Film Review: Captain America (1990, dir. Albert Pyun)


I don’t read comic books. I’m not a big fan of superhero movies. I’m not particularly a fan of the Marvel movies we have been getting. I couldn’t get my hands on the 70’s Captain America movies. Jedadiah had the nerve to write about the Turkish Captain America movie before I started writing on Through the Shattered Lens. I don’t really even recall much about the Chris Evans’ Captain America movies except he’s kind of lovable, but vapid. None of that matters. This is pure cheesy fun. The only real crime this movie commits is not having a budget. That, and I think they thought they were making a Bond film. Let’s dig in because to not talk about this film in detail would be an injustice.

This movie drops you right into something that just screams Captain America: 1936 Italy.


Get used to title cards. This movie has a bunch of them even when they aren’t necessary, or don’t make any sense. We are introduced to a child prodigy when the movie bothers to subtitle the actors speaking foreign languages so we can actually know what’s going on. I thought I had a dubbed version of this movie for awhile. In come the Nazis or Fascists and they take the kid and kill his family. A tape recorder is running during this because he was playing the piano. It winds up recording the murder of his family.

Now it’s off to Fortress Lorenzo. I know this because the title card tells me so.


We are here because we need to watch the bad guys looking at stock footage of a white rat. Then the grand reveal!


Okay, they are working with a low budget, but that is simply a rat they have turned into Red Skull Rat. We do actually get a real Red Skull (Scott Paulin) when they put the kid in what looks like an electric chair.


There’s a female scientist (Carla Cassola) here who doesn’t like what is being done to this kid and escapes as they zap him. What part is she going to play in this movie? Wait for it later. It’s kind of awesome and really stupid.

Now we cut to 7 Years Later, which means 1943 because again, title cards told me so. Two of them in case I can’t add and to make sure I know that 7 years have past for…um…reasons? Now we are at the White House, which is in Washington, D.C. Thank goodness for this title card. Otherwise, I might have been confused.


We find out that the scientist lady who escaped 7 years prior in 1936 Italy from Fortress Lorenzo perfected a process of taking a boy with birth defects and making him “as fast and as strong as an athlete” in America. Hitler already has Red Skull at this point. They plan to have a regiment of super soldiers and Steve Rogers has volunteered to be the first. You might be thinking right now that the few lines of dialog that were subtitled earlier mentioned how old the kid was so that adding 7 years would explain how Red Skull will appear as an adult. Of course not.

Now we go to Redondo Beach, California via another title card.


Meet 1990’s Captain America (Matt Salinger)!


I did not try to catch him with looks like that on his face. He does that all on his own throughout this movie. He limps around and says goodbye to the family and girlfriend. Now it’s off to a top secret diner with scientist lady. They get there one week later. I know this because another title card tells me so.


It would have been very confusing without it. At least I thought it was them. It turns out it’s a couple of military guys who proceed to go through a secret entrance in the cloakroom and down to an underground lab. Of course Senator Kirby is there.


Is that Jack Kirby? He really does call him Senator Kirby. He is also the only person he greets by name for no reason. They’ve kept all the details about this a secret between one guy and the lady because once they die, the movie can just randomly give Captain America his things without having to explain anything. How fast does that happen?

Zap him!


I love how during this they cut several times to parts of his body that don’t appear to change to show he is getting stronger. His vitals signs are stable. Thank God! Also, thank God for plot convenience because there’s a traitor in their midst you see. He immediately shoots and kills both the guy and the scientist before getting himself electrocuted. Captain America also takes a bullet to the chest.


Don’t worry about him. We now cut to him lying in a bed.


I can’t tell you how much time has passed, where this bed is located, or if this building is the White House or not because there wasn’t a title card to tell me so. Taking a bullet to the chest is really going to put the Captain down for awhile, right? I mean he’s not Superman or anything. They even said that earlier. That’s not a issue for 1990’s Captain America. He hears something about the bad guys having a launch site and he’s up and ready in the blink of an eye.


Then we cut to footage of a plane from so far back that we can’t tell it isn’t actually from 1943 or whenever it is now. He now has his uniform and his shield. The uniform is apparently fireproof and looks like it does because the scientist lady loved the red, white, and blue.


