Thursday, March 22, 2012

More From The Archives: LET FREEDOM RING - A look back at Captain America On Film

Captain America was created in 1941 by Joe Simon and his partner, Jack Kirby (Kirby being one of, if not the, most influential artists and writers in America Comics History).

The character battled the evils of the Nazi Regime before America actually got into World War 2. Many have seen the creation of this character as a political statement, which is ironic, since Marvel Studios have been trying to downplay his American-ness in favor of a more centrist global view of the character (reportedly so not to offend oversea markets and cut into their profit line).

Whatever intentions Simon and Kirby may have had for the character, Cap has rarely been used in a political setting with most of his adventures focusing on the regular sci-fi/fantasy trappings of normal superhero comics or James Bond style political conspiracy theories that have little or no bearing on the real world.

He's an interesting character, the Marvel equivalent of Superman minus the powers. He's a soldier, a hero, and (in the comics at least) the leader of the Mighty Avengers! (I say in the comics because there's a rumor going around that Robert Downey Jr. may head the team in the upcoming Avengers movie due to Iron Man's popularity. I have no problem with that because Iron Man has been the leader of the group at various intervals, and unless Cap's new film storms the box office, Iron Man will remain a more recognizable character in the public's eye).

Anyway, I am going to post the trailer now (like everybody and his brother seems to be doing) so here goes!

Well, that should be that, but while we're on the subject of my favorite Marvel Comics character, I thought I might mention that this isn't the first time Captain America has starred in a feature film. 1979 saw the release of not one, but two made-for-television films starring the First Avenger: Captain America and Captain America II: Death Too Soon.

Incidentally, while Captain America (1979) had a television release here in the United States, it actually had a theatrical release in Europe. Both films starred b-movie hero Reb Brown (star of Howling 2: Your Sister Is A Werewolf).

The second feature had him doing battle with Christopher Lee (who also starred in Howling 2). Both films are mediocre at best, but they have had vhs releases at least and are well worth looking up for b-movie fans, made-for-tv-movie connoisseurs, and Mighty Marvel die-hards.

I wasn't able to find a trailer for the first film, but I did locate this little gem. It's the trailer for the second feature, Captain America II: Death Too Soon.

Moving on the more infamous (but certainly not the worst despite what you may have heard) Captain America movie, the straight-to-video production from 1990. Before I say anymore about this film, I want to point out that when I first saw it as a kid, I had no idea who Captain America was. This movie introduced me to him and his archenemy The Red Skull! While it may have its problems, it is fun in a b-movie sort of way. The plot has more than a few holes, and I still don't understand why the Red Skull loses his Red Skull face after the first act. I guess they were trying to approach his character from a realistic standpoint, but nothing else in the movie was terribly realistic so why bother?

The Red Skull At The Film's Start

The Red Skull as he appears in the last 2/3's of the Movie
Straight from the library of youtube user ComicFilmExpert here's the trailer for director Albert Pyun's version of Captain America!

Speaking of Albert Pyun, if you've never looked him up, you should.

A lot of people nitpick this film for not living up to the comic book or for certain costume choices, but they miss the point that this is less a Captain America film and more an Ablert Pyun film. Mr. Pyun's first (and arguably best) film was the cult classic The Sword and the Sorcerer, and despite having a bevy of hardcore fans, I find it odd that Sword is exalted while Captain America is derided even though they're incredibly similar films!

Both films suffer from silly looking, yet still kind of cool sfx (compare the three bladed sword to scenes of Cap throwing his mighty shield for the full effect of that argument), both films have great makeup effects that look the slightest bit outrageous (at least Cap's movie does until the Red Skull gets plastic surgery after Act I), both films have heart (I dare you not to be moved when Steve Rogers wanders aimlessly around his now changed hometown trying to cope with the passage of time), both suffer from slightly muddled screenplays, but most important of all, BOTH OF THEM ARE TONS OF FUN!!!

I am going to argue that Albert Pyun's Captain America film is not only undeserving of its status as a bad movie, I'm not only going to argue that it's good, I'm actually going to argue that in the hallowed halls of straight-to-video productions Captain America is a classic!!!

Remember Empire Films and the early days of Full Moon Productions? Remember great movies like Robot Jox, Puppet Master 2, Dolls, or Trancers? This is the kind of film that fits perfectly among those types of movies and not only that, but it's one of the best of that strange time of experimental, low budget film making that flourished so creatively in the late 80's and early 90's.

Forget what you've heard! Forget what you've read! If you've never seen Captain America (1990) then check it out and make up your own mind on the matter. Some of you will hate it, some of you may just love it, but at least you gave it a go! Mr. Pyun's highly underrated film deserves that at least!
That's all I got! Peace Out!

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