NEW YORK–On the shelf for over two years, “Captain America” is released direct-to-video as a strictly routine superhero outing.
Menahem Golan produced the picture in Yugoslavia in 1989 and sold it to Columbia the following year. Posters for its theatrical release went up in Manhattan but the film never showed up, though it would have made passable Saturday matinee fodder.
The comic strip hero was featured in a 1944 serial, followed by Reb Brown a decade ago toplining two vidpix, and Matt Salinger ably embodies his all-American spirit here.
Film opens in 1936 when experiments by Italian scientists result in a boy with super-human strength, named Red Skull; seven years later the Allies are working with an emigree Italian scientist to develop a regiment of U.S. superheroes.
Only one test subject emerges, Salinger, who’s christened Captain America. He loses a battle with Red Skull and is launched in a rocket aimed at destroying the White House.
Salinger is able to veer off course and lands in Alaska, where he remains frozen in ice until the present day. Unthawed, he whips into action to prevent an evil U.S. general (Darren McGavin) who’s in league with Red Skull in a plot to control the U.S. prexy (Ronny Cox) with a brain implant device.
Salinger has some good moments dealing with the cultural shock of his Rip Van Winkle reawakening, but film never takes flight under Albert Pyun’s leaden direction. Pyun was earlier set to direct a film of Marvel’s popular “Spiderman” character, but that has yet to be realized.
Under heavy makeup, Scott Paulin makes little impression as pic’s villain Red Skull. Pretty heroine Kim Gillingham and Italian femme fatale Francesca Neri (as Red Skull’s daughter) provide decorative touches.
Pic is already quite dated, as McGavin and Paulin plan to blame everything on the nasty Soviets. Photogenic locations and cheap chase and action sequences do not hide the fact that this fantasy adventure is missing the large-scale setpieces to which action fans in the age of Schwarzenegger have become accustomed.