Captain America (1990 film)
Home video release poster
|Directed by||Albert Pyun|
|Screenplay by||Stephen Tolkin|
|Music by||Barry Goldberg|
|Cinematography||Philip Alan Waters|
|Edited by||Jon Poll|
|Distributed by||20/20 Vision|
Captain America is a 1990 Yugoslavian-American superhero film directed by Albert Pyun and written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block (aka Larry Block). The film is based on the Marvel Comics superhero of the same name. While the film takes several liberties with the comic's storyline, it features Steve Rogers becoming Captain America during World War II to battle the Red Skull, being frozen in ice, and subsequently being revived to save the President of the United States from a crime family that dislikes his environmentalist policies.
In Fascist Italy in 1936, the government kidnaps a child prodigy, Tadzio de Santis, and kills his family. The child is needed for an experimental project to create a Fascist supersoldier. The procedure's inventor, Dr. Maria Vaselli, objects to the cruelty of using the boy, and, under the cover of gunfire, flees to the United States to offer her services to the Americans.
Seven years later, the American government finds a volunteer in Steve Rogers, a frail soldier who is excluded from the draft due to being partly crippled by polio. The formula successfully cures Rogers' ailments and gives him "the strength and speed of a world-class athlete", but before any more supersoldiers can be created, Vaselli is murdered by a Nazi spy secretly working with Lt. Flemming. Rogers is shot three times but manages to kill the spy. Meanwhile, the now-20 year old de Santis—whose skin was burnt to a horrific, scarred red texture by the earlier version of Vaselli's procedure, but has physical prowess equal to Rogers—has become the Red Skull, and is planning to launch a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile at the White House. Having recovered from his wounds after mere days in a military hospital, Rogers—now code-named Captain America—is sent in to defeat the Skull and deactivate the missile. Rogers penetrates the launch compound, but after an initial battle, the Red Skull defeats Captain America and ties him to the missile as it is about to launch. Captain America grabs the Red Skull's arm and forces him to cut off his own hand to avoid being launched along with Rogers. While the missile is over Washington, D.C., a young boy named Thomas Kimball takes a photograph as Captain America kicks one of the missile's fins, changing its course mere yards from the White House and ultimately crashing somewhere in Alaska, burying itself under the ice with Rogers still attached.
Over the next 50 years, Tom Kimball becomes a Vietnam War hero and is eventually elected President of the United States. A year into his first term, he pushes for aggressive new pro-environmentalist legislation that angers the military-industrial complex, who hold a secret conference in Italy led by the Red Skull. Following the war, the Skull had extensive plastic surgery to partially alter his disfigured features, raised a hitwoman daughter, Valentina, and became the leader of a powerful crime family. In the 1960s, this same shadow organization hired the Red Skull and his thugs to murder various Americans who were against their militarism and Red Skull's fascism, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy. The Red Skull does not approve Kimball's murder, pointing out how the organization also assassinated Elvis Presley which turned into public disbelief. Instead, Tadzio de Santis will organize Kimball's kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing.
In Alaska, a team of researchers accidentally find Rogers' body frozen in a block of ice, and he awakens still thinking that it is the 1940s. His mysterious reappearance and escape make international headlines, alerting both Kimball and the Red Skull to the fact that their decades-old obsession is still alive. After battling some of the Red Skull's thugs, Rogers brushes off Sam Kolawetz, a reporter and childhood friend of President Kimball who has long hounded the Skull and his cartel, and hitchhikes his way back to his wartime girlfriend, Bernice, in California. While Bernice still lives at her old residence, she has long since married and raised her own daughter, Sharon, who gives Rogers a series of VHS history tapes to watch. Meanwhile, Red Skull's thugs, led by Valentina, break into Bernice's house, kill her, and cause her husband to have a heart attack during their efforts to find Rogers. He and Sharon visit the secret underground base where he gained his superpowers to recover Vaselli's diary and learn the original name of Red Skull. Although Rogers and Sharon find the diary, Red Skull's thugs grab it, but are defeated by Rogers with a makeshift shield. While visiting Sharon's father in the hospital, Rogers and Sharon learn from the news that President Kimball has been kidnapped, and vow to rescue him from the Red Skull. They travel to Italy and, in the Red Skull's childhood home, locate an old recording of the murder of his parents during a piano recital. Sharon agrees to be kidnapped to allow Rogers, who once again dons his costume, to enter the Red Skull's castle.
Kimball escapes from his cell and soon encounters Captain America. Awestruck to finally meet his enigmatic childhood hero, Kimball teams up with Rogers in laying siege to the castle. In the midst of their battle, the Red Skull pulls out a remote trigger for a nuclear bomb, but Rogers uses Sharon's recording of the murder of Red Skull's family fifty-seven years earlier to distract him. While the Red Skull is lost in thought, Captain America uses his shield to send Red Skull off a cliff before the bomb can be set off. As Valentina prepares to kill Rogers, she is then hit from behind by his returning shield. The United States Marines arrive to save the President and arrest the Americans involved in the kidnapping as Rogers and Sharon embrace, and a news voiceover announces the passing of Kimball's new environmental pact as agreed upon by dozens of other countries around the world.
- Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers / Captain America
- Ronny Cox as President Thomas "Tom" Kimball
- Garrette Ratliffe as young Tom
- Scott Paulin as Tadzio de Santis / Red Skull
- Massimilio Massimi as young Tadzio
- Ned Beatty as Sam Kolawetz
- Thomas Beatty as young Sam
- Darren McGavin as General Fleming
- Bill Mumy as young Fleming
- Francesca Neri as Valentina de Santis
- Michael Nouri as Lt. Col. Louis
- Kim Gillingham as Bernice Stewart / Sharon
- Melinda Dillon as Mrs. Rogers
- Carla Cassola as Dr. Maria Vaselli
- Wayde Preston as Jack
The first feature-length production of Captain America for theatrical release has a long and tumultuous production history. The film rights were originally purchased by The Cannon Group founders Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus in 1984. Initially Cannon regular Michael Winner (Death Wish 1-3) was attached to direct a script by James Silke. However, in 1986 Winner scrapped the Silke script and recruited British television writer Stan Hey (Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Dalziel and Pascoe). According to Hey, the film involved a stolen Statue of Liberty plot by an elderly Red Skull, aided by a female death cult, and Steve Rogers working as an artist. Later, after some negative feedback for the Winner & Hey version, Winner started over, working alongside Stan Lee and Lawrence J. Block (aka Larry Block), with an advertisement released with their names listed. By 1987 Winner was off the project and actor-director John Stockwell came aboard with a script by Stephen Tolkin.
Golan left Cannon in 1989 and as part of a severance package he was given control of 21st Century Film Corporation and allowed to carry over the film rights to the Captain America character. Director Albert Pyun, who had previously worked at Cannon, was brought on board and worked with the Tolkin script that originally started at Cannon. In an interview with Cinefantastique, Tolkin explained some of the changes that he made from the original comic, including changing the appearance and character of the Red Skull: "I didn't think people wanted to keep looking at this horrible skull face forever".
The film was intended for release in August 1990, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Captain America. Several release dates were announced between Fall 1990 and Winter 1991, but the film went unreleased for two years before debuting direct-to-video and on cable television in the United States in the summer of 1992. It was given a limited theatrical release internationally.
The film was almost universally panned by critics, holding a 7% rating on the film critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 critics, with an average rating of 2.9/10. The consensus states: "Lacking a script, budget, direction, or star capable of doing justice to its source material, this Captain America should have been left under the ice." It is the lowest rated film based on a Marvel Comics character on the site.
In one of the few contemporaneous reviews, Entertainment Weekly critic Frank Lovece wrote, "The movie isn't merely wrong for kids – it opens in pre-war Italy with a sequence in Italian with subtitles, and a machine-gun slaughter – it's just all wrong", and decried the "shapeless blob of a plot" in grading the film "F".
The film was released on DVD as part of the MGM limited edition made-on-demand series.
A Blu-ray Disc of the film was released by Shout! Factory on May 21, 2013 as a Collector's Edition which features a widescreen HD presentation and brand new interviews with director Pyun and star Salinger.
- Captain America (1944 serial)
- Captain America (1979)
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
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- Hartl, John. "'Captain America' Flies Straight To Video", The Seattle Times via the South Florida Sun Sentinel, July 8, 1992. Retrieved December 21, 2010. WebCitation archive.
- Captain America (1990) at the Internet Movie Database.,
- "Make Mine Marvel: Matt Salinger Interview". Marvel.com. Retrieved 2011-04-04.
- "The "Never Got Made" Files #66: Cannon's CAPTAIN AMERICA (1984–87)". Video Junkie. 22 July 2011.
- "Best Films Never Made #33: Michael Winner's Captain America". One Room With A View. 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2017-09-26.
- Florence, Bill (July 1990). "Captain America - Scriptwriter Stephen Tolkin on the liberties taken adapting the Marvel Comic hero". Cinefantastique. 21 (1): 11. Lay summary.
Captain America (Matt Salinger) rescues our kidnapped President (Ronny Cox). Columbia Pictures is now set to release the 21st Century Production in August.
- Lee, Stan. "Bullpen Bulletins: Stan's Soapbox," Marvel comics cover-dated May 1990.
- Lovece, Frank. Captain America (1992) (review), Entertainment Weekly, 31 July 1992. WebCitation archive.
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- "Shout! Factory Announces SDCC 2013 Events | San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog". sdccblog.com. Retrieved 2017-09-26.
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- "The Captain America Movie You Haven't Seen (And Probably Don't Want To)". Flickering Myth. 2016-04-24. Retrieved 2018-01-24.
- "LaserDisc Database – Captain America ". lddb.com.
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