The year is 1943 and World War II is raging across Europe. Reluctantly working for the Nazis, scientist Dr Vaselli (Carla Cassola) has developed a new machine which can transform a normal human being into something better and stronger, and having tried it on a rat which has developed into a powerful, red-hued rodent, it seems the time is right to apply the process to a person. The one they choose is a young boy, an Italian piano prodigy kidnapped from his home after witnessing his parents gunned down in front of him, but the Nazis care little for such sentiment and turn him into a superhuman known as the Red Skull (Scott Paulin) as Dr Vaselli makes her escape in horror...
Well before Marvel franchises became big business, someone should have known better than to allow Menahem Golan within the vicinity of a superhero movie after the debacle that was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace for his Cannon company, but Marvel signed away the rights to Captain America in cavalier fashion, only for the results to barely be released after financial problems which saw director Albert Pyun working on a much diminished budget. Any chances of this being spectacular were dashed when the film was operating on the budget of an average television action show episode, so much of the setpieces were reduced to some seriously unimpressive fist fights.
Oh, and Cap got to fling his bulletproof shield about a bit, so there was something. Our masked champion shows up later on as Dr Vaselli makes it to the United States where she assists in bulking up Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger, son of reclusive author J.D. Salinger) with her technology, only this time it doesn't look as if the test subject has been boiled for half an hour. Add one red, white and blue costume (complete with rubber ears) that happens to be fireproof (but not bulletproof like the shield) and Cap was ready to set about bashing the Nazis, a part of the plot dismissed with unseemly haste as if the period production design was putting a strain on the already strapped funds.
What happens in that brief wartime part sees Cap parachuted behind enemy lines to prevent a rocket going off which will destroy The White House, and the President with it, but things go a bit wrong when he ends up tied to it, the Red Skull trying to kill two birds with one stone. Cap does manage to grab his adversary's hand necessitating the need for the villain to cut it off (a bit of savvy might have had him cutting Cap's hand off, you would have thought), but it doesn't stop the missile as it reaches Washington. However, the hero manages to divert it by kicking a fin and it ends up in Alaska (how much fuel was in this thing?), though not before a small boy catches sight of it.
And that small boy grows up to be The President (Ronny Cox) in the nineties, where he starts implementing ecologically sound policies which make him enemies even in his own land, with Darren McGavin's General plotting against him. But what of Captain America? He was frozen in the ice, missing all sorts of mayhem as Red Skull is, we're told, responsible for a bunch of world-changing assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK). Now it's fifty years later, give or take, he is rediscovered and thawed out, which everyone involved appears far happier with because it saves money, not least on the costume which gets worn for about twenty minutes in total. And Red Skull has had plastic surgery, so not much costly make-up for Paulin. That this was ushered in to capitalise on the Batman craze of 1989 just makes it sad, as there was no way something this impoverished was going to be anything like as successful, for Salinger struggles with a character who has no personality whatsoever, and everyone else is taken from stock. With no zing, this Captain America limped to obscurity. Music by Barry Goldberg.