Captain America (1990) Movie Review

Remember when, while watching the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, you saw that awesome commercial for this Summer’s big blockbuster, Captain America: First Avenger?  Some of you probably saw that and said, “Damn I can’t wait to see that!”  I know I did, but I also thought back to a little gem of crappiness known by basically the same name that was supposed to be released in 1990, but didn’t see the light of day until 1992, when it was released directly to video.

1990 Captain America Movie

Oh yeah, I’m going to dive straight into the toilet, mouth wide open, and ingest that crap for you.  That’s right, I’m going to be reviewing the 1990 stinker, Captain America!

The movie was produced by 21st Century Film Corporation.  Never heard of it?  Heh, neither had I accept when I saw this very same movie, among others from the production company, in some random magazine version of Variety that I somehow got my hands on that previewed many movies due to be released in 1990 and 1991.  Damn, I wish I knew where that went because it was awesome.  Anyway, I guess I spent enough time avoiding the review of this shitcake, so let me get back to that…

After seeing the majesty that is the 21st Century Film Corporation logo, you’re taken to Portovenere, Italy.  The year is 1936 and an Italian family is enjoying a nice evening together when they are interrupted by Benito Mussolini (or at least a guy that’s supposed to be Mussolini).  They take the boy, kill his family and take him to a secret castle.  The Italians tell the Nazis that they have created a serum that will make people twice as smart and twice as strong as anyone in the peak of physical fitness.  They show a rat that has been given the serum and it looks like the Red Skull…  Only in rat form.  When the boy is strapped into the device that will administer the treatment, the doctor who created the treatment, Dr. Erskine…  Oh wait…  It’s some lady named Dr. Maria Vaselli…  Anyway she didn’t want the boy used and escapes and makes it all the way to the United States.

The screen then shifts to “Seven Years Later” and, just for those who can’t do math, it also tells us it’s 1943.  The US is making plans to create a battalion of super soldiers based on Dr. Erskine…  DAMMIT…  Dr. Vaselli’s treatment.  Guess who the first volunteer is?  That’s right, it’s Steve Rogers.  Finally they get something right in this movie.  Anyway, Steve makes his tearful goodbyes to his family and girlfriend, Bernie and heads out to the secret lab beneath a diner in near Redondo Beach, California.  Steve’s given the treatment and it’s successful.  While celebrating and congratulating Dr. Erskine…  SON OF A BITCH…  Dr. Vaselli’s success, she’s killed by a Nazi spy.  Steve Rogers busts out of his restraints and kills the spy.  After a quick recovery from gunshot wounds, Captain America is sent out on his first, and unfortunately, his only, mission.  There he meets up with the Red Skull, gets easily overcome and strapped to a missile aimed for Washington, DC.  He’s able to divert the missile, as witnessed by a young boy who tells his friend all about it.  Captain America crash lands in Alaska.  Thus ends the first mission of America’s lone super soldier.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the end of the movie.

Cap awakens and gets photographed by one of the researchers who found him in the ice.  He makes his way on foot quite some way because once the news hits, the now President of the United States, who was also the boy who witnessed Cap’s heroic save of Washington, calls a news reporter friend (yup, the friend he called the night of Cap’s save).  Not only does the reporter friend make his way to where Cap is (don’t ask me how he got there), but the Red Skull, who is now not all red and disgusting, also learns about Cap being found and among the living and dispatches his daughter and a team of assassins to kill him.  Somehow, all three parties meet in the same place by some miracle.  The reporter helps Cap escape and Cap ends up stealing his car by pretending to get sick.  Cap makes it all the way to Redondo Beach, California in like a day or two and finds Bernie and her daughter Sharon.

Ugh…  I gotta cut this short somehow…  Okay, here goes…

Cap stays with Sharon and the reporter tracks down Bernie’s house and goes to her.  Unfortunately, the Red Skull also knows this because somehow the reporter got his placed bugged or some such shit.  The Skull’s daughter and her hitmen arrive at the home, kill the reporter, Bernie, and severely injures Bernie’s husband.  Sharon and Steve go to the secret lab to find Dr. Erskine’s…  FUCK…  Dr. Vaselli’s journal and learn more about the Red Skull.  So it’s off to Italy!

Meanwhile, the President’s been kidnapped by the Skull, with the help of a crooked US General, and is held captive.  The Skull doesn’t like the President’s plans to make the world a greener place, and wants to put an implant in his brain to control him.  Cap and Sharon find the Red Skulls home and a recording made the night he was abducted.  They find the castle where the Skull and the President are.