Captain America says that there’s something nobody has talked about. It’s that he would like some backup. Captain America wasn’t paying attention earlier. Since the traitor killed off the guy and scientist lady, he is the only one of his kind. Captain America jumps out of the plane and within seconds is spotted.


Then with probably the best special effects this movie has to offer, he throws the shield to knock down a guard tower. Cut to Red Skull who apparently is psychic because an alarm going off automatically means it’s Captain America.


Meanwhile, Captain America is outside probably wondering why it’s necessary for him to be wearing the uniform when there’s no fire around. That’s of course when he blows some stuff up to make his own fire before entering the launch site. He spots Red Skull, says “holy mackerel”, and greets him by throwing his shield at him. Red Skull catches it without any trouble.


He throws the shield into the ground. Red Skull proceeds to beat Captain America up and straps him to a rocket.


He mentions New York while he is strangling Captain America, but then tells him the rocket is going to the White House. Captain America grabs Red Skull’s hand to make him come along for the ride so Red Skull cuts off his own hand, and the missile launches. Now we cut to Washington, D.C. again.


I’m not sure where in Washington, D.C. though because the title card doesn’t tell me this time. It cuts to another building and then to what I think is a hotel room. There’s a kid there who is up at 4 A.M. because he wants to see the president since the title card said the set he is on is in Washington D.C. Mom puts him to bed and the kid makes a wish to be the president one day. The kid is having none of this. He gets up and grabs his decoder ring.


I’d make a joke about Ovaltine seeing as that is a Captain Midnight decoder ring, but something way better is about to happen. The kid now goes to that place we saw earlier and sees this through his camera.


Captain America sees the kid so he punches and kicks on the rocket till a wing breaks off. The rocket nearly hits the kid.


Then the rocket misses the building. That’s right. Captain America kicked and punched a rocket he was attached to and it changed its trajectory to miss the target. You won’t see Chris Evans do that in any Captain America movie. Probably because it’s bullshit. Anyhow, we now cutaway to somewhere in Alaska.


I’m not sure where in Alaska, but it certainly is “somewhere”. Wherever it is, the rocket crashes into the ground and there is a hand in a red glove sticking out of it now. I’m not sure rockets work that way so that missing the White House would place it in Alaska, but I’m no expert. However, I am an expert at reading title cards because I now know we are in Springfield, Ohio.


This is the house of the kid from earlier who is talking to his friend about what he saw. Thanks to him we find out that was the White House earlier. The movie also helps you to know that Captain America kicked off a wing from the rocket because if you blink during that scene you’ll miss it.


The kids decide they need to figure out who this guy on a rocket was. The blonde kid asks if he had a trident. The other kid says no, which means it wasn’t Sub-Mariner. The kid also rules out that it was the Human Torch because he would have blown up the rocket. Yes, the kids just ruled out that our current Captain America was strapped to the rocket. I would say that’s the coolest thing in this movie, but I’d be lying.

Now we fly through the decades to reach 1993. The kid grew up to be Ronny Cox who was elected as president in 1992. Ronny Cox is going to be leaving for Rome to try and negotiate a ban on “environmentally damaging industrial practices.” By that I mean he is going to Rome so that Red Skull can easily have him kidnapped.

We then cut to that place from earlier. There’s no title card, but thankfully it does look like the one that said the White House. Ronny Cox talks to a General Fleming who doesn’t like these new environmental guidelines President Ronny Cox has written up. He also isn’t happy that his leg lamp he had in A Christmas Story (1983) was broken because he’s played by Darren McGavin. Now we go to Fortress Lorenzo, Italy.


First necessary title card we’ve had in awhile seeing as the shot of this place was so dark earlier that it could have been anything. Not sure why we really need to know this is Fortress Lorenzo though seeing as they could have just used the same establishing shot and then cut to Red Skull inside or other established villains. Inside we find that Red Skull is a ventriloquist on top of being psychic because he doesn’t actually move his lips, but we hear his voice.


What’s that you say? He’s too far away in that screenshot to tell that his lips are closed? Don’t worry! His lips don’t move here either.


