The Spirit, the famous Will Eisner comic, is one of the most underrated heroes to come out of 1940. His exploits are simple and to the point. His love interests are smart, beautiful women. His side-kick is in poor taste. But we're not here to talk about the comic. We're here to talk about the 1987 film.
I've seen this movie before via a bootleg DVD, so when I saw that DC Universe had it on their streaming service, I was thrilled. This made for TV movie on ABC served as a pilot for a show that was never picked up. The movie was simple and to the point. It introduces all the main players, including Sam J. Jones as Denny Colt/The Spirit, Nana Visitor as Ellen Doran, Garry Walberg as Commissioner Dolan, and Bumper Robinson as Eubie. The ending shows our main antagonist getting away, indicating that there will be more. Alas, that never happened.
This movie, unfortunately, has a lot working against it. For starters, it's too reminiscent of the Green Hornet and Batman TV shows. Granted, there are at least twenty years between the two. But we're also coming off of other poorly received comic book movies, such as Superman IV and Howard the Duck. It wasn't until 1989's Batman when the general public would take superheroes seriously again.
The casting of Sam J. Jones — while an excellent pick — also predisposition this movie to be a camp film. Most of you will be familiar with Sam Jones from the Flash Gordon movie. The movie was absolutely panned but has since gained a cult following. Flash Gordon was pretty open with how campy it was from the opening titles, but this was before camp was cool. In the case of The Spirit, it just came out at the wrong time. Had it waited until the early 1990s, this could have been a viable option for a TV show.
The Spirit is by no means bad. Sure, the characters are one dimensional, the action is minimal, and the script can be too corny at times. But it does have some genuinely funny moments, and the cast works well with one another. The only downside is that there is no romantic chemistry between Spirit and Ellen, try as they might. The colors are bright and fun, as they should be for a superhero film, and the cinematography isn't bad either. Unlike the comic book movies of today, the camera isn't all over the place. Instead, you can easily follow along with the story. I found it to be a faithful adaptation of the comic as well — even if it is a little more light-hearted than what Eisner had originally written.
The Spirit clocks in at 74 minutes long, so you can absolutely fit this into any schedule. Have you seen this movie? Let me know in the comments below!