The President escapes his cell and tries to leap off the top of the castle so the Skull can’t have him for the plan, but he’s saved by Captain America.  The President tells Cap that they’ve got Sharon locked up, but I pay more attention to the fact that the President has no frickin’ clue who the hell Sharon is.  Cap and the Prez punch their way to the Red Skull.  Cap beats up the Red Skull while Sharon beats up the Skull’s daughter.  The Skull is able to get away from Cap and sets a nuclear bomb that will pretty much wipe out Europe.  He gets distracted by the recording of his family being killed, which gives Cap enough time to get his shield and knock him off to his death and knocks his wife unconscious.  The Marines come in, clean up the joint and that’s it.  Movie over.

Let me start off by saying could this movie be worse?  Oh yeah.  Was this movie any good?  Oh hell no.  There were two things that this movie did well.  First, the Red Skull in the earlier, wartime scenes looked badass.  He looked like the Red Skull.  I can’t help but to think the new movie will make more improvements, but man he is menacing and scary and awesome.  However, they didn’t stick with this.  Why?  I’ll explain that in the minute.  The other thing I liked was that Captain America looked like Captain America.  The latex costume might have been a bad move, but the colors are there and if you just have Matt Salinger stand there in his costume, he looked like the comic book version.  It is more recognizable to the comic version than the new movie, but doesn’t really work in a real world sort of way.

What I just can’t understand is how this movie couldn’t get much of anything right.  Dr. Vaselli is not Dr. Erskine.  I don’t care that the creator was a female, it’s that they totally created a new character out of their asses.  Next, the Red Skull in this movie is Italian, not German.  That makes no sense to me whatsoever.  Were the filmmakers worried they’d piss off Germany 45 years after World War II?  I’m fairly certain the Germans know their history and know they were the bad guys and was the homeland of what might be the worst human being who ever lived.  I don’t think they’re getting pissed off about the Red Skull being a German.

It’s clear the film wanted some recognizable people playing different parts.  Cap himself, Matt Salinger, is the son of author J.D. Salinger.  The reporter is played by Ned Beatty.  Yeah, the guy from the Superman movies.  The President was played by Ronny Cox, who appeared in awesome movies like Robocop and Total Recall.  Even Darren McGavin of Night Stalker and A Christmas Story fame was in it as the corrupt General who was in cahoots with the Red Skull.  They even got McGavin’s A Christmas Story costar, Melinda Dillon, who was also in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Scott Paulin, who played the Red Skull, is even recognizable from The Right Stuff and Turner and Hooch.  It’s great to have names in the movie to help sell it, but you can tell it really hurt production costs because newcomer Kim Gillingham ended up playing both Sharon and her mother and not once do you ever see a shot of the two them on screen at the same time.  Maybe the filmmakers thought that would be brilliant, but it comes off as campy and cheap.

While the film does have some campy charm, like the Superman movies, it doesn’t pull it off quite like the Superman movies or the king of all campy comic book adaptations, the 1960’s Batman television series.  So what do you get when you can’t pull off camp as well as those adaptations?  I’d call it a juicy shitburger.

I’d like to think the filmmakers tried to do something good.  I think there are flashes of those attempts sprinkled throughout the movie.  However, it’s like sprinkling jimmies over a steaming turd.  It’s clear no one at Marvel had any say about what was written and shot.  They just wanted a movie out to celebrate Cap’s 50th anniversary.  The writers didn’t know how much fans like their heroes’ movies to actually have some cohesiveness with what actually happens in the comics.  In the end, the there was too much going against this movie.

No matter how much you dump fairy dust, chocolate chips, Reese’s Pieces, hell…  Dump PCP on this flick and you’ve still got a steaming turd waiting for you to take a big ol’ bite.


Pros Cons
Captain America’s costume looks like it jumped off the page of a comic and the Red Skull looks badass… Until they decided to make him look less like the Red Skull. Um… Just about everything else.


1 Comment

  1. Eric says:

    WOW, pretty good review, I agree on your assestment on Salinger’s look and how Red Skull looked bad ass, a part of me opes they keep that look in the new film because the black veins and all were great. I didn’t like that they changed Germany to Italy, simply because Red Skull’s involvement in the Holocaust and WWII is very apparent in the comics, especially the first fight between the two. I thought the actors you mentioned and the title character played them nicely though, you have to remember it was low budget and like you said they got a lot of great actors, probably not cheap either. The atmosphere of the film, especially surrounding the villains is dark and gritty, kind of like early Batman films. I watched this recently after watching the two 70’s films and I gotta say its a lot better in comparison, the fight scenes are pretty good, for the type of budget it had, I like that the actor Hallinger is an average looking guy, instead of a muscle bound surfer dude(like Reb Brown). Red Skull is as menacing as he is supposed to be and feels like a threat. This was released in theaters overseas in 1990, but it didn’t come to America until 1992 on VHS, sad too cause apart of me could have seen a better sequel to this continuity(albeit changing up Italy to Germany)


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I'm a lifelong geek. I don't hide it. I don't deny it. My true geek love is comics. I love reading them and discussing them. I am definitely much more a Marvel guy than DC, especially when it comes to my favorite, The Avengers. Questions? Comments? Email me at