Captain America (1979)

13 07 2012

Captain America (1979)

Rating:  

Your hero, everyone.

In 1979 CBS decided to recruit their best writers and actors to make a TV movie of The Six Million Dollar Man Captain America.  Basically they took the premise of a previous hit show and swapped out the main character for Steve Rogers, except this Steve Rogers has never fought Nazis, been faced with the guilt of losing his partner, or battled the evil Red Skull.  So, basically, he’s just this guy and the government is kind of interested in him.  They aren’t the only people interested in Rogers.  The first five and a half minutes of Captain America are all about dudes wanting to get on Reb Brown’s dick (not that there is anything wrong with that), and this theme persists throughout the movie to encompass every single character, but mostly its dudes because this movie is kind of a sausage fest (and not just because of all that clingy, late-seventies polyester).  Surfer dudes, police stakeout dudes, mid-level corporate dudes who might be carrying Steve’s child maybe????  Reb is tender to them all, giving them drawings, telling them he’s always there for them, and not awkwardly staring at the one guy’s weird man tits under his tank top.  Toss in a pulsating soft-core porno soundtrack and you’ll want to take a shower.  I encourage you to see for yourself, because the strange sexual undercurrents are all there, conveyed to you, the audience, despite the junior-high drama production level of acting going on in these scenes:

Every moment sits on the razor’s edge between just bad costuming and dialogue and soft-core porn.

I mean, Reb does have a cool van and his art abilities would really take off among the van driving crowd, so I guess they’re setting up Reb as this cool, happenin’ dude in a loose mood who gets all the dudes in and around his pants.  He’s so close to surfer guy, that surfer guy lets him use his phone, which might be a metaphor for something????  He then drives off into a place called “Thousand Oaks,” which is definitely a metaphor for something.  And there’s a car chase, and an oil slick and some giant government conspiracy, but the movie still can’t shake the “about to burst into a saucy porno vibe,” right down to the construction workers sashaying about in orange caution vests.

Reb took shirt ripping lessons from Bill Shatner.

So, this movie is all kinds of 1970’s.  Conspiracy theories abound, polyester clings to everything, and shag carpeting coats the inside of Steve’s Econoline van.  Steve Rogers just wants to be free, man, to tool around America in his van and “see the faces of America,” but the government (in typical, 70’s government paranoia fashion) seeks to inject him with “the ultimate steroid, synthesized from his own [father's] adrenal gland.”   This is the logical thing to do when a guy suffers from spontaneous shirt ripping all the time.  The chief scientist, Dr. Simon Mills (played by Len Birman), admits that they only want Steve because they’ve already killed all their lab rats with the serum and a new shipment won’t arrive until next Tuesday.  To complicate matters they’ve also run out of unpaid interns.

Reb’s acting career is on its deathbed throughout Captain America.

Steve shows a shocking amount of intelligence and refuses to be injected with FLAG, though he admits that the idea of a super-crazy steroid appeals to him and his pecs.  But seeing as Dr. Mills’ explanation of FLAG, why the rodents underwent cell rejection, and how Steve’s dad “passed his cells directly to his son” are completely and hopelessly scientifically wrong, refusal really was the obvious choice. But hey, it sucks to be Steve because he has an unnatural affinity for falling off of rocky cliffs in motor vehicles.  The first time is when the van slides in an oil slick trap laid for him (because he’s…his dad’s kid, I guess?) and he careens off the road.  Luckily the 3,000 cubic feet of brown, shag carpet tacked to the walls of his van protect him from injuries more extensive than a ripped shirt ala Kirk.  The second time is the charm though when he does it on a motorbike and everyone is pretty much certain he’s dead.  Dr. Mills sees his chance an injects him with FLAG, which saves Steve’s life, but pisses off Steve because “now for the rest of [his] life [he]‘ll be wondering how much longer [he's] got left to live,” which I’m pretty sure is a moot point since, PRO-TIP: Steve, you were clinically dead before FLAG was administered.  Even if you die five minutes after the injection, you’re coming out ahead by five minutes!  By all means though, worry about how much EXTRA TIME you have left from CHEATING DEATH AND GAINING SUPER POWERS.

