This movie is available on Blu-ray. That’s right, this universally reviled, non-theatrically-released, 0%-on-Rotten-Tomatoes movie was released on Blu-ray in 2013, such is the supremacy of Marvel right now. And such is the appreciation of really bad films in a certain subset of the genre-friendly population.
I am just such a one (see?), and so I happen to own this movie on Blu-ray, as well as on a much-prized VHS copy from 1992 that I picked up at a garage sale a few years back, for the princely sum of 25c. Not that I have a video player, that is not the point. This movie is a part of Marvel cinematic history as much as 2000’s X-Men or anything MCU, because it proved conclusively just how terribly wrong a comic book adaptation can truly go.
Matt Salinger plays Steve Rogers, a 40s patriot denied active duty due to a physical impairment who longs to be of service to the war effort. He is handpicked to undergo a controversial new procedure, and is the first — and only — American super-soldier created by a defected Fascist scientist. Acting as a symbol of freedom, he valiantly battles his Nazi counterpart, Red Skull (Scott Paulin), before heroically plunging into the Arctic, only to be thawed out in the modern age.
So much, so very much the story we now all know through the Chris Evans/CGI-ified reboot, but there are some glaring differences in this particular incarnation. First, Steve is from California here, which just seems wrong, doesn’t it? Second, there is no Peggy Carter, only a first love named Bernice (Kim Gillingham) who is desperately sad when Steve goes off to war. Third, a kid who happened to see Captain America save the White House from a missile strike happens to become President, and a whole lot more unlikely coincidence besides. Fourth, it carries with it a particularly strident environmental message, because, 1990! The list goes on, and thank Stan for it, because if the modern take on Cap was taken directly from this labored, ill-conceived, garish, (mostly) badly-acted farce, even the most resolute Marvel apologist would have had a difficult time fending off the hate. On the other hand, while it is not a great movie, it certainly isn’t a terrible one, and I will tell you why.
Now, it is sad that we can look back at a withal pointless film like the 1990 Captain America as a role model to which modern day superhero movies should aspire, but in this age of #WhereIsBlackWidow? and cries of misogyny over Harley Quinn’s objectification in Suicide Squad, it is eminently worth noting that a large number of Captain America‘s characters are (fully-clad) women, that there are even women in the bad guy’s army (not making a point or anything, just being there, chillin’ and being Nazis), and even the doctor who created Steve’s inhuman strength and speed is a woman, Dr. Maria Vaselli (Carla Cassola). I’m not saying the film would pass the Bechdel Test or anything, but it would do a hell of a lot better than any single Avenger-laden flick of late.
Is this reason enough to watch the movie? No. Really the only reason to do so is a certain completism, if with such you are beset, as well as perhaps a kind of morbid curiosity. Maybe you want to see Ronny Cox (the hateful Senator Kinsey from Stargate SG-1) be the US President, or perhaps Babylon 5‘s Bill Mumy is a draw. (Though let me save you some trouble when you stare and stare at one Colonel Louis, overseeing Cap’s transformation — for which he’s literally just strapped into a chair that looks like it came out of ReAnimator’s basement, by the way — and you first ask yourself if its Chris Sarandon but then you realize, no, it’s the guy from Flashdance.) It is quite spectacularly bad, but not quite bad enough be hilariously campy fun.
Still, at least it cares about the issues.
Here’s the Honest Trailer: