Captain America

As you know by now, it didn’t. If you managed not to catch it in its long-delayed VHS debut in 1993, the MGM Limited Edition Collection finally has issued the thing on DVD to tag along to interest on this summer’s big-budget, blockbuster “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

Why didn’t it come out before now? Because it’s awful — so awful, I’ve seen it four times! Here are just three reasons for its awful awfulness:
1. It’s from Cannon Films, which specialized in many a Chuck Norris and ninja movie in the 1980s.
2. It’s directed by Albert Pyun, a modern-day Ed Wood whose credits at the time, included the Kathy Ireland vehicle, “Alien from L.A.”
3. See 1 and 2. Repeat as necessary.

Pyun sprints through the Marvel Comics origin as soon as he can. What takes place at about 30 minutes into the new movie occurs at about seven in this one, as beefy soldier Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger, son of “The Catcher in the Rye” author, J.D., which boggles the mind) is transformed into the just-as-beefy Captain America, as part of a top-secret government science project during World War II. As a witnessing member (Michael Nouri TV’s “Damages”) of the military brass remarks, “He may not be Superman.”

Amen to that, Lt. Col. Louis! Even “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (another Cannon offering, by the way) is gold compared to this comic-book abortion adaptation. With absolutely zero training, Captain America paratroops into enemy territory: “I won’t let anyone down sir. I love you, Bernieeeeeeeeee!”

Then he gets his ass frozen for 50 years.

In the current movie — the good one — that’s the last scene before the credits. Here, Act 2 is just getting started. Cap believes that his archenemy — “an Italian boy called the Red Skull,” as the U.S. military puts it — is behind the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK, and that the next target is another higher-up whose last name also begins with K: U.S. President Kimball, who’s played by Ronny Cox. The film reunites Cox with his “Deliverance” co-star Ned Beatty, but this time with no man-on-man anal rape. (Perhaps that’s in Pyun’s director’s cut?) The two play pals since childhood, with Beatty now a dogged reporter.

As for action, Cap does a flip over a car and gets to throw his shield a few times. If you think a superhero like him should get involved in a bike chase set to a generic ’80s synth score, you’re going to be very pleased. Speaking of that decades’ wretched music, “Captain America” sports two of the worst rock ballads preserved on film, courtesy of Ivan Neville and Southside Johnny. They’re more evil than any plot perpetrated by the Red Skull (Scott Paulin, TV’s “Castle”), whose makeup is actually pretty good.

Can’t say the same for the special effects, which are as poor as the movie’s Walter Cronkite impression it tries to pull during the 50-year transitional sequence, in which various headlines are pasted on to the same fake-newspaper story. That’s indicative of the half-assed effort “Captain America” gives. You’ll expend more enthusiasm watching it. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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