Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers / Captain America
Ronny Cox as Tom Kimball
Ned Beatty as Sam Kolawetz
Darren McGavin as General Fleming
Michael Nouri as Lt. Colonel Louis
Scott Paulin as Red Skull / Army Doctor
Kim Gillingham as Bernice Stewart / Sharon
Melinda Dillon as Mrs. Rogers
Bill Mumy as Young General Fleming
Francesca Neri as Valentina de Santis
Carla Cassola as Dr. Maria Vaselli
Massimilio Massimi as Tadzio de Santis
Wayde Preston as Jack
Directed by Albert Pyun
Running Time: 97 Minutes
The following is the official description of the film:
“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.”
“Captain America” is rated PG-13.
Riding on the hype from the recent “Captain America” movie in theaters, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and MGM’s Limited Edition Collection are re-releasing the 1990 version of “Captain America.” If you want to buy it, it’s going to be a little hard to find since they’re only doing a limited release of the film to select retailers. But if you order through the Amazon.com link above, you should be able to get it OK. But be warned – this is a bare bones version. This disc has little art, the case is terrible, and there are no bonus features or menus. There’s even a disclaimer at the beginning of the film where they say they made the DVD from the ‘best source material available.’ If this was the best, then they didn’t have much to choose from. It’s full-frame, the audio is terrible, and the picture quality is awful.
So how’s the movie? Let’s put it this way. There was once a time when Marvel couldn’t make a good movie to save their lives. This was one of those times. But revisiting it 21 years later and shortly after a good “Captain America” movie, there’s a lot noteworthy about this film even though it stinks.
First of all, it has an interesting cast. Captain America is played by Matt Salinger, son of author J.D. Salinger. Melinda Dillon from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “A Christmas Story” plays Steve Rogers’ mother. Also from “A Christmas Story,” Darren McGavin plays the evil General Fleming. Then Ned Beatty from “Superman: The Movie” plays Sam Kolawetz and Ronny Cox from “RoboCop” plays President Tom Kimball. Bill Mumy from “Lost In Space” even has a small role. So it’s actually a pretty interesting lineup.
Another interesting thing is how close to the comics a lot of it actually is. Cap’s origin is pretty much by the book. We see the same super soldier experiment, we see him battle the Red Skull, and we see him strapped to a rocket and shot towards the U.S. He’s also revived in the present day. And interestingly, Cap’s modern day love interest is named Sharon (the daughter of his 1940’s love) and one of the main villains is the Red Skull’s daughter. That’s a lot like the current storyline in the Captain America comics. Ed Brubaker must be a big fan of this movie. Even the costume is pretty much spot on the same as the comic book version down to the little white wings on his mask. There are times where Salinger is running through the woods or scaling the walls of a fortress and it looks pretty good.
Despite the things that went well, there was a whole lot more that went wrong. First of all, the Red Skull is Italian instead of German. His accent just sounds wrong. He also has a bizarre origin story where he was a child in WWII and was experimented on by Nazis and turned into the Red Skull. It’s surprisingly dark for what might have otherwise been a kid’s movie. But he was also a piano prodigy (after all, they make the best Nazi lab rats, I suppose) and in the finale, Cap defeats him by playing piano music. It’s kind of anti-climactic and stupid. I also have to mention the fact that Captain America has fake ears on his costume. They look pretty silly in close-up shots. Throw in cheesy 90’s fashions and music, a butt-kicking President, and hokey Euro-trash henchmen and you start to see why people doubted whether or not it was possible to make a cool Captain America movie.
This movie also shows that it was a good idea to set a new movie entirely in WWII. Trying to do anything else is just packing way too much into one film. In this 1990 version, Captain America gets his powers, has one brief fight with the Red Skull, and then ends up getting launched on a rocket and frozen in ice. He then re-appears in present day for the rest of the story. And most of the time he’s simply running around in regular street clothes getting into battles with the Red Skull’s thugs. You never get a sense why he was a great hero, why he was a legend in WWII, and why it’s a big deal that he’s revived. But I will say that seeing Steve Rogers reunited with the elderly Bernice Stewart really shows the potential of what they can do in a “Captain America 2” and how much fun and emotion they can have with a story about a man out of time. Hopefully they take advantage of it in a sequel and in “The Avengers.”
I’d really only recommend this version of “Captain America” to diehard fans of the character. They’re the only ones that can put up with all of the flaws in this film and the poor DVD quality. They’ll also appreciate this as a step in the evolution of the character and the story into his present incarnation.
There are no bonus features on this DVD, but it’s no real surprise.