Awfully Good: Captain America (1990)
Before THE WINTER SOLDIER and THE FIRST AVENGER there was…
Captain America (1990)
Director: Albert Pyun
Stars: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty
Steve Rogers must save the world from Italian fascists and lousy production values.
I hope you appreciate the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, because there was a period of time where comic fans had to deal with films like this. There was no Internet to hear gossip or get hints as to what was coming. You showed up, excited to see your favorite superhero come to life, only to be subjected to what can only be considered a comedy.
"Who farted, y'all?"
1990's CAPTAIN AMERICA was so bad didn't even make it to theaters. Produced by Menahem Golan of the Cannon Group (perhaps best known as the creative force behind SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE), the rushed Marvel adaptation was destined to be a disaster. As soon as you see the embarrassing sets or Cap's pathetic looking costume, complete with fake rubber ears and a shield clearly made out of plastic, it's obvious the lack of budget is the main culprit here. However, there are plenty of non-monetary, head-scratching decisions made. Like turning Cap in to a constantly inept doofus or making the Red Skull an Italian piano prodigy turned wannabe gangster. Even, at its worst though, I'll admit there's a goofy, well-meaning charm to it—most likely thanks to director Albert Pyun (THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, CYBORG, a bunch of KICKBOXER sequels).
CAPTAIN AMERICA opens in…Italy, of course. Nazi soldiers break in to a house and kidnap a young piano-playing boy in order to turn him in to a super soldier. Then, in order to set the fun comic book vibe of the movie, they open fire and murder his entire family in front of him. Cut to the United States some years later and theall-American Steve Rogers is undergoing the same super soldier procedure in a diner basement, er… government lab. (Although because the production couldn't afford any effects or more than one actor, Rogers physically looks exactly the same before and after becoming Captain America.) As everyone celebrates their genetically modified success, SURPRISE!—one of the military officials accidentally brought a Nazi spy with him and he kills the head scientist lady. Unfortunately, she didn't make any copies of her work with Cap's super serum, his invincible shield or his fireproof uniform. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.
Cap still goes on his first mission anyways, jumping out of a plane and immediately getting discovered by the Nazis. He throws his shield at a barrel of fuel which massively explodes due to physics and manages to escape and track down Red Skull—who proceeds to kick Captain America's ass and tie him to a nuclear missile. Red Skull gives what I assume is a great speech, but his Italian accent is so thick I couldn't really tell. Just as the rocket is counting down, Cap grabs his nemesis' arm and threatens to take him along for the launch. Red Skull takes out his Nazi knife and, instead of cutting off Captain America's arm, accidentally slices off his own hand. Cap kicks the missile a couple times, which manages to recalibrate its target from the White House to middle-of-nowhere Alaska. He freezes to death in the arctic after his very first mission. Success!
50 years pass and three things have happened.
1) A little boy who saw Cap's magical rocket flight grew up to be the President of the United States and Captain America's Fan Club. He is played by Ronny Cox from ROBOCOP and his first act in office is to pass radical new environmental laws that would force the military to cut solid waste by 90% in six months. The military leaders aren't too happy this fairly unrealistic goal and schedule a meeting with…
2) The Red Skull, who has had facial reconstructive surgery and is now an Italian mob boss responsible for all the major political assassinations of the past half-century. Despite being a laughable Scarface parody, he agrees to kidnap and brainwash the President.
3) After five decades, Captain America's red glove is still sticking out of the snow and someone finally spots it. Within a few minutes of being defrosted, Red Skull sends his assassin daughter to kill Cap and the President sends his BFF Ned Beatty to save him. They both somehow arrive in Alaska at the same time. Cap narrowly manages to escape and is then subjected to a laughable fish-out-of-water montage where he's confused by modern society, especially punk teens and women in bikinis. He goes to see his old girlfriend Bernie and realizes he's still in love with a senior citizen. Thankfully she gets murdered quickly before their awkward sex scene.
Cap teams up with Bernie's daughter Sharon to help rescue the kidnapped President. I don't know why, but here the filmmakers decide to make Sharon a smart, brave and resourceful leader and Captain America a bumbling idiot. Instead of working with the Secret Service or doing any actual superhero work, this is how Cap tracks down the Commander In Chief. First, he and Sharon go to the lab where he was created, hoping the head scientist lady's diary is still in there 50 years earlier and they can find out what Red Skull's real name is. Unfortunately, all they find is the town in which he was born. So they fly all the way to Europe (I would love to see a deleted scene of Captain America buying his ticket and going through airport security) and start asking random strangers if they know Red Skull Jr. Eventually someone gives them an old recording device that belong to the family…but it's broken! There's actually a part of this movie where Captain America goes to a repair shop to have electronics fixed. Magically, the recorder was on the night the young boy was kidnapped, so they hear Red Skull's entire tragic backstory. But there's still no name and their search comes to an end. Thankfully, in the next scene, Sharon stumbles upon a bad guy's wallet that contains both a picture of Red Skull and the address where he can be found.
Soon they're getting tailed by Red Skull's men. Cap's big plan to escape involves stealing a bike and immediately riding it off a cliff. Sharon, on the other hand, uses herself as bait to save him. Finally, Captain America decides to spring in to action. (Naturally, he's been carrying around his suit and shield in a backpack this entire time.) However, the superhero has taken so long that the President manages to escape on his own. The leader of the free world bravely decides that he'd rather kill himself than let Red Skull win and jumps off the side of the castle. And in one of the most impractical rescues of all time, Cap just happens to be scaling the wall in that exact spot at that exact time and catches him. The two men reconnect (Cap somehow remembers him from that time he was riding a rocket past his house; the President shows his hero the picture of him he carries in his wallet) and make their escape a.k.a. Captain America lets the President run in front of him like a human shield. Naturally, they run in to Red Skull, who out of nowhere has a nuclear bomb set to blow up the world. Cap pulls out his tape recorder and plays the recording of Red Skull's family getting murdered, which confuses him long enough for the freedom fighter to knock him off a nearby cliff. Oh yeah, and Sharon's there and she loves Captain America just like her recently deceased mother. God bless America!
Some of Red Skull's hard-to-understand one liners (why do you care about your aunt's pen so much?) and one of the President's horrible speeches.
Some of Cap and Red Skull's greatest hits.
Even the First Avenger has to stop and admire the lady in the bikini.
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Red Skull calls Captain America his brother
- Captain America gets "carsick"
- Someone from A CHRISTMAS STORY is onscreen
- Another Marvel superhero is mentioned
- Captain America runs in to a ladies restroom
- Someone says "Gee whiz"
- You can't understand Red Skull