Finally, Red Skull decides it’s time to speak with his lips. This is when we find out that it was Red Skull that hired Sirhan Sirhan to kill Bobby Kennedy and Oswald to kill JFK. Also, it apparently cost over $22 million to kill Martin Luther King. Because doing these things were so tough and they didn’t get anything for it, he decides that instead of killing Ronny Cox, they should implant something into his brain to control him. Red Skull also isn’t so red anymore and has hair. He also wears gloves so we can’t see that he has both of his hands. I’m going to just stop calling him Red Skull at this point. He’s Red “Blofeld” Skull, or Redfeld for short.

Now we cut to Alaska.


It is the same shot from earlier, but minus the “somewhere in” and the blue tint. Some Germans from a West German Alaskan Field Station find Captain America. I know this because of an actual sign and not a title card. They brought him back in a block of ice where we get blurry shots, closeups of eyes, and ice falling on the ground. Captain America has broken right out of the ice and immediately leaves without saying a word.


Captain America doesn’t have time to talk. He only has an hour left in the movie and hasn’t even made it back to California before going on vacation in Italy. That is his shield he is holding. It was nice of Redfeld to strap his shield to the missile along with him. No really, he did strap Captain America to the rocket with his shield.

It’s off to the White House now. Ronny Cox looks at a paper filled with a lot of nonsense text that is repeated in several locations. There is also a picture taken by a scientist at the Alaskan station that he so did not take because we saw him take a picture of Captain America’s back and not a profile shot. None of that matters because as Ronny Cox is about to toss the paper onto a table, we see that 150 convicts have been released.


That must have been wonderful news for Menahem Golan who produced this movie. It meant there would be plenty of criminals on the street for Charles Bronson to shoot in Death Wish V (1994). Ronny immediately calls his old friend who now works for the Washington Dispatch, which was established in 1889. Again, I know this because an actual sign tells me. Don’t worry, the title cards come back. Ronny Cox’s old friend grew up to be Ned Beatty.


He is here because he already did Superman (1978) so he needed to balance that out with a Marvel movie. Beatty is off to find out what happened.

Then we go to Rome via a title card and are introduced to Redfeld’s daughter.


Why? Because Redfeld doesn’t do things himself anymore. He sends his daughter to deal with Captain America. How does that logic work? Redfeld couldn’t even keep his own hand against Captain America and he is a super soldier too. She’s not going to seduce him either. He is legitimately sending her to kill Captain America. Last time we saw Captain America he was in Alaska, but he has made his way to Northern Canada.


I love how it cuts to Captain America breathing heavily against a tree, to a chopper in the sky, and then to a newspaper being held by one of the bad girls that says “British Columbia Gazette”. Maybe because they realized that Northern Canada could mean he was over near Hudson Bay or that they thought their audience wouldn’t know where British Columbia was located. This did come out in 1990 (sort of) so I’m going with option number two.

The ladies immediately spot Captain America to which he gives us another great look.


Ned Beatty is also out here driving around because somehow! What follows is Captain America being chased through the forest by women on motorcycles. He throws and hits the daughter in her helmet before getting shot by her in the arm. That’s when Ned Beatty shows up because just roll with it. He asks Captain America who they were and he says Nazis.

Now we get what is probably the most ridiculous thing in the movie. As Ned Beatty talks to Captain America, he notices that Beatty has a tape recorder made in Japan and is driving a Volkswagen. Captain America isn’t looking so good here.


That’s when this happens.





Yep! Captain America just pretended to be car sick so he could steal Ned Beatty’s car. You won’t see Chris Evans do that. Most likely because Captain America isn’t supposed to be a car thief. I also love that it’s Ned Beatty in particular he leaves in the middle of the wilderness.

He keeps driving till he runs out of fuel, then gets into the back of a truck. The truck then drives by the camera with it’s back door open and ocean in the background, which means Captain America has reached California.


He also has a trench coat now and a bag conveniently big enough to hold his shield. He is very confused by this lady who probably was once an extra on Baywatch. He then finally finds his house from the beginning of the movie. A car pulls up in front of the place and this woman (Kim Gillingham) gets out.


That of course means it’s Captain America’s girl from the 1940s who looked like this.


He tries to grab her, she hits him in the head with her purse, and Captain America falls to the ground.


