One thing I found most inexplicable about Albert Pyun’s 1990 “Captain America” adaptation is the curious presence of the cast of “A Christmas Story.” Either, they were in town for a press junket, or Pyun just loves the movie, because they appear throughout the film. Melinda Dillon has a walk on role as Steve Rogers’ mom who gives him a memento to take to the war with him, while Darren McGavin has a supporting role as a corrupt politician working with the Red Skull. What, did Peter Billingsley opt out of playing Bucky? In either case, director Albert Pyun does the best he can with so little, and 1990’s “Captain America” is still a terrible comic book movie, in spite of the nostalgia value it holds. Only real collectors will want to pick up this latest Shout Factory release, as director Pyun really doesn’t know how to construct a great Captain America movie.
If you enjoy the Red Skull and Captain America in full regalia, you’ll want to re-play the fifteen minutes they show up to do battle, because about eighty percent of the movie features no costume and no Red Skull in true form. The Skull for the most part, is able to live through modern times and camouflages as a politician with a goofy face mask covering his red face. He’s mainly just the red skull because that’s what he calls himself. Captain America is also in a literal interpretation of his costume, that looks binding and uncomfortable, so Steve Rogers only really fights bad guys in plain clothing with the colors of his uniform.
Was director Pyun only allowed to rent these props for the film? Did he have a limited time to use them? Or did he just not find a proper way to implement them for the movie? “Captain America” is never truly able to depict the hero’s journey in a dramatic manner, so the film opts for camp instead. Captain America is strapped to a rocket that Red Skull plans to launch, blasting the two in to the North Pole, freezing them for decades. The Skull emerges first and establishes his regime, while Cap is thawed out and attempts to adjust to wacky modern times. With the help of Ned Beatty, Cap is able to uncover the plot being developed by the Red Skull, allowing him a chance to conquer his foes thanks to kindly Americans so gullible, Cap is able to steal their cars with a clear conscience. Some superhero he is.
And to add to the hilarity, he steals from his supporters like it’s a bodily function, and without explanation. You also have to love how the film ends with the iconic image of Captain America as the credits roll to soft rock music. Talk about missing the point. Kids today aren’t aware of how good they have it. These days they’re allowed to re-watch the Chris Evan’s “Captain America” which was a rather entertaining and great adaptation of the Marvel icon. Back in 1990, for kids like me, Albert Pyun’s superhero schlockfest was about as good as we got, and we had to settle for it. Albert Pyun’s 1990 version of the Star Spangled Superhero is nowhere near as awful as previous versions, but it still manages to be lousy. Only nostalgiaddicts need apply for this release.
The Blu-Ray release from Shout Factory features “A Look Back at Captain America,” a twenty minute look at the film with anecdotes from Albert Pyun and Matt Salinger. Both men insist that the film could have been so much better had they been allowed better resources to commit to a proper adaptation. It’s a shame they weren’t allowed a chance to offer us a great version of Captain America. Fans looking for more information, or folks looking for rationalization on why the film stinks will enjoy this featurette.