Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

THE SPIRIT [telefilm]

Nana Visitor and Sam J. Jones
THE SPIRIT (1987 telefilm). Director: Michael Shultz.

"I think she's got the hots for you -- too bad you're dead."

Years before the terrible theatrical film, also called The Spirit, made in 2008, Will Eisner's comic book/newspaper hero Denny Colt was featured in this made-for-TV movie. After his good friend, a writer who was investigating some kind of art crime, is murdered, Officer Colt comes to LA [or a representation thereof] seeking his killer. Instead he winds up being shot and left for dead. Colt decides to let his enemies think he's deceased, and operating from an HQ in Wildwood cemetery, goes out to fight crime as the masked Spirit. Sam J. Jones is not bad at all as Colt/Spirit, and Nana Visitor is zesty as Ellen Dolan, the police commissioner's (Garry Walberg) daughter. Laura Robinson is acceptable as P'Gell Roxton, the bad girl of the piece, although perhaps not the best casting choice. The stereotypical black character of Ebony, the Spirit's pal and assistant, has been updated to a "streetwise" youth named Eubie (Bumper Robinson) -- another stereotype? The Spirit is amiable enough, but one can see why it never became a series.

Verdict: Okay time waster but little else. **1/2.


Gary R. said...

I remember seeing this and being underwhelmed. Too bad that Bruce Campbell, in his younger days, was never cast as The Spirit. Along with a basic resemblance, Campbell's usual comic-heroic attitude would've been in sync with Will Eisner's conception of the character.

William said...

Interesting casting choice -- and you're right about Campbell's certain approach to the material. Based on this and the theatrical film, I suspect that The Spirit may simply work better on the comic book page than being presented so literally on film.

Thanks for your comments!