Brilliant isn’t a word that should be thrown around lightly, but I’m gonna chuck it right at your face. Italian Spiderman is brilliant. Sometimes there are things that are so subversive, so inspired, so damn…brilliant, you are left staring at the screen. This is one of them.
A dead-on parody of 60’s and 70’s Italian cinema (heavy on the Diabolik), this student project-turned comedy web series is a Return to Supermans with a modest budget, and a serious trip (I haven’t experienced anything this psychedelic since I mainlined that slurpee and listened to the Porpoise Song on repeat).
The real creators of Italian Spiderman are cloaked in secrecy, so I’m going to roll with the ruse.
The series is the brainchild of Alrugo Entertainment, the studio that brought you such classics as Busto Busto (1961) and Sex Cops II(1962). Adapted from the book Death Wears a Hat, Italian Spiderman begins with a Bond-style teaser as the portly mustachioed Italian Spiderman (Franco Franchetti) narrowly escapes his nemesis Captain Maximum (Leombruno Tosca), a masked super-villain that, apparently, can turn everything into snakes.
Meanwhile, a mysterious asteroid lands at a swinging party attended by Professor Bernardi (Carmine Russo). He is able to harness the contents into a serum that has the power to replicate humans. After scoring a date with the professor’s niece, Jessica, Italian Spiderman is entrusted with safe-guarding the asteroid. Captain Maximum, trying to intercept the asteroid, turns the professor into a snake and takes him captive. He is quickly in hot pursuit of Italian Spiderman and subdues him with some psychedelic nerve gas-stuff sending him into a tripped out fever-dream (at this point you will be in a tripped out fever dream, as well).
And so the story begins.
But the beauty is in the journey. Along the way, we have killer penguins, a boomerang moustache, lots of rubber snakes, a chicken that lays Il Gallo cigarettes, a hail of gunfire, and women being punched in the face. You see, this is more than just a tribute to Italian cinema; it’s also a celebration of stereotypical Italian machismo and movie tough-guy misogyny. There’s also enough blood to make Paul Verhoeven go Disney.
The production values are dead-on. It looks like a 16mm transfer onto an old VHS tape, complete with scratchy audio. My old copy of Capricorn One (O.J. Simpson is riveting, btw) looks better than this. But, that’s the point.
It’s all there: the bad dialogue looping, the old-gold subtitles, the porn inspired soundtrack and overblown sound effects. Vivaldi and Verdi Alrugo (wink wink) have unearthed a classic. I’m almost ashamed of some of the things I laughed at during this. Almost.
On the reality tip, Italian Spiderman was produced by a group of Australian filmmakers attending Flinders University including Dario Russo, Tait Wilson, David Ashby, Will Spartalis, and Boris Repasky. But, where’s the fun in that. I’d rather believe in the Alrugo Brothers, their father Alfonso, and their great legacy. I anxiously await the coming sequel. I may even grow a moustache. Respect da ladies!