The bigger question — to me, at least — was, “Hey, what about those two equally terrible but highly amusing made-for-TV movies CBS aired in the late ’70s?”
The good people at Shout! Factory must have heard my cries, piggybacking off the summer hit’s home-vid release with a two-fer DVD of 1979’s “Captain America” and “Captain America II: Death Too Soon.” Both star sandy-haired musclehead Reb Brown (“Yor, the Hunter from the Future”) as Steve Rogers, the man who becomes the star-spangled superhero after given a dose of the “ultimate steroid.” Describes scientist Dr. Mills (Len Birman), it’s “the super hormone, FLAG. That’s right: F-L-A-G: Full Latent Ability Gain.”
However, the beach-bummy Rogers wants nothing to do with it: “I just wanna kick back and find out who I am.” He doesn’t have a choice once he’s nearly killed; Mills administers the FLAG to save Rogers, and he emerges stronger than strong. This is apparent when he defeats his attackers using a variety of meat carcasses.
What makes this transformation special is, naturally, Rogers’ new secret identity as Captain America. He’s given a costume that’s more of a Evel Knievel-style outfit than Marvel Comics-approved costume. His bulletproof shield makes a bionic sound when tossed. His motorcycle helmet barely contains his cheesy grin. He also gets a pimped-out two-wheeled ride.
“Hey, does this thing scramble eggs on Sunday, too?” asks Rogers when first laying eyes on the cycle.
“And it whistles Dixie,” answers the doc. (It doesn’t; Mills totally lies.) The cycle even has a “silent” switch, which is about as believable as Brown’s acting. The guy can’t even answer a phone convincingly.
In the same year’s sequel, “Death Too Soon,” Cap’s enemies are Christopher Lee, drug dealers and thugs in jalopies who steal senior citizens’ pension checks. The telefilm begins by showing Rogers’ sensitive side, as a painter of kitty cats in the park.
Speaking of kitty cats, Connie Selleca — in the Gil Gerard-era of bed partners, not John Tesh — enters the fray as Dr. Wendy Day. But Cap has bigger fish to fry, since Miguel (Lee) plots to poison a small town with chemicals.
Anyone thinking that “Death Too Soon” director Ivan Nagy (former boyfriend of Heidi Fleiss) may have improved upon the first flick, please note that this chapter involves hang-gliding.
The disc has no extras, nor does it need any. Having these things to prove to future generations that Captain America hasn’t always been Chris Evans-cool is bonus enough. —Rod Lott