Web slinger
Dan Poole's discount Spider-Man movie makes a splash on the net

By Sean Davidson

Forget about the muddled sound and poor lighting. Look past actor Allison Adams' robot-like performance and the beyond campy Stan Lee-esque dialogue delivered by Jimi Kinstle. Try to remember that nothing looks very good, least of all a 10-year-old home movie, when seen through a small Windows Media Player box.

Instead, when you join the more than one million people who have watched The Green Goblin's Last Stand on the net [www.localorigination.com], marvel at how moviemaker Dan Poole repeatedly — defying all common sense and, it seems, the laws of physics — risked his life to direct and star in a home video about Spider-Man.

He made the hour-long movie 10 years ago as a sort of application/resume to work on the then-rumoured Spider-Man feature, which will finally arrive in theatres next May. That's him in the blue-and-red bodysuit, swinging from the top of a six-storey building, on a "web" made out of second-hand sailing rope, without a crash pad or any kind of safety harness. He leaps across rooftops, swings under bridges, gets blasted clear across a warehouse and, in the opening scene, clings to the roof of a speeding car.

"How cool was that?" he exclaims, adding that the scene took several takes because his safety-conscious friends kept driving too slow. "I was so angry they wouldn't speed up. I was like, 'Go faster! It's gonna look stupid if you don't speed up!' And they're going, 'We don't want to kill you.'"

He eventually cajoled them up to 45 mph. "I was confident I could reach down and grab something — the wipers or the hood," says Poole. The shot ends when the car comes to a sudden stop and Spidey is thrown into an alley.

Back in 1991 James Cameron was expected to direct the Spider-Man movie and Poole, a life-long fan of the Marvel Comics super-hero, wanted a job. Any job.

"That was my big goal," he says on the phone from Baltimore. "I just wanted so badly to impress on James Cameron that I needed to be part of this movie, that I just focused everything I had for that year into doing it."

He was 22 and had no experience. But his day job at Baltimore's National Aquarium gave him access to all kinds of audio-visual equipment. And a local film professor had been so impressed by one of his previous short films (also about Spider-Man) that he gave Poole free access to an editing suite.

Poole adapted two issues of the comic book, in which arch-villain the Green Goblin kidnaps Spidey's girlfriend Gwen, into a screenplay and drafted friends, family and local actors. "Local theatre was a gold mine," says Poole. "They want more work, more experience and they're used to not getting paid." He cast himself in the lead, donning a remarkably accurate Spidey costume stitched together by his mom.

Production took 14 months and cost just $400. But if Cameron ever saw it, he never called.

"I rolled snake eyes," he sighs. Poole hung up his web-shooters and got a job climbing cellphone towers as a maintenance man. Spider-Man was handed over to director Sam Raimi and the webhead's feature film debut was shot, this year, without Poole.

It wasn't until last fall that he dusted off his masterpiece and posted it on the web, where it caused an immediate splash with comic and indie film fans. In April he released a documentary about the making of Green Goblin, available through his production company Alpha Dog Productions [www.alphadogproductions.net], and hopes sales will generate enough cash to kick-start his next project. Now back in the game, he wants to make more independent action movies, and knows he can do it on the cheap.

"I still say, to this day," declares Poole, "what could even James Cameron do with $400?"

August 2001