I guess he was crazy from the heat. Surprisingly, the credits say it is the same actress who played both roles. I don’t see it, but hair and makeup can do some amazing things. What did she have in her purse anyways that knocked him down so easily? We get a little reintroduction here between Captain America and his girlfriend in old lady makeup who is the mother of the blonde named Sharon.

Then we go back to Fortress Lorenzo where honestly Redfeld’s daughter appears to use the fact that Ned Beatty is a Pulitzer prize winning reporter as a reason that she couldn’t capture Captain America. I guess that means if Roger Ebert had been out there, then he would have also gotten Captain America to safety because he once won a Pulitzer prize. He also would have gotten his car stolen. She’s also convinced that the reporter can lead them to Captain America.

A few things happen now, but it just means that everyone knows where Captain America is now. What’s really important is that Captain America is now learning how to work a VCR.


You can see that Redfeld’s daughter wasted no time whatsoever because she has already bugged the place and is listening in from the top of the frame.

I think you know what happens now. Ned Beatty shows up and dies. Captain America’s old flame dies. Her husband winds up in the hospital. Captain America and Sharon escape Redfeld’s daughter’s wrath. During this scene we also find out that scientist lady kept a diary because Captain America needs to know Redfeld’s real name. Oh, and while they don’t show it. It appears that Redfeld’s daughter electrocuted the old girlfriend to death offscreen. She doesn’t mess around. Neither does Captain America at the end of this movie. That’s another part that’s awesome about this film. The president has also been kidnapped by 20 heavily armed men. I don’t believe that. Redfeld only uses the baddest of the bad 1980s girls that money can buy.

Things have really gotten serious, but I’ll pare you the details.


He goes to the previously secret diner, into the ladies room, knocks down a wall, and descends into the secret room. He finds the diary before having to defend himself from bad guys. Captain America really has two modes of fighting in this movie: ninja mode and street brawler mode. Either way, he wins through the power of wildly confusing editing. He wins, and it’s off to Italy with Sharon. Can you guess what happens next?






Captain America again pretends he needs to puke, then takes the car to leave Sharon behind. This time it’s even better than before. The reason is because in about 1 minute of runtime she catches up to him making that taking the car scene pointless. They are at some people’s house who give them the tape recorder from the beginning of the film, they get it fixed, and they are off to have lunch so they can be attacked.


Captain America runs away and discovers the two dumbest kids in Italy who don’t know to move when two people are running towards them with a car speeding behind the two people running towards them. Flip, confusing editing, Captain America pays for a bike, and they take that bike immediately off a cliff because it has no brakes. Captain America has no problem stealing cars, but he pays for bicycles.


During all of this action one of the ladies dropped her purse with a picture of Redfeld inside, the weather magically changes to rain, and then they start driving to Fortress Lorenzo where the weather is just fine again. The bad guys are in pursuit. Do I need to show what happens next? Nah, she gets out, spots the bad guys, runs back to the car, and drives it away to draw the bad guys away from Captain America who she has now ditched. That appears to be the running gag in this movie. She is captured and held separately in the fortress with Ronny Cox. Captain America now dons the uniform once more and somehow climbs up on this ledge.


You know the drill. Sharon and Ronny Cox escape on their own. Along with Captain America and crazy editing, they force Redfeld to a cliff where he apparently keeps his piano for some reason.


Redfeld is going to set off a bomb so Captain America pulls out the tape recorder to remind him of the child he once was. Redfeld’s daughter also shoots Captain America in the arm again here. It’s a very touching moment as he remembers, his daughter looks on, and he looks off the cliff realizing what a monster he has become. However, he still wants to set off the bomb to destroy them both so Captain America throws his shield and knocks him off the cliff.


I love how it looks like you can see someone dressed like Redfeld’s daughter push the dummy of Redfeld off the cliff.


Redfeld’s daughter picks up a gun to shoot Captain America. Captain America’s shield is still in the air and on its way back to him. He tells her “heads up”, we hear it hit her, and he catches it. We never see her body or the shield connect with her head. Captain America just severed Redfeld’s daughter’s head with his shield. I can’t think of any other explanation.

With the bad guys defeated, Captain America looks off towards the sky for some reason.


Then he appears in full uniform and transforms into his comic book character.


