Spider-Man: The Dragon’s Challenge (1981)

Released in Europe as a theatrical film, this 1979 TV movie is really episodes 12 and 13 of the show, “The Chinese Web.”

Director Don McDougall had the same experience when episodes of the Planet of the Apes TV series that he directed were re-released as the foreign theatrical films Farewell to the Planet of the Apes and Forgotten City of the Planet of the Apes.

Min Lo Chan, who is the former Chinese Minister of Industrial Development, has defected to the U.S. under suspicion of being a spy. An old friend of J. Jonah Jameson, he is staying with his niece Emily while he tries to prove his innocence. Spider-Man comes in to the story when Jameson asks Peter Parker to help and the journey to save Min Lo Chan will take our friendly neighborhood web swinger all the way to Hong Kong.

While the costume looks great — except for the web shooter — the show as always drags. That said, I would have been excited by the show coming back for more, as Nicholas Hammond claimed that there were plans to do an Amazing Spider-Man/Incredible Hulk TV crossover/comeback movie. Even better — Spidey would have appeared in the new black costume. Supposedly, Universal canceled the film, saying that Lou Ferrigno wasn’t available as he was filming Hercules, a fact that Ferrigno says is not true.

I always felt that this show would have done better if CBS hadn’t aired it as a ratings spoiler throughout 1978 and 1979, programming it against other shows instead of airing it regularly.

This would be the final theatrical film of Spider-Man released until Columbia Pictures acquired the rights in 1999. That said, I would have loved to have seen whatever Cannon would have made.

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