Super Movies – Captain America (1990), Part 2

Sorry this is so late, but this summer has been hell on my productivity. Continuing our look at the early 90’s version of Captain America directed by Albert Pyun and starring Matt Salinger.

When we left off, Cap had been thoroughly beaten by the Red Skull, strapped to a rocket and launched at the White House. But Cap managed to divert the rocket’s course and splash down in frigid Arctic waters in Alaska.

Now we get a time passage montage, and not just a simple dissolve to a title card. Instead, we see the decades pass through (poorly edited) newspaper headlines focused around one guy, Tom Kimball.

Until we join the modern-day Tom Kimball (Ronny Cox), who is now President of the United States. Kimball announces a new environmental treaty he wants to have signed in Rome. After the press conference, he meets with a general, played by the Night Stalker himself, Darren McGavin.

The general expresses disbelief that the President really expects the military to reduce its solid waste by 90% in six months, but the President stands firm. And I get that the movie really wants me to see the President as this super-principled guy and the general as an evil worm, but at this point, I’m thinking, “90%? Six months? The President is a clueless douche.”

So next thing you know, the general is meeting with a shadowy cabal of military leaders and evil capitalists in the fortress of the Red Skull, who is still alive, and has had some work done.

And on the one hand, I understand the story purpose for this (and the budget purpose as well, since this probably takes way less time to apply). But on the other hand, I thought the actual comic-book style Red Skull actually looked really good, and I’m sorry to see it go. And on the third hand, remember that Army doctor whose photo I said you’d be coming back to again? That’s Scott Paulin, who played the Red Skull, out of make-up.

We learn that the Red Skull was actually behind the JFK, RFK, and MLK Jr. assassinations, and has been running this secret international cabal of military leaders, dictators and industrialists for decades. And now he plans to kidnap the President and use him for some nefarious purpose while sidelining his environmental policies. The fiend!

Meanwhile, in Alaska, some West German researchers discover Cap’s frozen body and bring it back to their research compound. When Cap thaws out, he mistakes them for Nazis and runs away, but not before one snaps his picture.

When President Tom Kimball sees the photo in the newspaper, he realizes that this Cap is the same guy he saw strapped to the rocket decades ago (because, yes, this is the same little kid). So he calls his childhood buddy Sam, a reporter played by Ned Beatty. Sam is a bit of a conspiracy nut, but he agrees to investigate this Captain America thing.

Unfortunately, the Red Skull has also seen the newspaper article and sends his beautiful daughter to deal with the situation. She takes off in a private jet, along with her posse of extraordinarily good-looking, improbably fashionable young people. Let’s just call them the Fashion Assassins.

They attack Cap as he’s hiking south to try to find civilization. As he’s trying to escape, Sam drives up in his pick-up and gives him a ride. There follows a pretty good scene as Sam waxes enthusiastic about this international conspiratorial cabal headed by a mysterious dude known as Red Skull while Cap is noticing that this seeming American citizen is driving a Volkswagen truck and recording the interview with some tiny tape recorder that say “Made in Japan.”

So how does our super-strong, ultra-heroic Captain deal with this dilemma? He fakes carsickness, then steals the truck when Sam gets out to help him. When the truck runs out of gas, he abandons it and breaks into a semi trailer full of Molson’s Golden headed south (he has picked up a trenchcoat and a duffel to hold the shield by this time). He jumps out at L.A. (no word on how much beer is left in the truck) and heads for Bernie’s old house, noticing oddities like string bikinis along the way.

He finally believes that Sam was telling him the truth when he sees Bernie again.

The age make-up here is not bad. She tells him she waited for years, but thought he was dead and moved on. She has a husband now, and a daughter, Sharon, who’s pretty much the same age as she was when Steve left (played by the same actress, only now with her hair bleached blonde). Steve goes to stay with Sharon and watches videotapes that confirm some of the events in the scrapbook Sam had assembled to support his conspiracy theory.

Meanwhile, Sam shows up at Bernie’s house and is trying to convince Bernie to get in touch with Cap for him when he is shot by the Fashion Assassins, who also torture Bernie to death looking for Cap.

Even worse, the President has been kidnapped in Rome, just as Sam warned he might. So Steve must act. Step one: break into Dr. Vaselli’s abandoned laboratory to try to discover the Red Skull’s true identity. Sharon invites herself along, and the party is crashed by the Fashion Assassins. Steve beats up some dudes and takes off with Vaselli’s diary.

It doesn’t give them a name, but it does give them an address in Italy. Next thing you know, Steve and Sharon are there (although as far as I know, Steve doesn’t have a passport or any other identification). And they have another run-in with the F.A.’s, which is getting kind of tiresome by now. Oh, and sometimes it looks like there’s a bunch of padding under Steve’s clothes, I guess to make it look like he has a super-physique. In shots like this, he just looks hunchbacked, though.

And if you want, now might be a good time to compare Sharon’s face with old Bernie above and young Bernie from last week. I wish I had a better shot, but the disc was acting up on me.

So finally, Sharon and Steve find a recording of the boy Skull’s kidnapping at the address written in Vaselli’s diary, and learn the name of the Skull, just in time for Sharon to get kidnapped. So now it’s time for Captain America to don his costume one last time and assault the Red Skull’s fortress.

Meanwhile, the President has managed to escape from his cell and is in danger of being killed when Cap appears and saves him, after which they fight side-by-side to save Sharon and stop the Skull. During the fight, we get our best look yet at Cap’s shield.

It looks way more solid than that plastic monstrosity from the TV show, but still seems flimsy. The thickness and the raised bands on its surface make it seem hollow.

Of course, this being a late 80’s/early 90’s low-budget action movie, you have to have the obligatory incomprehensible artsy ending, in this case, the Red Skull’s piano balcony.

Seriously, that is the stupidest place in the world to put a grand piano. And even worse, that’s where the Skull keeps his fortress’s self-destruct mechanism, a dirty bomb that will render “all of southern Europe” uninhabitable for hundreds of years. The detonator itself has some kind of slow-moving mechanical failsafe that seems to take forever to work, giving Cap plenty of time to use his shield to knock the Skull off the piano tower and down the cliffs into the sea below.

This pisses off Francesca Skull, or whatever her name is, but luckily, just like the TV show, the shield hits her from behind as it boomerangs back, leaving Cap nothing to do but mug the camera to show how suddenly cool he thinks he is. This shot just emphasizes the rubbery nature of the costume, including the ears.

And then it’s all over except the end credits, which include a plea to pass the Environmental Protection Act of 1990.

I tried finding a reference to the bill on-line, but only found references to a bill that passed in Britain, which I don’t think is what the makers of Captain America were referring to. If only the movie hadn’t gone straight to video two years too late…

Next time: Cap is finally done right.

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