July 14, 2011

Spider-Man! Spider-Man! Up On Netflix Then Gone Again!

As of this writing, Netflix subscribers can enjoy every single tintinnabulatin' episode of the weirdly wonderful 1967 Spider-Man cartoon. However, if you search for it and it's not there, do not panic. I added it to my Instant Queue the day it arrived on streaming, but the next day it was nowhere to be found. Subsequently, it seems to have been re-added and then taken off at least two more times. At least that has been my experience.

I have a frustrating history with this show, dating back to my childhood. How well I remember the long-ago Saturday Morning when, while manually turning the dial on my 13 inch set, Spider-Man '67 entered my consciousness for the first time. Unfortunately, the station was too far away to provide a clear signal and I could barely glimpse the Spidey magic through the forbidding snow. In those days, cavemen sometimes relied on rabbit ear antennas to improve tv signal quality. Sometimes, if you placed just the right amount of aluminum foil on the tips of the rabbit ears, positioned each rabbit ear just right, taped the rabbit ears to your head, stood on one foot, and held your mouth open just right, your signal quality would be almost perfect, at least for thirty seconds or so. Nothing I tried that morning worked, and for years I held in the sorrow of missing my chance to watch what I imagined to be the greatest entertainment spectacle of all time.

Then there was the time, in the late 90's, when, at a toy show, I acquired a fan-made set of the entire series. I was glad to finally fulfill a childhood desire, but gee, the quality of the prints was horrendous. I still longed to see Spider-Man '67 in all of it's glory, especially when I learned of the Ralph Bakshi connection.

That's why I was delighted when, in 2004, the folks at Disney came out with their dvd collection of the series, every episode restored to a quality that far surpassed my wildest dreams. I'm pretty sure I bought that set on release day, and it would have proudly remained a gleaming jewel in my collection forever, had an unfortunate series of events not led to what I now jokingly refer to as "The Great DVD Purge of Ought Eight."

Ever resolute in the face of personal disaster, I have rebuilt my collection, but Spider-Man '67 has eluded me. Long out-of-print and going for insanely high prices on the secondary market, the 2004 release is, in fact, one of the only dvds I have not repurchased. Instead, I have watched the occasional episode on YouTube and hoped that Disney might issue a second printing. You would think a dvd set that quickly went oop and was fetching up to $120 on eBay might get a second printing. Are you listening, Mickey?

All that doesn't matter though. Spider-Man '67 is on Netflix, and hopefully soon, it will stop teasing me and stay on my queue on a regular basis. This is truly a wonderful show. Sure, Spidey's costume design is awful and one cannot fail to notice that he is obviously swinging from clouds, but that Ray Ellis crime jazz score is superb, and the Bakshi episodes in particular show how sheer imagination can trump low budgets. The colors jump off the screen and it all has an air of that effervescent 60's atmosphere, back when comics, cartoons, and superheroes were exciting and fun to the max degree.

And you don't even need Reynold's Wrap to watch it.

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