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"The Return Of Captain Invincible" starts with one of the greatest spoofs of a newsreel show I have ever seen in cinema as a pre-title sequence. Funny moments and tragicomic situations follow back-to-back, but the definite scene-stealers are the songs (two of which feature Christopher Lee's voice). How much better can a song about the eductive power of alcohol start than with these immortal lines: "Mai Tai say that I'm Old-Fashioned / Tres vin ordinaire / That I want a fresh Manhattan / With white Anglo-Saxons everywhere / A Black Russian's / No Pink Lady / Give her the Singapore Sling / And Moscow Mule is not your baby / So Highball the Vodka and name your sting"? But I'm digressing: if you have a nostalgic love for old superhero movies, are not opposed to a little parody on the US and Australia alike, and are willing to follow that film in its occasionally whimsy turns, this is your choice for a late night film with friends (and don't forget to "Have a short or a Port or a snort of any sort" while watching)!
This is a film that could have become a cult classic with better
editing. Some bits just don't work - in the BBC TV showing these were
edited out; if you can, get that version rather than the full version
on DVD. If you do have the DVD version watch it once through then just
skip the bits that left you cold.
The humour is mostly pretty low-brow, with some appalling puns, but there's more than one level; if you're a fan of DC or Marvel comics, watch sci-fi movies or know Australian and American politics and history there are some fine little gags buried in here.
There are also some very subtle sight gags - a film to watch the backgrounds as well as the foregrounds...
My particular favourite is what Christopher Lee eats in the film; watch the meal scenes and you'll see what I mean.
Don't worry too much about the plot - it is there and it makes sense, but it's a comic-book plot not a big story. Also, don't worry about some of the odder characters - they are ALL there for a reason, but if you haven't read/seen the right things you'll never work them out.
The songs are generally very clever and, despite the singing not being the best, well delivered. "Drinking Song" is probably the highlight, with Christopher Lee doing what he does best - showing his teeth and megalomaniac glare, although his "singing" is on a par with certain other actors (William Shatner and Telly Savalas come to mind). "Mr. Midnight" is also funny; shot as two scenes; Chris with leathers and whip, surrounded by scantily-clad dominatrices, Alan on a train trying to be anonymous whilst singing and dancing.
This is also Terry Pratchett's favourite film - I actually have one of his books signed "to the OTHER person who likes Captain Invincible". So there are at least *four* people in the world who loved this film - granted, the other two are my kids and they may be humouring their old man.
I just saw the film for the first time tonight, so these are some brief
This virtually unknown little movie is a weird, goofy, silly, and touchingly sincere experience. The very premise of the film is fascinating, and though we've seen the "old-time hero in the modern world" premise before and since, this is one effort that really delves into the potential of that idea. The script keeps dropping in bits of social satire and commentary; the evil villain's plot is essentially the inverse of "white flight", seeking to "purify" New York by luring all the minorities to the suburbs and then killing them. The implication that he's also the supreme evil force in the universe adds a neat mythic touch. The Captain's quest to re- capture the spirit of America that inspired him to begin with is rather sweet, and Kate Fitzpatrick is charming as the spunky heroine. (Arkin and Lee are great, but aren't they always.) The songs are generally fun, even when predictable- despite being written by a number of different people (including Richard O' Brien!) they've got a nice consistency.
It's a flawed film in many ways- the humor is uneven, ranging from the clever to the silly (often at the same time- though "Amazing Computer Brain is Stuck!" got a laugh from me.) The finale is so abbreviated that I'm convinced there were scenes that were either cut or never filmed. And, this isn't really a criticism, but I do wonder why Australians were making a movie about the American spirit.
Still, this movie doesn't deserve the sheer obscurity it seems to suffer. It's undoubtedly a unique film, and as such provides a truly fascinating experience.
The US government's latest secret weapon is stolen, and the only man who
find it is an alcoholic ex-superhero. Captain Invincible returned to
obscurity in his native Australia after a nasty run in with
Captain Invincible is a hilarious, rock-opera parody of DC/Marvel superhero comics. To give away too much of the ridiculously ramshackle plot would be to spoil it, but you suspect this film was inspired by Christopher Lee's lament that he never starred in a musical comedy.
Lee steals the film as the dastardly arch-villain Mr. Midnight, belting out his numbers in a fine bass-baritone, as scantily clad slave girls massage his jodhpured thighs. Unforgettable.
I first saw this film when I was but a young lad, and loved it - the fact
that some of the film was set in Australia played something of a major part
in this - although some bits frightened me for no apparent reason. On
repeated viewings, however, I have to say the film still holds up in the
manner it was intended: over the top, extremely silly,
The casting is superb; Christopher Lee and Alan Arkin skine, and I'm one Australian who wouldn't have minded seeing Graham Kennedy as the real Prime Minister...
Although they're quite well written - the "Hypno-Ray" song still sticks in my memory - the songs do seem a bit out of place, but when you're watching the story of an alcoholic ex-superhero who's retired to Australia, well... Frankly I think the sillier the better!
The strangest movie I've seen since "Popeye" - part action movie, part
fantasy, part comedy and part musical, this movie stars Alan Arkin as a
onetime Captain America-type superhero who fell into obscurity after
being accused of being a Commie by a McCarthy-like politician. Now
years later, a group of scientists, government officials and military
types are trying to sober him up and bring him back to superhero trim
so he may save the human race from a new peril.
