Tag Archives: Jack Kirby

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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The Human Torch (1963, Donald F. Glut)

Sure, at one point the Human Torch appears to be a naked Ken doll painted red, but come on… it’s The Human Torch. I think it’s unintentional, but at times director (and star) Glut makes the Torch’s “flaming on” seem positively painful. Or maybe the rubber hand Glut ignited just melted fast.

The Torch short has a couple stand out elements. First (or second, chronologically speaking), there’s a great flying cut. Glut runs toward the camera, which tilts up with him as he takes flight and he disappears into the air. It’s a magical film moment, so magical I don’t even want to consider how he did it.

Second, he packs a lot into three or four minutes. He even figures out how to take away the Torch’s powers to make the struggle more human.

Torch is undeniably goofy, but Glut’s strong filmmaking instincts are very much on display here.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Edited and directed by Donald F. Glut; screenplay by Glut, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Starring Donald F. Glut (The Human Torch) and Rich Hagopian (The Raven).


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Captain America (1990, Albert Pyun), the director's cut

Captain America actually has a few interesting ideas. First is how Carla Cassola’s scientist (she creates the villain, Scott Paulin’s Red Skull, and Captain America—played by Matt Salinger) almost serves as a surrogate mother to the two boys. Well, they’re supposed to be boys when they change. Cassola probably gives the film’s best performance; she manages to imply depth rather well.

Second is how Captain America is a failure. The script touches on it and Salinger tries, but there’s just not enough character development to show it. Instead of focusing on the titular character, Captain America often focuses on the supporting cast.

The film reunites Christmas Story stars Darren McGavin (who’s awful) and Melinda Dillon (who’s just bad). Of course, they don’t have a scene together. Neither do Deliverance alumni Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty. Beatty’s bad, but Cox has his moments. One wonders if he wanted to be an action star, as he gets to beat up a bunch of eurotrash.

Oh, that element’s another amusing one. All of Paulin’s gang are eurotrash. It’s sort of funny.

Salinger’s not always terrible, but he’s too physically awkward to be believable. Not to mention the costume being a disaster. His love interest, played by Kim Gillingham, is bad. Except in her old age makeup.

Michael Nouri manages not to embarrass himself too much.

Pyun’s direction is mostly weak, often obviously due to the minuscule budget; he’ll occasionally have a profound shot.

It’s fairly awful, but at least it’s interestingly awful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Albert Pyun; screenplay by Stephen Tolkin, based on a story by Tolkin and Lawrence Block and characters created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby; director of photography, Philip Alan Waters; edited by Jon Poll; music by Barry Goldberg; production designer, Douglas H. Leonard; produced by Menahem Golan; released by 21st Century Film Corporation.

Starring Matt Salinger (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Ronny Cox (Tom Kimball), Ned Beatty (Sam Kolawetz), Darren McGavin (General Fleming), Michael Nouri (Lt. Colonel Louis), Scott Paulin (Red Skull), Kim Gillingham (Bernice Stewart / Sharon), Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Rogers), Bill Mumy (Young General Fleming), Francesca Neri (Valentina de Santis) and Carla Cassola (Dr. Maria Vaselli).


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Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010, Lauren Montgomery)

Kevin Conroy has been doing the Batman voice for, off and on, almost twenty years. If his work in Apocalypse is any indication, he’s gotten a little tired of it. At least there’s only one aspect of a phoned-in voice performance. Some of it might be the awful script from Tab Murphy (probably taken verbatim from the awful comic book by Jeph Loeb), but Superman-regular Tim Daly manages to be earnest–even with the absolutely dreadful animation.

Montgomery’s direction is occasionally okay–she did a fine job on the Wonder Woman animated (unfortunately she handles that character terribly here)–especially at the beginning, with a complex action sequence involving Supergirl arriving on Earth. It’s idiotically written, but choreographed well.

Besides Daly, the voice work is pretty lame. Andre Braugher is terrible as the big bad guy, who looks like he should sound like Darth Vader but instead sounds like Frank Pembleton. The animation on that character, Darkseid, looks unfinished and just plain cheap.

Summer Glau might be good as Supergirl, but it’s hard to tell, since the character is so reprehensible. She’s vapid and materialistic–I’m shocked no one at Warner has thought of making an animated “Simple Life” for the character.

Apocalypse fails at really simple stuff–the big joke of having Ed Asner play an ugly woman doesn’t work when the animation is so bad it’s unclear she’s supposed to be female.

These Warner superhero cartoons are just getting worse and worse.

Besides Daly, of course.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lauren Montgomery; screenplay by Tab Murphy, based on comic books by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner and characters created by Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, William M. Marston and Jack Kirby; edited by Margaret Hou; music by John Paesano; produced by Bobbie Page and Montgomery; released by Warner Premiere.

Starring Tim Daly (Clark Kent / Superman), Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Andre Braugher (Darkseid), Summer Glau (Kara Zor-El), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), Julianne Grossman (Big Barda), Rachel Quaintance (Lyla) and Edward Asner (Granny Goodness).


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