Captain America ll: Death Too Soon (1979)

Captain America !! : Death Too Soon (1979)‘That means in about 4 weeks they’ll all have aged about 70 years. That’s impossible!’

Superhero Captain America is called into service again when a top research scientist is kidnapped by a powerful super villain, who is planning to blackmail the country with a weapon adapted from the boffin’s work

Before all that ‘Avengers’ malarkey, Captain America had already strutted his stuff on screens both big and small. Firstly, in a 1944 movie serial and then in 2 made for television movies in the late 1970s. Both of these starred chunky Reb Brown as the good Captain, an actor best remembered these days as ’Yor, Hunter From The Future’ (1983) and for the lead in appalling ‘so bad it’s good’ classic ‘Space Mutiny’ (1988). There was another movie about the character in the early 1990s but it was not a success.

Here, Brown flexes his pecs (and his plastic shield) in the iconic blue suit as he takes on purse snatchers and the faceless goons of bad guy Christopher Lee. Yes, that’s right! Christopher Lee! Sadly, Lee is handed the sort of thankless, generic character and dialogue he could have played in his sleep. The cast is rounded out with some familiar faces from TV and Bond girl Lana ‘sister of Natalie’ Wood, who played Plenty O’Toole in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971).

So what’s Lee up to that catches the Captain’s attention? Well, he’s kidnaped this top biologist with the idea of using his anti-ageing research — in reverse! He tests the resulting gas on the generic small town where the husbandless Wood lives with her young son and his pet mutt. The kid desperately needs a father figure of course, making for the readymade white bread family unit so beloved of uninspired scriptwriters and TV executives everywhere (but especially in America). The Cap rides about on his custom bike, does some oil painting (he’s a sensitive soul, really), throws a few thugs into cardboard boxes, and jumps off not-that-high buildings in slow-mo a bit like ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, which this whole enterprise is obviously trying so hard to be.

Once Lee starts blackmailing world governments from his secret prison HQ (it’s just a couple of ordinary rooms in an ordinary prison), you might reasonably expect the story to escalate a little, but no, Brown is still left on his own to take on the villainous hordes (actually just Lee himself and about 4 guys from ‘Rent-a-Goon’). Pretty scientist Connie Selleca (mostly remembered for the TV soap/show ‘Hotel’) is trying to formulate an antidote back at home base, but not having a lot of luck. Now, l’m not saying that attractive, young brunettes can’t be top scientists, but you’d think the government would have teams of experts working at the problem, given the level of threat involved. When Selleca comes up with an antidote, she tries it on herself of course, exhibiting a thorough knowledge of sound scientific and medical procedure.

Captain America !!: Death Too Soon (1979)

‘What do you mean ‘press 1 to report a mad man trying to take over the world’?

As you’ll have gathered by now, this is very weak and mediocre in every single department. Stunts and action sequences are at a premium, probably because there was no more budget than for a couple of television episodes. The only real notable performance comes from Lee, of course, but even he can’t do much with this, and the producers quite sensibly decided to keep his involvement fairly minimal! To be fair, though, he was probably only available for a couple of days filming, and would hardly have been inspired to his best work by the flimsy, lifeless script.

The global success of ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ meant that American TV spent an awful lot of time trying to recreate it with various ‘Ordinary Joes’ acquiring ‘special powers’ of one sort or another and going to work for ‘secret government agencies’. Foreign spies never stood a chance! A few of these pilots actually did make it to a series. There was Ben Murphy turning invisible with his digital watch as the ‘Gemini l\/Ian’ and Patrick Duffy getting all wrinkly after spending too much time in the shower as ‘The Man From Atlantis.’ He seemed to have a bit of a thing for showers, that man.

At least the good Captain got two bites of the cherry at a series but, alas, no one was very impressed.

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