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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Washed-up, disgraced, and disillusioned superhero Captain Invincible (an excellent and engaging performance by Alan Arkin) comes out of self-imposed retirement to prevent his evil arch nemesis Mr. Midnight (marvelously played with lip-smacking fiendish relish by Christopher Lee) from using his hypno-ray and giggle gun to racially purify New York City. Unfortunately, Captain Invincible not only has to surmount his alcoholism, but also has to relearn how to fly and regain his magnetic powers before he can get down to the business of saving the day. Director Philippe Mora, working from a witty and outrageous script by Andrew Gaty and Steven E. de Souza (the latter writer went on to pen such 80's action classics as "Commando," "The Running Man," and "Die Hard"), relates the kooky story at a constant brisk pace, maintains a blithely campy tone throughout, cheerfully pokes fun at vintage old superhero serials (the use of stock footage and moldy black and white newsreels is especially inspired and effective), and tops everything off with a genuinely eccentric, but often uproarious sense of off-the-wall humor. The wacky musical numbers are positively sidesplitting; watching Lee joyfully send up his own sinister persona by singing a couple of songs in a rich booming baritone while sexy half-nude female minions dance all around him is truly something to behold. Moreover, the enthusiastic cast have a ball with the loopy material: Arkin and Lee are both terrific in the leads, with fine support from Kate Fitzpatrick as spunky rookie police lady Patty Patricia, Michael Pate as the hearty and irascible Australian President, and Bill Hunter as the ramrod Coach. Better still, this film is done with a winning surplus of verve and affection that's impossible to either resist or dislike. Mike Molloy's polished cinematography offers a wealth of striking widescreen visuals (the sweeping aerial shots in particular are simply breathtaking). William Motzing's robust and rousing score hits the spirited spot. An absolute hoot.
Christopher Lee is, apart from a demigod of horror and an amazing human
being altogether, a very strange and unpredictable individual
long ago I saw a film called "Meat Cleaver Massacre" and Lee allegedly
wanted to sue the producers for using footage of him that he wasn't
aware of. He wanted to go to court because he didn't know he starred in
a not even that bad film, yet he voluntarily starred in THIS totally
bonkers and jaw-dropping flamboyant Aussie flick?!? What the hell kind
of career-swings are these?
Anyway, "The Return of Captain Invincible" is one gigantically delirious and extravagant cinematic conglomeration of Sci-Fi, comedy, musical, superhero-action and satire. I probably never would have known this movie existed if it wasn't for the recently released documentary "Not Quite Hollywood: the Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation". I swear, I've stumbled upon a lot of crazy and obscure Aussie stuff since the fine day I watched that film, but this puppy is undoubtedly the craziest of them all! The set-up of "The Return of Captain Invincible" is a lot more clever and original than you might think, actually. One could even claim that it's a forerunner of such popular films like Pixar's "The Incredibles", "Spiderman" and "Hancock", as this movie was the first to depict the powers and responsibilities of a superhero more as a burden rather than as a blessing. The film opens marvelously with a series of newspaper clippings and black-and-white flashbacks illustrating the glorious rise and immediately subsequent fall of superhero Captain Invincible. He saved the world from Nazi terrorism but then the media soiled his reputation linked him to a communist network. The disappointed Cap retired from New York to Sydney and spent many years drinking and drifting around. Now the world desperately needs him again, as the evil Mr. Midnight plots to take over New York, but Captain Invincible is reluctant to save the hypocrites that exiled him and moreover he forgot how to fly
"The Return of Captain Invincible" is the prototypic example of a 'hit- and-miss' film. Many of the conceptual ideas are terrific and several sequences are both very creative and downright hilarious, but at the same time the film suffers from numerous defaults. Practically every great scene and/or moment of ingeniousness is followed by an irrelevant and dull scene or a needlessly mushy musical interlude. The film is very uneven in its set-up, exchanging absurd jokes and singing evil masterminds with moments of sentimental romance. It sometimes even feels like you're watching two entirely different films; especially when you're watching stoned like I was The biggest entertainment value of "The Return of Captain Invincible" lies in the smaller details. Christopher Lee's sidekick, for example, looks like an evil version of Yoda with a Fu-Manchu mustache. The undeniable highlight is, as a matter of course, owned by Lee himself when he sings a hymn glorifying evil activities. Lovers of offbeat musicals might be very interest to know that nearly all songs are reminiscent to the soundtrack of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". Overall, this definitely could have been a much better film if certain parts were cut and others had been more elaborated, but it's nevertheless a unique and strangely exhilarating film. Thank you, crazy Aussie people, for yet another wondrous piece of cult legacy.
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