But there’s one final piece of information we need to know. The nations agree to an environmental protection treaty. Ronny Cox says to remember those who have “sacrificed all to make our world a better place to live.” And “to Captain America, we are all back in the fight.” They even ask you in the credits to support The Environmental Protection Act of 1990.


There is one more thing to mention here.


This movie was an American and Yugoslavian co-production. That wasn’t unusual. Jadran Film worked on many co-productions. They would fall from being a powerhouse when Yugoslavia broke up. Yugoslavia was breaking up into separate states right around 1990. That means as Yugoslavia was about to break into separate states, they co-produced a movie about one of the most nationalist and patriotic superheroes in the world.

My final thoughts on this movie are to go enjoy the new Captain America movie, then come back and have some fun with this one. At the very least, it will make you appreciate that we are getting Marvel movies now that have proper budgets, good actors, and crews that put in an effort into making the films. 1990’s Captain America approves!


More Pure 80s Hokum: The Park Is Mine (1985, directed by Steven Hilliard Stern)

The_Park_Is_Mine_VideoCoverTommy Lee Jones is Mitch, a troubled Vietnam veteran who has just lost his job and who can not convince his ex-wife to let him spend any time with his kids.  One day, Mitch receives a letter from Mike, a friend who has recently committed suicide.  In the letter, Mike explains that he has been stashing weapons and explosives in Central Park.  Before he discovered that he had cancer, Mike had been planning to take over the park as a symbolic protest against government bureaucracy.  Now that Mike is dead, it is now Mitch’s job to declare, “The park is mine!”

When Mitch takes over the park, he announces that he does not want to hurt anyone.  Instead, he wants everyone in New York to spend some time to thinking about their lives.  “There’s a lot of people like me, who don’t feel like they have any control over their lives,” he says, “Think about how you treat people and how you want to be treated.”  Meanwhile, he will be camping out in the park for 72 hours and anyone who tries to come after him runs the risk of getting shot or blown up.   Then he orders everyone to vote for Bernie Sanders and make America great again.  Or at least he would if this film had been made today, instead of in 1985.

Deputy Mayor Dix (Peter Dvorsky) is so evil that he makes Ghostbusters‘s Walter Peck look reasonable.  Dix is personally offended that Mitch has taken over Central Park.  He is so offended that he is even willing to first call out the National Guard and then hire foreign mercenaries to sneak into the park and track Mitch down.

Reporter Valerie Weaver (Helen Shaver) also sneaks into the park so that she can interview Mitch.  When Mitch captures her, he shouts at her, “GET NEKKID!”  No, it’s not that type of movie.  Mitch just wants to make sure that she’s not carrying any weapons on her.  (The Park Is Mine was made for HBO.  Even in the 80s, HBO understood the importance of getting nekkid.)

One of my favorite things about The Park Is Mine is that, after he goes to all the trouble to paint his face and dress up in camouflage, Mitch still spends the entire movie wearing a blue Yankees cap that would make him an easy target for anyone with a scope.

The Park Is Still Mine

My other favorite thing is that, after Mitch asks everyone to think about how they treat people, a crowd of people gathers outside the park.  When a reporter interviews them, a burly man with a hockey mullet and dressed in denim steps up and says, in a perfect Canadian accent, “My name is Elton Costanza.  I’m from Queens!”


I’m not sure if Elton Costanza is meant to be related to George Costanza.  He does look like he could be a distant cousin.

The rest of the film’s depiction of New York City is about as plausible as Elton’s accent.  For a film taking place in New York in the 80s, the streets are too clean and the people are too friendly.  Even when that crowd shows up to support Mitch, they are the most polite crowd that anyone could hope for.  That may be because. though The Park Is Mine takes place in New York, it was filmed in Toronto.

The Park is Mine is both thoroughly implausible, totally heavy handed, and stupidly entertaining. Tommy Lee Jones is one of the few actors who can actually sell a line like, “The park is mine!” and Yaphet Kotto provides good support as a policeman who is sympathetic to Mitch.  Peter Dvorsky is all too believable as the ultimate example of heartless bureaucracy.  The most interesting thing about The Park Is Mine is that it comes down, without a hint of ambiguity, on the side of a domestic terrorist.  That probably would not be allowed to happen today.  In fact, the entire film feels like a relic of a past age, a celebration of an individualistic philosophy that America once embraced but, ever since the trauma of 911, has been in the process of abandoning.  If Mitch was unhappy with America in the 80s, imagine how he would feel about the Patriot Act, NSA spying, too big to fail bailouts, and campus safe spaces.