Worthy of Q Branch, Cap’s gadgets are not.

Anyway, the film’s approach to the plot is to tell the audience as little as possible about what’s going on at any given moment, and heaven forbid they indicate the motivations of the film’s central villain Red Skull some drab corporate accountant played by the younger brother of Dana Andrews(????) before the concluding twenty minutes of the movie.  This is despite the fact that about 99.9% of this movie is cheerless banter about FLAG, government agencies, some sort of nuclear(?) bomb, Steve’s dad being made fun of for being a patriotic guy (seriously?), and motorcross.  It would’ve killed them to use all of that boring talking to advance a plot, apparently.  Instead they use the first 73 minutes of a 97 minute film for lots of talking about everything other than the central villain’s intentions or motives (we eventually learn its gold and that this whole scheme is plagarized verbatum from the film Goldfinger).  Similarly, no effort is made to explain why Lou Brackett (the mid-level corporate guy who is insultingly passed off as a villain for Cap) should be taken seriously as a villain, or, better yet, how an unremarkable, fifty-something man is in any way a threat to Cap.  Brackett doesn’t even have some secret serum or anti-Cap weapon going for him, let alone some technology-created supervillain powers of his own.  He’s just this guy who wear suits with brass buttons and probably has erectile dysfuction.

This is textbook “looking like a dork.”

Steve Forrest has no leading villain gravitas whatsoever, so he can’t even talk the talk of supervillain, let alone physically pass himself off as one.  You’re telling me Jack Palance was too busy in 1979 to play the part of a sneering corporate executive, so you had to hire the younger brother of Dana Andrews instead?  Because you can’t claim it was pride that kept him from being in this movie, since he was making Angel’s Brigade that same year.  And if he’s working alongside the likes of Peter Lawford, Alan Hale Jr., Jim BackusArthur Godfrey, and Pat Buttram, he clearly isn’t demanding much in the way of salary.  In fact, he was probably literally working for peanuts and the silent dignity that comes from appearing alongside former cast members of Gilligan’s Island was merely a bonus.

The thrilling final showdown!

I digress.  The point is that Captain America is a movie that is about a super hero in name only.  There’s no worthy villain to match wits, strenght, or even technology with.  The only thing “super” about Cap is that he can kind of jump high and some of the things he does are accompanied by sound effects from the prestigeous Scooby-Doo wing of the Hanna-Barbera vaults.  There’s barely any action and the culminating fight between Cap and the villain (something that one would think is a requirement of the superhero genre) doesn’t actually happen.  Instead, Cap has to prevent the villain from having a coronary and asphixyating.  No punches are thrown, but we do get to see Cap use some First Aid skills.  Hell, he doesn’t even disarm the bomb someone does it off screen.  It’s like whoever wrote this film was determined that there not be a single moment of tension in it(though I did find the eight minute, silent helicopter flight over California scrub land to be making me tense, but for the wrong reasons).  I can’t even bring myself to give Reb Brown a hard time for his performance since he, and the rest of the cast, were given absolutely sweet-fuck-all to work with here.  The dialogue is godawful and delivered with zombie-like emotionlessness.  Some of the line readings are downright cringe-worthy (such as random silent beats between words, almost as if the actor momentarily forgot the second half of the line) and at least offer up a few laughs.  But all told this movie has nothing going for it.  The real villains are the suits, but not Brackett and his cronies, but those at CBS who basically grafted Captain America and some red, white, and blue polyester onto the existing (and previously successful) formula used in The Six Million Dollar Man.  I suspect they chose Captain America as their subject matter precisely because he was the superhero they felt would be easiest to drop in the middle of a prexisting formula they had already lined up in the hope that audiences would be similarly enthralled and not notice how cheap and demeaning such a move ultimately is, nor the blatant contempt they showed for their audience in doing so.  Worse yet, they made a sequel.

Bad, bad, bad.  I’m going to need a rubber monster suit, or at least something Corman-esque to recover from this.