That's the plot in a nutshell, but it's really the songs which make the movie. The President of the USA, annoyed at the bovine excreta being shoveled his way by his advisers, suddenly screams "B______t!", and turns the expletive into a snappy toe tapping tune. If you look carefully, you can see the actor playing the President trying to keep a straight face (and not quite succeeding).
This isn't a consistently good or entertaining movie, but the parts that are good and entertaining are well worth the $10 DVD price.
I love this film! Ok, the plot is a little thin, but when you have Alan Arkin playing his part so beautifully (with tongue firmly in cheek) and the marvellous spectacle of Christopher Lee as the evil Mr Midnight, coupled with songs by Richard O'Brian, who cares about a little thing like the plot?! There are lots of throwaway lines, sound gags, sight gags and puns in here which means that I can sit through repeat viewings and still find something new, much as I did with Airplane (sad but true!)and the highlight for me is Mr Midnight taunting Cap with 'Name Your Poison', one of O'Brien's best numbers (behind the Time Warp and the Floor Show from 'The Rocky Horror Show'. If the film has a weakness it's that it can't quite make up its mind whether to be a comedy, a musical, a super-hero story or indeed anything, but it still has a wonderful gentle charm. I just wish I could track down a commercial video of it in England, as my copy taped from the TV is starting to break up!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is an excellent parody which explains why some viewers may find it distasteful or cheesy. It is an Australian and not a NAmerican movie, and given that NAmerican culture is so widely exported it is natural that other nations will try to interpret it and to comment on the same, although from their own idiosyncratic point of view, and nobody is more idiosyncratic than the Australians. Yes, it is low budget, and often simplistic, and the ending is predictable, as NAmerica so often is itself. However the fallen hero, redemption through the intervention of a loyal companion whose faith renews his own, the battle not so much against evil as against his own weakness (the mai-tai scene is sublime), all of these are the ingredients of every epic story from Ragnarok to Superman. I recommend an open mind and a mellow drunk or similar to watch this absurd gem.
I was a princely 13 when this film was made. Fortunately my first
viewing was on television. The second time around I took the decency to
make a VHS recording of it which still survives in digital form today.
Thanks goodness I did.
That's because there's actually several versions of this film out there. There's the original cinematic version, then a DVD (which is very close to the original) and then there's the TV version that I've got (which was actually created in 1982 and is very different, especially the vastly superior soundtrack).
The TV version is the best - by far - and also the hardest to find.
This film was made by the Sydney film making clan in it's childhood years. Take a look at the surnames in the production credits and compare these to something made in Sydney 15 years later. You'll see similar surnames and different first names everywhere. Such is the nepotism that was the Sydney film scene in that era.
Much of the film was made on location at the (then only recently decommissioned) White Bay Power station. Magic moments abound in this film. Snapshots of a forgotten Sydney that range from musical interludes aboard a red rattler (complete with open doors). Production stories abound. Many from Art Dept Elex Graham Beatty who worked on this film and tells of many tales most should not hear! We can watch today and wonder how much of that liquor was real (likely 100%) and how much made it out of White Bay at the end of the production (likely less than 5%). Such was Sydney in the Eighties.
More than anything, "Return of Captain Invincible" is a fantastic hoot as well as a snapshot in history. It's long been my overall favourite Aussie film - and that includes the ones I worked on.
Watch it from end to end and if you need to, have some alcohol handy! ZM
The Return of Captain Invincible It seems a law of nature that a
certain percentage of movies just don't age very well. Some can be
viewed decades later and still impress the first-time viewer, others
you have to had seen during it's time in order to appreciate it later.
Unfortunately, "The Return of Captain Invincible" belongs to the latter
It's not a bad film, by no means. "TRoCI" comfortably between Superman-spoof, musical satire of the US- / Australian way of life but unfortunately it's also a little too 'harmless' for most (modern) viewers. A little less slapstick and a little more grittiness / realism could have made "TRoCI" a comedic predecessor of Zack Snyder's "Watchmen".
Like with most of his roles, the performance of Alan Arkin is beyond criticism. He remains the world's most funny unfunny man. He seems to conjure up comedy as through magic and almost unexplainable. And as what is commonly known as a "Christophile", an ardent fan of Sir Christopher Lee, I consider it blasphemous ever to write a negative word in the same sentence. Indeed, "Citizen Cain", "The Godfather" or "The Seven Samurai" are all good pictures, which only have one fault: neither of them stars Christopher Lee.
Thinking what directors like Robert Altman, Blake Edwards, Jim Abrahams or David Zucker could have made from this material, the films weakest link remains the director. Philippe Mora seems more at home with schlock-horror flicks, rather than either comedy or musical. On the comedic side, his direction is restraint while there seems an almost desperate attempt to be the next "Rocky Horror Picture Show" it isn't; by the standards of a musical, it's "Shock Treatment" at best. The songs are simply neither strong nor memorable enough, with the exception of "Name your Poison", performed by his highness Sir Christopher himself. The line "There's nothing sicker in society than the lack of liquor and sobriety" is worth an Oscar itself and makes one dream: what if Richard O'Brien had written the songs, what a musical it could have been.
I have to admit, I have a hard time giving a film that features either his eminence Sir Christopher Lee or Alan Arkin a bad rating an old habit that I have broken only for "Star Wars II The Clone Wars". That said, the 7 out of 10 points I'm giving should probably been a 6 or 5 ½. Oh well.
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