With Marvel Studio’s 140 million dollar ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ just around the corner I figured I might as well cue up legendary director Albert Pyun’s much reviled 1990, 140 dollar version of Captain America. But this just isn’t any old version of Captain America my friends, oh no, this is Mr. Pyun’s Director’s Cut, signed and sealed by the man himself and delivered to my door. On my own dime. I’ve mentioned it before, but I support Albert Pyun and his filmmaking endeavors because he stands for all the right things. A lot like Captain America. So this director’s cut is better than the version rudely shunted to home video some twenty plus years ago, but make no mistake, it’s still a terrible movie. Absolutely awful. This discussion may take a while.
Dateline Italy, 1935. A family is peacefully listening to their young son playing piano when an Italian commie fascist soldier jumps through a window. Seems odd since
everybody else simply came through the front door, but this nut felt the need to jump through a window. It seems the Italian army wants this boy for their experiments because he’s smart and stuff, so they take him and then mow down his family. What’s the plan? Well, Italian scientist Dr. Maria Vaselli (Carla Cassola) has a procedure which will make a super soldier, and we saw this procedure in action as it has made a bigger, stronger and smarter rat. Exactly what the world needs. Damn commie fascists. However Dr. Vaselli is not down with this experiment and flees to America where she knows we will do things right!
Years later, volunteering for this newly refined experiment is crippled up Steve Rodgers (Matt Salinger). Steve kisses his girl Bernice goodbye with Bernice promising that she will wait for Steve forever and ever and ever. That bitch lied. So Steve smokes himself a Marlboro (!) and prepares for his alteration which will basically consist of him not limping anymore. The procedure goes great but tragically a Nazi bastard will end Dr. Vaselli’s life with the good doc taking the Super Soldier procedure to her grave. With no time to rest or train or heal, Steve, now known as Captain America, has a quick mission in that the evil Red Skull (Scott Paulin), the boy now all grown up and ugly and stuff, has a missile he’s about to launch on the White House and Cap and his costume and his indestructible shield have a mission to perform. Considering these people kidnapped him, slaughtered his family and f’d up his face, we wonder why the Red Skull is so loyal to these clowns. Anyway, Red Skull kicks Cap’s ass. I mean it was a Mike Tyson vs. Trevor Burbick ass kicking it was so one-sided. Then Skully straps Cap to this missile and was about to launch it before Cap cleverly whispered something to Red Skull prompting him to lean over to hear it, Cap smartly grabs Red Skull’s hand, but to save himself Skully saws of his own hand. Don’t know where the saw came from, but if my option is to saw off my hand or the hand of the dude holding me, I know which one I’d choose but then I’m not a genetically altered commie, fascist madman. I also didn’t know that transatlantic missiles existed in 1942. Fortunately for the White House Captain America, strapped to a missile, kicked it real hard and saved The President! Tragically Cap crashed in the North Pole and would be freeze dried for the next fifty years.
In the present day, more or less, we are introduced to President Kimball (Ronny Cox) who has just held a press conference detailing how he plans to stop emissions and end the production of plastics. In this press conference he says that because of his policies taxes will go through the roof, millions of jobs will be lost, there will be chaos and rioting in the streets, crime will skyrocket and the infant mortality rate will probably triple but it’s all for the greater good. President Kimball… Worst President Ever. Hardcore army honk General Flemming (the late Darrin McGavin) urges the president to change his mind. The president tells the General to F-Off. The General talks to the Red Skull, who has now been surgically repaired to look slightly less horrible, and has a plan to fix the president and his reckless plan. Is it wrong of me to think that the Red Skull and the evil general might be on the right track here?
Back in the North Pole, Cap has defrosted himself and is now running across Alaska. The Red Skull has read the paper of Cap’s reemergence and for whatever reason has determined that Cap is out to stop him. A little paranoid, aren’t we? To stop Cap, Red Skull dispatches his supermodel daughters (!) to Alaska to take him out. Good thing for Cap that erstwhile conspiracy theorist reporter Sam Kalowetz (Ned Beatty) was also driving through Alaska and rescued him. Then Cap tricks Sam, thinking him to be a Nazi and stuff, carjacks his ride and strands him Alaska like a dick.
All Cap wants to do is make it back to his girl Bernice (Kim Gillingham) who still lives in the same house, but totally didn’t wait for Steve as she said she would, as we can plainly see by the presence of her hot daughter Sharon, also played by Kim Gillingham.
Jumping ahead, President Kimball has been kidnapped (!), the hot daughters of Red Skull have murdered Bernice and Sam and shot up Sharon’s dad real bad. The good thing for Sharon’s dad is that despite the fact his wife is dead, ‘Wheel of Fortune’ still comes on every day. Now Steve… because Captain America is pretty much out of the picture… will grab Sharon as a sidekick with the two of them jumping into action to find out the identity of the Red Skull to save The President, because the Secret Service obviously sucks total ass in this reality, while avoiding his hot assassin daughters. To do this they need to jump on the redeye to Italy. We could ask how Steve Rogers, who has been missing for fifty years, got ahold of a passport, but we’re not going to do that.
Now in Italy, Steve has to ditch Sharon and uses the same carjacking technique he used on Sam. Captain America… serial Carjacker. Eventually Steve gets around to putting the costume back on so he can rescue the Prez and of course save Sharon who has gotten herself captured. The thing about this rescue is that President Kimball was leading the way during the ‘rescue’ with bullets raining on him, and he’s the one without the shield. In fact, during the rescue attempt the President kicked way more ass that Captain America did. Of course we have the Cap v Red Skull rematch and this time Cap comes out a little better, but then the Red Skull is in his seventies. Nonetheless, Red Skull still has time to setup his super detonator megaton murder bomb but Cap cleverly knocks the Red Skull off a cliff with his shield, which also somehow magically defused the bomb, even though it shouldn’t have.
With a job well done a haggard Captain America pulls of his mask to reveal Steve Rogers, because screenwriter Stephen Tolkin obviously hates the character of Captain America, and Cap stares off into the sky. We were wondering what he was looking at. Sharon comes by his side and looks up too, also wondering what in the hell this clown is staring at. Roll credits.
As far as the Director’s cut is concerned, after you adjust to the grainy VHS print that Pyun had to work off of, we can say that the director’s cut adds more footage and goes into greater detail in developing the character of Steve Rogers and his struggles with his new present. Pyun does insert a couple of flashback scenes that we’ve already seen which I didn’t think was necessary, I do understand it was to enhance the point of what our characters have been through, but I remember what they’ve been through since I just watched these scenes a few minutes ago.
But to Albert Pyun’s defense, the real problem with this movie is, and always has been, Stephen Tolkin’s screenplay which could theoretically be the worst produced screenplay ever. This thing was written by somebody who didn’t give a damn, whereas the equally maligned 1994 version of the Fantastic Four was at least written by somebody who at least cared about the source material. Who thought that watching Captain America, of all people, mope and cry and whine and carjack and run from fights was a good idea?
Is there fun to be had with this movie? Hell yeah there is. I made an event out of it, considering I have the autographed director’s cut and all which I constantly taunted my comic book snob guests with, and we had a great time watching this movie. And Pyun’s Director’s commentary is very entertaining. More so than the movie itself. My son kept trying to sneak off during our event to do something more productive with his time, but I kept reeling him back. Please don’t call protective services.
Yes, Captain America ver. 1990 is a bad movie. We can’t debate that. But it is better than those 1970 versions starring Reb Brown. Right? You with me on this?