Former Flash Gordon Sam Jones plays another Sunday-funnies superstar as The Spirit, the crime fighter formerly known as square-jawed, straight-and-narrow cop Denny Colt. When he’s shot by a baddie and presumed dead, Denny takes advantage of the situation by donning the teeny-tiniest of blue masks to disguise his identity as The Spirit, who sets about cleaning Central City of its crime problem, vigilante-style. That no one recognizes him is ludicrous, but let it ride — that’s just the style and, er, spirit of the piece.
Directed by blaxploitation pioneer Michael Schultz (Car Wash, Cooley High) and written by Steven E. de Souza a year before his big breakthrough (Die Hard), the telefilm bears several unfortunate hallmarks of its era: namely, big hair on the ladies, a synth-sax score and multiple Rick James reference.
But The Spirit also boasts a vibrant color palette that predates Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, good humor that’s mostly meant to be and a general pulp vibe as enjoyable as ice-cold OJ. Says our superhero, twice, “Crime, especially murder, is never a laughing matter,” but he obviously hasn’t seen his own show. —Rod Lott