Captain America: Collector's Edition
Release Date(s)1990 (May 21, 2013)
Studio(s)21st Century/Marvel (Shout! Factory)
With Iron Man 3 launching “Phase Two” of Marvel’s plan for global domination, it’s nice to remember that the studio’s road to success was a rocky one. Prior to the release of Blade in 1998, the closest thing they’d had to a live-action success was The Incredible Hulk TV series with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. Other TV shows fizzled quickly and movie success seemed completely out of their grasp.
Marvel hit rock bottom in the late 80s and early 90s with a string of projects that either went unmade, such as Cannon Films’ much-touted Spider-Man: The Movie, or unreleased, like Roger Corman’s notorious adaptation of The Fantastic Four. When a Marvel project did manage to make it all the way through post-production, it invariably went straight to video. Such was the fate of Albert Pyun’s justifiably maligned Captain America.
Matt Salinger (J.D.’s boy) stars as Steve Rogers, the 98-pound weakling who volunteers for a secret military experiment that transforms him into Captain America. Only here, Steve seems to be quite a strapping young lad apart from a limp, the result of a bout with polio we’re told. Anyway, for his first mission, Cap has to parachute behind enemy lines and take on the Red Skull (Scott Paulin), an Italian (?!) Nazi collaborator who plans to fire a missile at the White House. The good Captain is captured and strapped to the rocket. He manages to alter its course and save the President but crashes in the icy tundra of Alaska. Naturally, nobody involved in this presumably very expensive, top-secret project bothers to go looking for their super-soldier and he stays frozen there for the next several decades.
Years later, Ronny Cox is the President and about to propose an extremely controversial environmental treaty. Rogue general Darren McGavin is having none of this tree-hugging malarkey, so he contacts the Red Skull, transformed by extensive plastic surgery into looking like slightly less of a freak, who heads an Illuminati-like secret society responsible for the assassinations of Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and other nefarious acts. But the Red Skull has learned from the follies of his youth and decides to kidnap instead of kill the President, inject him with some mind-control serum, and take over the Presidency by proxy. It’s a freshly-thawed Captain America to the rescue!
Precious little about Captain America makes any sense and it just gets more hilariously outlandish as it goes along. I’m particularly fond of our hero’s decision to walk all the way back through Canada after being revived with his progress tracked by a series of Bigfoot-like sightings reported in local newspapers. Salinger, who looks like a bizarre cross between Woody Harrelson and Michael Shannon, does his best in his latex costume with its fake ears but mostly plays the character as a slightly befuddled boy scout. Paulin at least seems to be having some fun as the Red Skull, although his odd accent at times suggests he’s channeling Bela Lugosi. The low-budget “action” sequences revolve primarily around Steve and his companion Sharon (Kim Gillingham) being pursued by a group of inept Eurotrash goons led by the Red Skull’s daughter (Francesca Neri). It’s nice that despite everything else, the Skull still puts family first.
MGM released Captain America as part of their MOD Limited Edition Collection a couple years ago and that seemed about right. Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is one of the more surprising upgrades in recent memory. The movie certainly looks better than ever, although the HD picture doesn’t do any favors to the cheap makeup or Cap’s plastic shield. They’ve even managed to round up new interviews with director Albert Pyun and Matt Salinger, both of whom look back on the experience with a few regrets and lessons learned. Pyun prepared a Director’s Cut of the movie a while back but that’s not the version on this disc. This is the original 97-minute version. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Shout! Factory and Marvel seem to have an excellent relationship, with their ongoing line of motion comics and other releases. So you would think that it would be simple for Marvel to simply sweep Captain America under the rug and forget about it if they wanted to. Good for them for allowing a Blu-ray release of one of their least distinguished projects. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll even see an official release of that Fantastic Four debacle. Believe me, that thing makes Captain America look like The Dark Knight.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke