Len Birman and Reb Brown star in CAPTAIN AMERICA, directed by Rod Holcomb for CBS.

Captain America (1979, Rod Holcomb)

Captain America is almost loveably dumb. It’s never good, it doesn’t even have a good performance–at least, any good performances have caveats attached–but it’s so painfully obvious it ought to be lovable. It even has a lovable oaf of a lead–Reb Brown–who just happens to be really smart. Brown’s ability to recite all his dumb expository dialogue is one of the most lovable things about him. He’s trying. You appreciate him trying to hard.

But that trying–and Len Birman’s strangely strong but not performance as his mentor–occasionally gets Captain America the passes it so desperately needs. After some decent (for an action TV show pilot aimed at eight year old boys) character development, it turns into a pedestrian action show. The girls get kidnapped, the boys have to rescue them. There’s no more inventiveness in Don Ingalls’s script. He’s gotten to the action and he’s done.

Oddly, Captain America does have inventive moments before its second half. There’s this weird bit about Steve Forrest’s villain–a California oil man who wants to play Goldfinger–being scared of disappointing his mad scientist (James Ingersoll) who’s making a neutron bomb. Captain America acknowledges itself a bit. Even when director Holcomb goes on and on with the helicopters and motorcycles. It’s an acknowledged excess.

The problem is there’s nothing else. Holcomb has no other tricks up his sleeve. Once Brown suits up as Captain America, it becomes a strange “Wonder Woman” knock-off. Brown’s barely allowed a presence, which is dumb because Captain America letting Brown have such a presence is the only thing to make it engaging. Watching Captain America is about watching Brown stay above water. You root for him. You root for him to pull-off maybe Vietnam vet (definitely ex-Marine), vaguely genius, motocross enthusiast, California square hippie guy thing. With some kind of folksy accent. And he does.

It just isn’t enough. The third act is an incredible letdown. Holcomb’s got no sense of action pacing and the supporting cast wrap-up (setting up for a series order) flops. The cast–Brown, Birman, Forrest–deserved better.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rod Holcomb; teleplay by Don Ingalls, based on a story by Ingalls and Chester Krumholz and characters created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon; director of photography, Ronald W. Browne; edited by Michael S. Murphy; music by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter; executive producer, Allan Balter; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Reb Brown (Steve Rogers), Len Birman (Dr. Simon Mills), Heather Menzies-Urich (Dr. Wendy Day), Robin Mattson (Tina Haden), Dan Barton (Jeff Haden), Joseph Ruskin (Rudy), Lance DeGault (Harley), James Ingersoll (Lester) and Steve Forrest (Lou Blackett).


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