Captain America (1990)
November 10, 2022 11:24 AM - Subscribe

Ever wonder why the MCU didn't start up earlier than it did, say, in the early 90s, after the runaway success of Warner Bros.' Batman? Call this film Exhibit A, for America.

In fact, Marvel did try to get something off the ground at about that time, following the relative success of the live action The Incredible Hulk TV series (and much more modest success of various spin-offs, as well as a short-lived Spider-Man live action series). At different points, James Cameron was attached to projects for X-Men and Spider-Man movies, which would take another decade or so to happen without him; there was also work on a big-screen Hulk, which likewise would take over a decade. And then there was this thing.

Let's just rip the band-aid off: 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. The production values might have made for a halfway-decent TV movie of the time, but they'd already had two Cap TV movies starring veteran B-movie actor Reb Brown. And lead actor Matt Salinger (son of J.D. Salinger) was no Chris Evans; at best, he might have been Chris Evans' stand-in. The Red Skull is Italian, for some reason, and Cap's suit appears to be made out of rubber. The cast also includes real actors such as Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Michael Nouri, and Melinda Dillon. Directed by Albert Pyun, who made Roger Corman look like Orson Welles.

It's all for free on YouTube, if you dare. The movie was released in the Phillipines as Bloodmatch, on a double feature with a Snoopy film (?!), which may be the most interesting thing about it, aside from comparing/contrasting it with the eventual The First Avenger.
posted by Halloween Jack (4 comments total)
$5 more for MeFi! More info here.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:27 AM on November 10, 2022 [3 favorites]


Lawrence J. Block, who is one of two writers credited with the story, also wrote Tobe Hooper's Funhouse.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:38 AM on November 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I remember the climax of this movie being absolutely baffling, with Cap running around the battlements of an old castle chasing(?) Red Skull who was just sort of casually playing a piano while things exploded. I don't remember any clear source of the explosions, and I don't remember Red Skull even moving, just cap running, Red Skull playing the piano, and a castle blowing up.

I thought it was sloppy at first but it went on long enough to slide sideways into some kind of sublime abstract dream representation of the conflict. It was so bad it became performance art. This has been my experience of Albert Pyun generally, I kind of love his movies.

Also loved that cap's shield was a giant metal Thro Yo because I had one and could pretend to be Captain America.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:02 PM on November 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

I wrote the above after only watching the beginning of the film--Red Skull's origin, Cap's origin, one brief battle, Cap getting frozen--and it doesn't really get better overall in the rest of it. There are a few decent spots; some of them are suspiciously close to Captain America: The First Avenger--there's a repeating flourish on the soundtrack that sounds close to the Captain America theme, and Project Rebirth is housed in a diner (in California, I think) rather than a Brooklyn antique store, but in both cases a woman agent with a gun under the counter lets people in after receiving a code phrase. The scene where Steve wanders around then-modern America, trying to grok all the changes since the Deuce, is not bad; he has a reunion with his now-aged sweetheart, who got married, but kept her old house just in case he came back. There's even a kind of funny scene before that, where he gets a ride from someone in a Volkswagen; when Steve sees where it was built, he immediately assumes that he's been picked up by a German agent.

But those are just bits, and mostly it's kind of a slog. Pyun is known for doing kickboxing-heavy movies, which would have been perfect here, but the fight scenes are ass; one of the major ones, in the ruins of Project Rebirth, is almost completely in the dark. Speaking of which, Steve finds the secret notebook of the doctor who created his super-soldier serum just laying in an unlocked desk drawer there; funny how the Army or the OSS, who very much wanted to make more Captains America, hadn't found it decades before. The Red Skull, who wasn't killed or frozen back then, has run an international terrorist organization not terribly unlike Hydra, and masterminded the assassinations of the Kennedys and MLK, as well as kidnapping the president in Europe, but the minions of his that we see are a joke; the bunch that come after Steve in America look like preppies who are doing a quick bit of henching on the way to the mall, and even the Red Skull's daughter is unimpressive; if you're going to do a cheesefest like this one, they really should have made her more like the comics version, whose various phases include one that could be described as "bondage nun." There's also a kind of weird implication at the end that Cap's shield decapitates her.

So, yeah. Really only for completists; the same goes for the Reb Brown TV movies, even though they're maybe a little more creative--that Cap is the son of the original Captain America, his super-soldier serum is called Full Latent Ability Gain (get it?), and he rides around in a groovy custom van with a groovy custom motorcycle in it, both very friendly to being adapted for action figure purposes, and which ended up becoming comic-book canon, thanks to longtime Cap writer (and general Marvel Comics continuity guru) Mark Gruenwald. That Cap would also clip his shield (which was see-through plastic) on the front of his motorcycle to double as a windshield, which was also "borrowed" a couple of times in the MCU movies.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:15 PM on November 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

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