Actions

Information

9 responses

13 07 2012
Captain America (1979) Review « OGR

[...] cannon…  Well, you can catch a full review of its problems and shortcomings (they are many) here. Share this:TwitterFacebookStumbleUponRedditMoreDiggLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

14 07 2012
trashfilmguru

You hit on pretty much all the problems with this turkey — to me the cardinal sin it commits is that it’s just all kinds of boring.

14 07 2012
Aaron Babcock

Yep. Whoever wrote this thing managed to make every single scene mind-numbingly boring. And I mean every scene.

14 07 2012
Aaron Babcock

Also, I’m curious if you have any thoughts on the Ozymandias Before Watchmen.

14 07 2012
trashfilmguru

Yeah, I’ll get to it. I’ve been tied up at work pretty heavy the lat two weeks, this coming week I have a lot of catch-up to do on the blog. Suffice to say the first issue of Ozymandias looked terrific — this guy Jae Lee is a very good artist, even if his stuff is a bit stiff and formal and lacking in backgrounds — but the story was just a (competent, mind you) rehash of stuff we already knew. It was like reading the background info on Ozy from Watchment #11 only with more words and pictures. Not nearly as dreadful as Nite Owl #1 by any means, but like Nite Owl, it’s hard to see how this is a story that’s going anywhere. Gonna go pick up Minutemen #2 later this afternoon and give that a read.

14 07 2012
Aaron Babcock

Nite Owl #1 was painful to read, probably the hardest to get through of all of them. Like you I really enjoyed Jae Lee’s art, but the story was pretty, well, “meh.” To be fair, I’m not sure what they really could’ve done for Ozymandias…but then again, the same could be said for most of the others as well. They could have at least tried something a little risky instead of approaching the character with kid gloves. People are already going to be pissed they’re messing with Watchmen to begin with, so might as well just go all in on it and take some lumps for making some gutsy choices, rather than taking them for doing next to nothing with the characters (other than earn some green for DC, of course).

This is how I feel about the series in general though. The creative teams seem too hesitant to do anything interesting with these characters because they’re afraid of the fan reaction if they do something too drastic. But at this point, I’d rather see them do something crazy instead of cranking out what amounts to little more than safe fan fiction.

15 07 2012
trashfilmguru

Yeah, I’ve heard the whole thing referred to as “professional fan fiction,” and by and large that’s what it amounts to so far. Now, at least Azzarello seems intent on doing something less-than-expected with the Comedian, and for his trouble his issue seems to be the poorest-reviewed, in general, of the bunch, Still, I’ll take those kind of risky continuity moves over stagnation. Nite Owl was downright disdainful of continuity, not out of gutsiness, but out of sheer laziness. Straczynski writes late-period, post-mental-breakdown Rorschach dialogue for the character at a time well before he was speaking in “hurm”s and leaving most articles out of his sentences. in his “reinterpretation” of the Crimebusters meeting scene, he has a mumbling, unitelligilbe Rorshach at a time when, in the original series, he was still pretty lucid. It’s like Straczynski just watched the movie again for his prep “work” rather than rereading the book. Playing with the continuity I’m all for if its done to take risks or actually shed some new light on the characters, but playing with it just as a shortcut because you’re too damn self-absorbed to refer back to it? No thanks.

Read “Minutemen” #2 today and it was a vast improvement over the first issue, but is really let down — offensively so — by a questionable, at best, juxtaposition of events that Cooke works into the last few pages. Anyway, I better not give the whole game away here, suffice to say I should have reviews of Nite Owl, Ozymandias, and Minutemen #2 up in the next few days. All in all, though, my initial verdict of the whole thing still stands — we’re six issues in and I still fail to see the point.

15 07 2012
Aaron Babcock

Looking forward to the reviews.

I’ve seen Nite Owl’s referred to as one of the better of the bunch, which is pretty sad when I could barely bring myself to finish it.

Anyway, I’ll just leave the rest of my musings for your reviews.

15 07 2012
trashfilmguru

Gonna start ‘em up today or tomorrow, that’s a promise!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: