Since director Joe Johnston’s upcoming big-budget adaptation of the comic book series “Captain America” is almost on our proverbial doorstep, I thought it would be super keen to pay a visit to the cinematic endeavors featuring the fabled First Avenger that you may have missed. Below you’ll find four tiny little reviews centering around our star spangled hero, including a rarely seen Turkish gem that pairs ol’ Cap with a bizarro version of Spider-Man. It’s as odd as it sounds. So when you’re watching the big guy beat the crap out of Nazis on the big screen this weekend, take a moment to reflect on how far our hero has come.
Here they are, in no particular order.
Captain American (1990)
If ever there was a comic book movie just begging to be remade, Albert Pyun’s hypnotically awful 1990 superhero blunder “Captain America” is it. Powered by a script laden with peculiar dialogue and serious leaps in logic, this devastatingly poor adaptation of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s iconic series offers little in the way of intentional entertainment, especially once the audience gets a good look at do-gooder Matt Salinger in his awkwardly patriotic costume. The story follows the exploits of gimpy pipsqueak-turned-strapping freedom fighter Steve Rogers as he attempts to thwart the evil misdoings of his genetic equal, the hideously deformed Red Skull (Scott Paulin). After several scenes of misplaced drama and hokey sci-fi mumbo-jumbo, the good captain awakens from a decades-long slumber in a chunk of Alaskan ice, only to find himself thrust into yet another cornball scheme perpetrated by his perpetually scheming archenemy. Pyun’s approach to the material is innocent enough, allowing Salinger and crew to play into the whole gee-whiz mentality of the original comics. However, the director’s penchant for quick cuts and sloppy action completely derail this ill-conceived train as soon as it leaves the proverbial station. “Captain America” is, of course, entirely enjoyable, but it’s definitely not a good representation of Marvel’s beloved franchise. I love it to death, but that’s because I adore Albert Pyun’s work.
Captain America (1979)
Director Rod Holcomb’s 1979 made-for-television adaptation of “Captain America” was seemingly crafted to appeal directly to kids who were obsessed with the stunt-related exploits of Evel Knievel. Instead of growing up during World War II, Steve Rogers is a child of the 70′s, a former soldier who’s just looking to cruise around the nation in search of a little peace and quiet. However, his plans soon take a turn for the worse when he’s injected with a “super steroid” that, in addition to saving his life, gives him incredible powers. After donning an admittedly goofy-looking costume, our hero sets out to fight an assortment of crime. Did I mention that his van can launch a snazzy little motorcycle out of the back whenever there’s trouble? “Captain America” was the first of two motion pictures that aired on the CBS network back in 1979. The whole thing is as goofy and unintentionally delightful as it sounds, particularly since the script only borrows select elements from the source material. Reb Brown doesn’t make for a very convincing Steve Rogers, and his stint as Captain America leaves a bit to be desired. However, if taken purely at face value, Holcomb’s dodgy endeavor is actually quite a bit of fun. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, of course. Purists, on the other hand, will hate it with a passion.
Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979)
All you really need to know about this decidedly strange sequel to the Central Broadcasting System’s wonky 1979 adaptation is contained within the photograph positioned above. That’s one crazy helmet, Cap. Director Ivan Nagy picks up where Rod Holcomb and company left off, though this isn’t necessarily a good thing. However, without having to painstakingly chronicle the origins of our peculiarly dressed hero, Nagy and his stable of writers were free to take the character in any direction they saw fit. Why they decided to have Captain America fight a devious little villain hellbent on accelerating the aging process is beyond me. Armed with his tiny shield and his smoky van/motorcycle launchpad, Cap sets out to save the world from wrinkles, incontinence, and those pesky AARP representatives. Gone again are most of the elements which made the comics so appealing, including our hero’s arch nemesis Red Skull. If you were fond of CBS’ previous installment in this ill-conceived and severely misguided series, “Death Too Soon” is the next logical step in your questionable journey. However, be prepared for plenty of lame fighting, a metric ton of wooden acting, and a plethora of shots featuring Reb Brown on his trusty motorcycle. It ain’t pretty and it ain’t easy to swallow in one sitting, but it’s definitely a must-see if you’re a fan of all things Captain America. Just try not to stare at his tiny little shield.
Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man (1973)
Turkish cinema is fantastic when you’re in the mood for something completely surreal and over-the-top. The 1973 superhero outing “3 Dev Adam” — also known in certain circles as “Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man” — finds out hero teaming up with a Mexican wrestler named Santo to battle a diabolically green version of Spider-Man with distractingly bushy eyelashes. Instead of a web-swinging hero, Spider-Man is a full-blown villain, one who uses his flesh-eating Guinea pigs to terrorize the unsuspecting population. Trying to discern the plot is next to impossible; the script doesn’t appear to be following any particular formula, except, of course, to paint Spider-Man as a trouble-making psychopath who deserves to have his mean-spirited plans destroyed by Captain America. Although he doesn’t have his shield for this particular outing, Cap still manages to kick a fair amount of behind over the course of the picture. However, unless you’re a card-carrying completist with too much time and money on their hands, I wouldn’t advise seeking this one out. In fact, instead of exhausting all of your resources on locating a copy, why not just watch the extremely pixelated clip embedded below. It’ll save you a lot of time and heartache.