return of captain invincible
Steven E. de Souza
Alan Arkin (Captain Invincible)
Christopher Lee (Mr. Midnight)
Kate Fitzpatrick (Patty Patria)
Bill Hunter (Tupper/Coach)
Graham Kennedy (Prime Minister)
Michael Pate (President)
mpaa rating: PG
release: 1983, sometime
availability: VHS -
A crashing failure of a self-willed
cult film, for rabid fans of Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, or
Rocky Horror only.
Horror? What's that got to do with this?
We'll get to that.
So dig in,
If your curiosity leads you
to rent this because it's got Arkin as the drunken, disgraced
superhero Captain Invincible and Lee as his arch-nemesis Mr.
Midnight, you'd better be sure your fast-forward button (or skip-search
if you rent the DVD) is working. It's entirely unfunny, with
intentionally campy dialogue that falls flat and songs to match.
Oh, did I mention it's a musical?
just now, no.
There are about ten songs,
each worse than the last. Three of them -- sorry, I'm not sure
which, though the entertainingly pervo "Name Your Poison"
is probably one of them -- have Richard O'Brien's name on them.
O'Brien, I clarify only for those not in the know, was the lyricist
behind such Rocky Horror perennials as "Time Warp,"
et cult-classic cetera. (And, yes, the playwright/screenwriter
behind the whole shebang.) But please, if you respect O'Brien,
do not sully said respect by renting this merely because
of his glancing participation. Fully half of the songs are seemingly
about how America was great once, when Captain Invincible was
in his prime (in the '40s), and can be great again. There's one
30-second song early on, composed entirely of the word "bullshit,"
that will make you blink blankly at the screen and realize it's
going to be a long hour and forty-one minutes.
can be great again"? Might this actually be re-animated
as a post-9/11 gung-ho semi-cult comedy?
Possibly, though it is to shudder
at the possibility. Blatheringly patriotic and nostalgic as it
is -- not to mention passive-aggressively reactionary (does this
movie long for the days when men were men, women were servile,
and Negroes knew their place?) -- this feels like a 1976 movie
that stayed on the shelf for seven years.
passes for the plot?
Captain Invincible is lured
out of retirement by Australian cop Kate Fitzpatrick when the
U.S. government's HypnoRay is stolen. It's the work of Mr. Midnight,
of course -- his nefarious plot is to sucker a lot of "racially
impure" New Yorkers into buying shoreside cottages and then
send the whole community off into the ocean. Cute.
at least fun to watch in this?
You'd think so -- his presence
usually guarantees some off-center mirth -- but the idea of him
as a caped superhero is funnier than anything he actually does
with it. Arkin is okay in his early embittered scenes (and has
some good parodic moments in the film's opening newsreel footage
-- probably the movie's highlight) but then falls back on mugging
more often than not and seems bewildered by the movie's rampant
the former Count Dracula and future Saruman/Count Dooku?
He looks dapper and evil, effortlessly
outclassing his surroundings, but he just makes you wish he were
in something better. He has a nice baritone when he does his
big number "Name Your Poison," which is really not
a bad bit on its own and should probably be filed onto a clip
tape of Christopher Lee's Greatest Moments (it would earn inclusion
solely by virtue of being a rare musical foray by the master,
and for its kitsch value -- not remotely because it's a career
highlight, or anything).
It all ends with a big speech
from the Captain about how we Americans are "the toughest,
bravest, kindest, bestest gang in the world." If you're
going to torture yourself with this it might as well be as a
double feature with the equally inane Captain America,
which shares certain plot points with it (little boy is inspired
by the hero back in the old days and grows up to be the President,