then takes on the mantle of responsibility and becomes Spiderman.
Matthew Daniels talking with Ted Newsom, writer.
MD: When Menahem Golan wrote a screenplay based on you and Brancato's Spidey script (under his pen name Joseph Goldman) was the story the same except Golan made Spidey in your words "more like Charles Bronson."? Was more violent?
TD: Sheeeeit. Barney Cohen rewrote our script to Joe Zito's specifications. "I want there to be magic on every page," is what he told us. Neither of us had a clue what the hell he actually meant. I guess that meant--based on Barney's rewrite-- dumb it down, add an annoying sidekick, give the heavy a stupid catchline, and add some unwieldy action scenes. Both Barney's rewrite and our original are available on line if you look.
Golan's "rewrite" was not even a polish, just an excuse to piss on the fire hydrant and make it "his." The only-- ONLY--things he changed about Barney's version of our script were adding some idiotic dialogue ("He is so mad he’s crazy out of his wits!" "Maybe Spider-Man is the Hillside Strangler!"-- for Christ's sake. That, and in a dance scene at a school disco, he wrote a scene where Spidey beats the fuck out of Flash Thompson because Flash was messin' with the girl, and Spidey (or Peter) was jealous. Fuck.)
His input on the script was minimal. It was pretty much Barney's rewrite of our stuff, absolutely intact.
The on-line version of this script is usually listed as the "Cameron" script--but Cameron had nothing--ZERO--to do with writing it. This is precisely the same OK'd script that Joe Zito was prepping--precisely the same script submitted by Golan to Columbia in 1989.
Golan's "make him like Charles Bronson" comment is foolishness.
MD: Why did you decide to choose Liz Allen instead of Mary Jane of even Gwen
TD: We didn't chose Liz Allen-- John and I initially wanted to use Gwen Stacy, complete with her death at the hands of the Green Goblin. Stan was absolutely against it, for some reason. He was dead-set on using Dr. Octopus. *sigh*-- which both of us thought was-- well, too "comic-booky." The good/evil young/old father/son dichotomy of the Spidey/Goblin relationship was absolutely the right way to go. But Stan had written a 2 page outline and we were stuck with it.
We tried to get some of that back into the script via Octopus, but he's not really the same as the joyously insane Goblin.
We chose Liz Allen basically because after Gwen, she was a blank slate, a name we could use on a character of our own creation, rather than be limited to well-known attributes of a character in the comics. Mary Jane-- really, truly, she was not right for Peter right out of the gate. That's like a 14 year old having a 40 year old Raquel Welch fall for you. MJ met Peter at the right time in the comics-- the post-Ditko, nerd-becomes-OK-guy phase. Prior to that, the wimpy version of Peter would truly not have a chance in hell with a babe like MJ.
With "our" Liz, we made her into the sort of girl that each of us (if we'd been Peter Parker, or vice versa) would have been attracted to in college: pretty but not flashy; clever, smart, funny. I like women like that, and so did John (he married one.)
MD: Why isn't Norman Osborne in the movie? Was he gonna be in the sequel if there
ever was one?
TD: Well, Norman Osborne wasn't in it because the Green Goblin wasn't in it. We didn't think about a sequel at the time, but GG would have been the most obvious way to go
MD: I am an idiot in astro physics, so what was Doc Ock pursuing in that causes
all the weird shit?
TD: The Stan outline had Doc Ock trying to invent anti-gravity. Both John and I thought that was a goofy and illogical goal, but anti-gravity as a side-effect of something else sounded good.
Also, we both disagreed with Stan's take on Ock. "He has this terrible accident, he's disfigured, so he decides to become the greatest super villain in the world!" Holy Jesus. Name one real human being who gets totally disfigured or who goes crazy and decides to change their career path from, say, astrophysicist or butcher or upholsterer, to Greatest Criminal in the World?
So our take was to make Ock an insane parody of his pre-accident obsession-- a visionary with no bounds to reality of thought of humanity, someone who cared only for the pure ideals of science and truth. We used Edward Teller as the character template (really, a truly evil mad scientist).
I give John absolute credit for the "Fifth Force" concept, which I thought worked perfectly. The script explains it, I hope. Einstein postulated a hypothetical "Fifth Force" beyond the four forces known to science now. There's "the strong force," "the weak force" (I'm kind of vague on these), gravity and magnetism. But in Einstein's theory, there MUST be a yet-unproven "5th Force," a kind of cosmic glue, which interacts with the other four and keeps the universe together.
MD: Were you even going to get David Letterman or Hulk Hogan in the movie during
the time of the 80s?
TD: The object would have been to get Letterman and Hogan for the roles, yes. Casting never got that far, but we both thought it would've been good to anchor our Spidey in reality, the same way Marvel did with theirs in the 1960s and 70s.
Sincere thanks to Ted Newsom for his input.
Ted Newsom @ the IMDb http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0628399
More reading on Ted Newsom www.mjsimpson.co.uk/interviews/tednewsoma.html
Further reading on Spider-Man: http://originalvidjunkie.blogspot.com/2010/06/never-got-made-file-19-look-out-here.html
Cannon.org.uk would like to thank:
Matthew Daniels for his article and Ted Newsom for his invaluable contribution.
Link to this page : www.cannon.org.uk/spiderman.htm
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