100 Essential Superhero Movies – You Decide! Condorman
Part of finishing off this list of 100 essential superhero movies is bringing in my audience, and so when I got down to the last 20 movies, I decided that I would let you decide. And what better than to reach out to other movie critics and reviewers and even just movie fans to let them argue the case for a superhero movie that they are a fan of and at the bottom of the post, there is a poll where you can vote whether or not you agree if it should be included in the 100 Essential Superhero Movies list. Today my guest is Aaron Maracle who is on Twitter at @IT_Spook who was a fan of City of Heroes alongside myself and a fan of superhero movies as well as this Disney spy/superhero movie from back in the 80s, Condorman.
When I heard about this blog-a-thon, the first film that popped into my head was Condorman. It is a film that has many warts, but I think it has a few elements that make it worthy of being considered an essential superhero film.
The plot of the film sounds more like a spy film rather than a superhero movie. Our hero, Woodrow “Woody” Wilkins (Michael Crawford) is an comic book creator who demands a sense of realism for his comic book hero. His friend, CIA file clerk Harry (James Hampton), asks him to do a civilian paper drop in Istanbul. Woody crosses paths with a KGB spy named Natalia Rambova (Barbara Carrera) and he saves her from assassins through sheer luck. Impressed by his skills and thinking Woody is a top CIA spy code-name “Condorman”, Natalia lets the CIA know she wishes to defect and wants “Condorman” to help her. Woody agrees and the duo is pursued by Natlia’s former boss Krokov (Oliver Reed) and his head assassin named Morovoch (Jean-Piere Kalfon) who has a glass eye. Chases and battles fill the film’s final conflict as Woody uses a series of gadgets provided to him by the CIA to rescue Natalia and save the day.
First off, I have to acknowledge the flaws of the film. There are the usual elements one will find in a low budget film with a lack of studio support such as cheap effects. This is apparent in some of the Condorman gliding scenes, where we see him soaring through the air along with the wires and cables holding him up. The blue screen effects in every shot are poor even by 1980s standards. There is also a problem with some wooden acting. In some scenes, it sounds like Barbara Carrera wishes she was anywhere but in this film. I won’t spend a lot of time on the pacing issues, but if you want to see what I am referring to, try watching the film today with a bunch of ten year olds. No wonder why Oliver Reed drank a lot during filming.
Now that we have embraced the ugly, allow to me rant about the elements of the film that makes it worthy of being on the essential list. Every good superhero movie needs a villain that is memorable and let me tell you, when you are nine years old, a guy with a glass eye and a pack of “dedicated killers” who drive black vehicles seem terrifying. These “dedicated killers” are not your typical, bumbling henchman that have become common today. From their first encounter with Condorman, you become quickly aware that these guys are no pushovers and Condorman’s only option for survival is a heroic escape via hovercraft. This leads me to the awesome gear and technology Condorman has at his disposal. You have a gypsy van that transforms into a weaponized car that also doubles as a hovercraft! Add to that a speedboat armed with lasers and I promise you that no young mind can resist imagining them being the hero using that gear. I would kill for a machine gun walking stick.
Let me leave you with this final argument for why I feel Condorman should be on the 100 Essential Superhero Movies list. The hero is a comic book creator, a common every day man like ourselves, who refuses to put any stunt or gear into his comics unless he can prove it works in the real world. When and I was young and even now, it was this element that made me believe that superheroes could be real and kept my imagination alive. I kept thinking about this element or realism when I watch films such as Kick-Ass (a film with no meta humans, but lots of ordinary people pretending to be superheroes and succeeding) and I feel it is a theme that should be embraced more often.
Thanks for contributing, while I do agree that Condorman has plenty of problems, I did find parts of it quite charming. I also appreciated the comic book angle to what felt like a spy spoof film. And while it never really gained much ground here in the US, it seems like it does have a bit of a following from those who grew up around that time in the UK. Not to mention that this was a superhero movie helmed by Disney many years before they acquired Marvel. But as with all of these movies, I am leaving it up to the readers to decide so make sure to vote in the poll right below if you want to see this film make the final cut of 100 movies, or even if you don’t. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.