In the Winter of 1989, if you went to see a movie at the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove or the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square, you probably saw a poster in the lobby featuring a Captain America logo, his famous shield with a glowing effect around it, and the words “Coming Spring 1990 to Theatres Everywhere.”
Spring came. Captain America the Movie didn’t.
So, what happened?
It seemed to be a sure-fire moneymaker. Cinematic superheroes were popular once again, thanks to Tim Burton’s Batman. The movie was co-written by noted crime fiction novelist Lawrence Block, and directed by Albert Pyun, who had done several succesful action-packed genre flicks including Sword and the Sorcerer and Cyborg. The cast included sci-fi fantasy pros like Darren McGavin, Ronnie Cox, Melinda Dillon, and Ned Beatty as well as handsome newcomer Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers/Captain America. And, most importantly, the villain was, finally, The Red Skull, in his first live-action appearance!
It had everything going for it! Except it was awful. Not just bad, but frighteningly, staggeringly, awesomely, awful!
The Man Who Would Be Captain America, Matt Salinger, couldn’t act. His costume, which followed the trend of looking like molded latex/rubber had flesh-colored rubber ears sticking out of his cowl! Though Scott Paulin who played The Red Skull could act (actually over-act), the character was rewritten to be an Italian fascist (not a Nazi), who not only survived WWII, but became an assassin for an American black-ops operation and personally killed President John F Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King Jr, among others! Worst of all, it was dull, with few action sequences and even those weren’t particularly well-done.
After test screenings proved disastrous, the movie was pulled from theatrical release schedules and released in 1992 directly to video. It had not been released on DVD or BluRay … until this week. If you can’t squeeze into a showing of Captain America: the FIrst Avenger (click HERE for times and tix), you might want to rent the 1990 flick. It’ll make you appreciate the new movie all the more!