Blu-ray Review: Captain America (1990)

In Blu-Ray’s by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

Promoted as Marvel’s answer to Batman, and originally slated for release in 1990 in order to coincide with Captain America’s 50th anniversary, this sloppy and forgettable film was shelved, eventually receiving a direct-to-video release two years later. Given the success of Captain America: First Avenger (2011), it makes sense that the retro pop culture label Shout Factory! Would see this as the perfect time to release ‘”the other” Captain America movie on Blu-ray, if for no other reason than its kitsch value.

Directed by Albert Pyun, this film is a monumental waste of time; rarely has 97 minutes felt so long. Things begin circa 1936 in fascist Italy, where a young boy is taken from his home. His family is slaughtered and he is forced to take part in an experiment. One of the scientists involved with this program, Dr. Vaselli (Carla Cassola), escapes once she understands what they plan on doing to the boy…

America - SalingerSeven years later, Vaselli has brought a similar formula to the United States. She wants to help the military create super soldiers. The first volunteer is polio sufferer Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger), a patriotic American who yearns to fight for his country in World War II. After undergoing the procedure (signified by some really cheesy effects), Steve is transformed into a perfect human specimen. His code name: Captain America. His mask and outfit: Lame. His shield: Has a Mind of Its Own.

However, seconds after the process is completed, a Nazi spy kills Dr.Vasselli, and with her all the knowledge of the Super-Soldier formula. This means that there can only be one Captain America, and he is quickly called into his first mission, to take out an experimental Nazi missile that is aimed somewhere in the USA.

Upon arrival, Cap comes into contact with the man that the boy from Italy has become, a now freakishly disfigured individual named Red Skull (Scott Paulin) who defeats him in combat and drugs him. When he awakes, he finds himself strapped to a giant missile headed for the White House. Thankfully, Cap is able to cause the rocket to spin out of control, where it lands in Alaska, where Captain America remains frozen until 1993, when he’s thawed out by surveyors. In the meantime the the Red Skull has committed all sorts of crimes if the price is right. Apparently, his atrocities include the he murders of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King). Currently, Red Skull is working with pro-pollutioner’s who want to assassinate the new environmentally conscious President of the United States, Tom Kimball (Ronny Cox).

Kimball’s best friend, newspaperman Sam Kolawetz (Ned Beatty) has spent years researching Red Skull, and he also recognizes the reappeared Captain America. So does the Red Skull, who sends some henchmen to kill him once and for all. With Kolawetz’s help Steve Rogers makes his way back to his boyhood home in California and reunites with his long-ago sweetheart, now old and married to someone else. She’s conveniently killed by the Red Skull’s agents, leaving daughter Sharon (Kim Gillingham plays both mother and offspring) to accompany Rogers to Italy for a final confrontation with the bad guys who have kidnapped President Kimball and are preparing him for a mind control implant.

If your thinking this film jumps around a lot, it does. There are so many characters that Captain America is actually relegated to the sidelines much of the time. So much time is focused on the Red Skull; the filmmakers probably would have been better severed to name the picture after him.

This filmed version of Captain America is just wrong. All over the place with no particular direction, I can’t imagine even the most ardent of fans would sit through this one more than once.

Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Shout Factory’s 1080p transfer is nothing to write home about. Colors are occasionally vibrant, particularly when it comes to shots of Red Skull. Contrast is average, but one gets the sense that’s how it looked originally. The image looks accurate, but lacks any real depth.

The audio is presented via a workmanlike DTS-HD Master 2.0 mix that’s not particularly impressive. Barry Goldberg’s score is typical of the era, but most of the effects aren’t robust. It’s all rather flat.

There are no subtitles.

The following special features are included:

  • A Look Back at Captain America (HD, 20.06) in this interview with star Matt Salinger and director Albert Pyun, they discuss the difficulties of making a film with no budget and no time, in the stifling heat of an Eastern European country that doesn’t exist anymore. The two explain things very well, and it’s easy to see why the movie is as bad as it is.