Return of Captain Invincible
Return of Captain Invincible 1983
This isn’t quite the start of my new schedule just yet. I’m still trying to figure that one out. I know I’ll be watching another movie this weekend and I’ve got a promising new Superhero Shorts interview lined up, I think it’s a pretty good one. But for now I’ll just talk about this awesome 80’s movie that Morgan over at Morgan on Media pointed out to me. It’s called Return of Captain Invincible and it’s an 80’s, musical, superhero comedy. You heard that right. Not only that, but it stars Alan Arkin and Christopher Lee. It has a very Rocky Horror Picture Show vibe to it and it is extremely ludicrous. The songs range across a wide variety of styles and quality, and there is a surprising amount of Benny Hill-ish shirt-bursting moments, and even some brief nudity, which actually surprised me a bit, I always forget that ratings back then were actually more lenient on PG ratings. The movie overall was quite enjoyable for me, and for a couple days at least you can see my live tweets while I was watching the movie, covering some of the better moments.
Captain Invincible was the greatest hero from the 40’s, helping out in World War II, even though he never punched Hitler in the face like another famous superhero Captain. But in the 50’s McCarthyism era, he was singled out as a Communist sympathizer, and goes on the run and on the drink. Thirty years later, the movie finds him in Australia, homeless and slobbering drunk. He ends up saving a police officer from a flamethrower equipped Volkswagon bug, and shortly afterwards the US government needs help finding a stolen hypno ray. The officer gains Cap’s trust, and she works with him to sober up and retrain him as the hero he once was. And he certainly has an interesting mix of superpowers. He has an “amazing computer brain”, magnetic powers, and he can fly. And of course, none of these work out quite right at first.
I mentioned that it has a Rocky Horror Picture Show vibe to it, which probably isn’t a big coincidence because the writer of the lyrics to some of the songs was Richard O’Brien, even though he didn’t seem to have any other involvement in the script. It takes the same kind of randomness and camp featured in RHPS, but takes out most of the counter culture, though there is one scene where several shirts get ripped open because of a malfunction in Captain Invincible’s magnetic powers, and one of the men are wearing a corset vaguely similar to Frankenfurter’s. There’s also a scene later in the movie featuring several henchwomen bearing a vague resemblance to Magenta and the other women in RHPS. It was obviously a low budget movie, but that budget brings out all sorts of funny cost-cutting scenes. Like one where Captain Invincible and his partner get attacked by a bunch of vacuum cleaners. And there’s also a scene where Cap is re-learning to fly, and they use a rear projection screen and a harness, pretty similar to the way the movie actually does do the flying effects.
I wouldn’t call this a sex comedy from the 80’s, but there are definitely elements of one in it. There are about three or four scenes where a woman’s shirt bursts open through various reasons (magnet powers, attacking vacuums) revealing her bra, and early on, we’re shown the effects of Mr. Midnight’s “giggle ray”, which causes everyone to remove their clothes and laugh uncontrollably, with the guys still wearing their boxers, but the women are completely naked. There’s even a really bizarre moment later on in the movie where it goes into Benny Hill style fast motion. During the scene, Christopher Lee stays perfectly still while two of his lingerie-clad henchwomen and two of henchmen, including a little person wearing a weird monkey/elf/Yoda head with Fu Manchu whiskers, doing sexy antics in the background. But instead of Benny Hill music, it’s scored to Ride of the Valkyries.
The villain in this movie is Mr. Midnight who is an ex-Nazi, and is actually smartly placed in many of the background shots during the black and white newsreel footage of Captain Invincible in his prime. He was both by Hitler’s side, as well as in the courtroom during Cap’s final loyalty hearing. He’s kind of a bizarre villain. He’s a Nazi, though there’s never any Nazi symbolism. Instead his evil plan consists of hypnotizing various ethnic groups to move into housing owned by his organization, and then blow them all up. He spends the entire movie in his lair, accompanied by the monkey/elf/Yoda thing I mentioned earlier, as well as various random animal pets, like a toad, a snake, and an obviously puppet vulture, which he later cooks and eats.
The music and pacing of this movie were hit and miss. I have to say I really enjoyed the first musical number which consists of the President of the US almost rapping the word “bullshit” over and over a few dozen times over a musical background. There’s also a fairly country ballad sung by Captain Invincible which was too slow and boring. And Christopher Lee even has a great song called Pick Your Poison, where he talks about all sorts of different drinks while he tries to get Captain Invincible to fall off the wagon and have a drink. For every great song, there was a much more boring one. And the pace of the movie was pretty similar. There were a lot of uniquely funny moments in the movie, but they were also book-ended by stretches of nothing much at all happening. For me, the great moments of complete and utter low budget bizarreness were enough to keep me entertained even over some of the less interesting sections. If you’re a fan of campy, low budget, bad movies, you can currently find this one on YouTube where I managed to watch it. You can also find it on Amazon, but good luck finding it anywhere else. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.