Like Let’s Get Harry, The Park Is Mine is pure 80s hokum that deserves a nostalgic DVD release.

Hopefully, one with Tommy Lee Jones providing commentary.

The Park Is Definitely Mine

Pure 80s Hokum: Let’s Get Harry (1986, directed by Alan Smithee)

Lets-get-harry-movie-poster-1986-1020362350Let’s Get Harry opens deep in the jungles of Columbia.  The newly appointed American Ambassador (Bruce Gray) is touring a newly constructed water pipeline when suddenly, terrorist drug smugglers attack!  The Ambassador, along with chief engineer Harry Burck (Mark Harmon, long before NCIS), is taken hostage.  Drug Lord Carlos Ochobar announces that both the Ambassador and Harry will be executed unless the U.S. government immediately releases Ochobar’s men.  However, the policy of the U.S. government is to not negotiate with terrorists.  As grizzled mercenary Norman Shrike (Robert Duvall) explains it, nobody gives a damn about a minor ambassador.

Nobody in a small blue-collar town in Illinois gives a damn about the ambassador either.  But they do give a damn about their friend Harry!  When its obvious that the bureaucrats up in Washington are not going to do anything, Harry’s younger brother, Corey (Michael Shoeffling, Sixteen Candles), decides that he and his friends are going to go to Columbia themselves and get Harry!  Helping him out are Bob (Thomas F. Wilson, Back to the Future), Kurt (Rick Rossovich, Top Gun), Spence (Glenn Frey!), and Jack (Gary Busey).  If Jake Ryan, Biff Tannen, Slider, Buddy Holly, and the guy from the Eagles who wasn’t Don Henley can’t get Harry, then who can!?

There were a lot of these “American rescue mission” movies made in the 80s, everything from Uncommon Valor to The Delta Force to the Rambo films.  Plotwise, Let’s Get Harry adds little to the genre.  It’s about as simplistic and implausible as a Donald Trump campaign speech.  A bunch of terrorists are holding American hostages and making us all look bad while the establishment refuses to do anything about it?  Don’t worry!  Here come a bunch of heavily armed, no-nonsense American citizens to save the day and make America great again!


There are two things that distinguish Let’s Get Harry.  First, Let’s Get Harry is one of the many films to have been credited to Alan Smithee.  From 1968 to 2000, Alan Smithee was the official pseudonym used by directors who wanted to disown a project.  Smithee has been credited as directing everything from Solar Crisis to Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home to The O.J. Simpson Story.  In the case of Let’s Get Harry, Smithee was standing in for veteran director Stuart Rosenberg (probably best known for Cool Hand Luke).  Rosenberg originally only planned for Mark Harmon to be seen only at the end of the film, much like Matt Damon in Saving Private Ryan.  When TriStar Pictures demanded extra scenes featuring Harmon being taken and held hostage, Rosenberg took his name off the film.

(Before Rosenberg signed on to direct, Let’s Get Harry started out as a Sam Fuller project and he received a story credit on the film.  With the exception of some of the scenes with Harmon, which may have been shot by a different director, Rosenberg’s direction was adequate but Let’s Get Harry really does cry out for a director like Sam Fuller.)

Secondly, there is the cast, which is a lot more interesting than would be typically found in a low-budget, 80s action film.  Not surprisingly, by respectively underplaying and overplaying, Duvall and Busy give the two best performances.  Meanwhile, lightweight Mark Harmon gives the worst.  Perhaps because of the conflict between Rosenberg and the studio over his character, Harmon spends the entire movie looking lost.


As an exercise in patriotic wish fulfillment, Let’s Get Harry is pure 80s hokum.  It may be dumb but it is also entertaining.  After all, any film that features not only Robert Duvall, Gary Busey, and Ben Johnson, but also Glenn Frey is going to be worth watching.  Let’s Get Harry has never been released on DVD and is currently only available on VHS.  Somebody needs to do something about this.

Let’s get Harry on DVD!