2 StarsAfter the massive international success of the Batman pictures Cannon studios jumped on the superhero bandwagon and pumped out this enjoyable low-budget film based on the venerable Marvel Comics character. Matt Salinger (grandson of the infamous author) is quite good in the title role, his awe-shucks innocence is put to good use. Cadet Steve Rodgers is transformed from a weakling into the super-solider known as ‘Capt. America’ in order to battle the Nazi’s and their maniacal leader ‘Red Skull’. After being captured on his inaugural mission and promptly strapped to a missile that lands in the frozen tundra of Alaska, Capt. America is frozen alive for nearly 50 years before thawing out and re-entering the world. This portion of the picture plays like an early version of the Mel Gibson film Forever Young.
This movie was never given the proper theatrical release that it admittedly deserves. Production values are up to par with Cannon films of that era, with a few exceptional set-pieces that are nicely staged and photographed. Ronny Cox and Ned Betty show up in extended cameos as the POTUS and his best friend, respectively. It’s nice to see Cox playing the leader of the free world and not some villain. Speaking in an overly theatrical tone that slips into count Dracula parody at times is actor Scott Paulin in the role of Red Skull. Fortunately he is kept off screen for large chunks of the screen-time so it isn’t too distracting. Therein lies my biggest problem with the film, Capt. America and Red Skull don’t feel like arch-enemies here, just two wandering characters in a plot that treats their final showdown as perfunctory.
There is an amusing running gag showing Rodgers repeatedly stealing cars and a nifty opening sequence in which the Nazi’s kidnap child prodigy Johann Shmidt and turn him into the Red Skull. On the whole this is better than the similarly silly Roger Corman produced version of Fantastic Four (not the theatrical version) yet not as polished and entertaining as The Punisher. An extremely rare film that can be found on Amazon on VHS for curious viewers. Director Albert Pyun is currently working on his director’s cut to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray soon.
Director: Albert Pyun
Stars: Matt Salinger, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin