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The Red Skull defeats Captain America in 1941, but the super hero is thrown into suspended animation. Captain America is revived 50 years later to face the Red Skull one more time.
For more about Captain America and the Captain America Blu-ray release, see Captain America Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin, Michael Nouri, Scott Paulin
Director: Albert Pyun
» See full cast & crew
Captain America Blu-ray Review
Missed it by that much. . .
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 15, 2013
You have to feel at least a little sorry listening to director Albert Pyun and star Matt Salinger recount their memories of the ill fated 1990 version of Captain America in the bonus featurette included on this new Collector's Edition Blu-ray. This project had just about everything that could go wrong with a film actually go wrong. The original production company underwent huge changes, Marvel wasn't very cooperative, the budget was miniscule and the shoot was limited both in terms of time and locations. The film was never even given a bonafide release in the United States, being consigned instead to the straight to video market, with a few international theatrical exhibitions picking up the slack. This version of Captain America has attained a cult status over the ensuing years, with both fans and detractors being fairly vociferous in their comments. Looking at this Captain America now from the vantage point of over twenty years, it's certainly no masterpiece and reveals its paltry budget at virtually every turn, but on the other hand, it's nowhere near as bad as it might have been. One way or the other, it's going to remain a fascinating comparison piece to Captain America: The First Avenger, a film which seemingly had everything going for it which was repeatedly denied to this 1990 effort. While there aren't any outright complaints lobbed at the newer version by Pyun or Salinger, one can't help but wonder if there isn't at least a modicum of bad feelings emanating from the duo, especially since the Chris Evans feature became such a worldwide phenomenon.
There are of course a lot of correspondences between the 1990 and 2011 versions of Captain America. In this outing, we once again have beleaguered hero Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger, son of reclusive Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger), who in this version isn't merely scrawny, he's actually a polio survivor with a gimpy leg and is therefore ineligible to fight in World War II. The film's prologue has already introduced us to a genius Italian boy whom the Fascists kidnap (killing his family in the process) in order to "convert" him into a super soldier. He will of course become Red Skull (Scott Paulin) as an adult. Doctor Vaselli (Carla Cassola), the scientist behind the project, had no idea a child would be utilized and seeks to stop the experiment, getting shot at and barely escaping in the process. Doctor Vaselli's research continues in the United States once she defects, and Steve is selected from a batch of volunteers to be the first of what is proposed to be a whole brigade of American super soldiers who will fight this new, crimson colored menace.
While the transformation itself goes off pretty well (all things considered), Doctor Vaselli's fate is sealed by a surreptitious Nazi who has snuck into the viewing room, and, later, Steve himself (now operating under the pseudonym Captain America) finds his first interchange with Red Skull a bit unnerving, with our erstwhile hero strapped to a rocket which Red Skull plans to have "visit" the White House. Some fast thinking by the Captain prevents that disaster, but he's actually seen by a young boy soaring overhead, a sight that will forever color the young boy's life. That young boy grows up to be President Kimball (Ronny Cox), and the lives of Kimball and the Captain intersect once again decades later when the Captain's frozen body is found far beneath the glaciers of Alaska, where it had crash landed back in the 1940s after the Captain averted the potential White House disaster.
That finally sets up the rather long second act of the film, where a revitalized Steve Rogers must finally confront the still living Red Skull, a supervillain who has the wise idea to use mind control on President Kimball and ultimately assume the Presidency himself (the screenwriters probably didn't quite realize that an Italian born nemesis wouldn't be eligible for the office, but in a film like this, little niggling points of actual factual accuracy seldom come into play). In the meantime, in one of the film's more questionable elements, Steve has gone back to his 1940s era girlfriend's home, only to find (of course) an elderly woman who is still holding a torch for him. The woman's daughter is a dead ringer for her mother (both roles are played by Kim Gillingham), and Sharon, the daughter, pretty much picks up with Steve right where Steve and her mother left off decades earlier.
This 1990 iteration actually probably has more in common with the similarly lo-fi 1944 Republic Pictures serial than it does with ultra glossy Chris Evans version. Both the 1990 film and the Republic outing share a low rent ethos that has to make do with what's available, like it or not, and both are generally amiable if occasionally dunderheaded in their execution. Salinger makes for an affable enough hero (director Pyun evidently originally wanted Salinger for only the Rogers part, with Howie Long his preferred choice to play the actual Captain, an idea which Marvel nixed outright), and he has some good, wryly humorous moments sprinkled throughout the film. Paulin makes for a suitably hiss- worthy villain, though the film perhaps errs by showing Red Skull's roots (and by bringing up his tortured past late in the film), something that actually makes the character sympathetic in his own bizarre way. The supporting cast here is variable, with good stolid turns from the likes of Ned Beatty, Bill Mumy and Darren McGavin (the latter two playing the same roles as young man and elder), but with Kim Gillingham not really connecting with her role or with Salinger in terms of romantic spark activity.
The film's special effects are occasionally just a little on the laughable side, but considering the lack of funds available to Pyun, things look surprisingly decent most of the time. The stunt work is quite good (though it's easy to spot stuntmen stepping in for Salinger at the drop of a boomerang shield), and the Yugoslavia location work adds a little visual flair to the proceedings. The film will probably always be little more than a curiosity item, but revisiting it now with 20/20 hindsight shows how close a near miss can come to hitting at least the inner rings of a target if not the actual bullseye. There's a lot to like about this Captain America, even if one can't help but see how much better it could have been.
Captain America Blu-ray, Video Quality
Captain America is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Fans of this film who have had to contend with pretty shoddy looking broadcast prints through the years should be very well pleased with this high definition presentation, at least for the most part. The elements are largely damage free (just a handful of very small problems intrude), and the overall image is very nicely saturated, with especially deep blues and reds. Fine object detail is excellent, to the point where the seams in the Captain's latex suit are easily visible. There are some mosquito noise issues in a couple of stock shots as well as some dimly lit nighttime scenes, but otherwise grain looks natural (if a bit heavy at times). There are also some niggling haloing issues, but again these are fairly minor and shouldn't prove to be too much of a distraction.
Captain America Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Captain America features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that sounds great, at least if you can get past the cheesy synth-laden score. Dialogue is very cleanly presented, and while there's not any true LFE here, the low end has some nice "oomph" in such scenes as the blast off of the rocket with the hapless Captain strapped to the side. Foley effects sound crisp and are well rendered, and overall fidelity is very good throughout this presentation.
Captain America Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Captain America Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It had been years since I had seen this version, and I have to say I actually enjoyed revisiting this Captain America after so long. It's unabashedly cheesy and shows its paltry budget virtually every step of the way, but it's a lot better than one might expect, considering the circumstances. Fans of the Chris Evans version may want to check this out just for the camp factor alone, but there are occasional glimmers of a could have been blockbuster lurking just beneath the surface of this effort. If you set your expectation bar at a suitable level, this Blu-ray offers good video and audio and has a great little featurette, and comes Recommended.
Captain America: Other Editions
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Captain America Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Captain America Trailer - April 15, 2013
Independent distributors Shout Factory have released a trailer for their upcoming Blu-ray release of director Albert Pyun's Captain America (1990), starring Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Darren McGavin, and Ned Beatty. The release is set to arrive on the market on ...
• Captain America (1990) - February 7, 2013
Shout Factory will bring to Blu-ray director Albert Pyun's Captain America (1990), starring Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Darren McGavin, and Ned Beatty. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation on May 21.
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