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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Captain America's Greatest Foe: Film or the Red Skull?

In 1944, film company Republic, produced its most expensive serial film ever and its last superhero film.  What was it?  Captain America.  Sadly this 15 film series was not in harmony with the comic book version of Captain America.  It featured District Attroney, Grant Gardner, as Captain America rather than US Private Steve Rogers.  Republic's version of Cap had not shield and he wielded a regular gun.  Rather than fight the Nazi's, as Captain America did in the comics, he fought against Dr. Cyrus Maldor, a museum curator whose secret villain identity was The Scarab.  The costume had no wings on his head, no chainmail and no pirate's boots.  Rather the costume was cloth, with high shoes and was black and white because it showed up better on film.  Captain America was played by Dick Purcell.

It would be over 30 years late before another Captain America film would be produced.  In fact, it was 2 made for television films in 1979, starring Reb Brown as Captain America.  In these films, Steve Rogers is not a US Private from the 1940's.  He is a contemporary artist whose father fought in World War II and was so patriotic that he is given the nickname Captain America.  Steve finds himself in an accident and receives a secret chemical called FLAG-Full Latent Ability Gain- which enhances him physically.  He "supes" up his van, drives a modified motorcycle and dawns a costume adopting the name Captain America.  It is not the comic book version and his shield is a removable transparent windshield off of the motorcycle.  The second film, Captain America: Death Too Soon, features a costume that more resembles the comic book version but the overall movie is just bad.  The only possible redeeming aspect is that the villain, General Miguel, is played by actor Christopher Lee.  Other than that there are not too many factors they make it any good.  Both films are low budget B Rated movies and they have that appeal that makes us want to watch them just to see how bad they really were.

The sad part is that it only gets worse.  In 1992, Matt Salinger, son of  Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger, starred as Captain America in a movie by the same name.  It was just bad.  Yet, like the others, you cannot help but watch it. It has that "bad movie" attraction about it that just grabs you.  You can not watch it on Hulu for free.  I have embedded it here if you care to watch it.  Try and see how long it takes before you stop watching.

Our only hope is that The First Avenger: Captain America will be well produced and directed.  At this rate, anything will be better than what has come before.

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