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  Return of Captain Invincible, The Hero Of The Hour
Year: 1983
Director: Philippe Mora
Stars: Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Kate Fitzpatrick, Bill Hunter, Michael Pate, David Argue, John Bluthal, Chelsea Brown, Max Cullen, Arthur Dignam, Noel Ferrier, Hayes Gordon, Chris Haywood, Graham Kennedy, Gus Mercurio, Virginia Hey, Bruce Spence
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: During the Second World War, there was one man who stood out as the greatest American hero of the conflict: Captain Invincible (Alan Arkin). A man blessed with superpowers, he gave the Axis forces something to think about as he knocked enemy planes from the sky, yet still found time to be the hero to millions of children across the free world. And yet, there was a downfall just around the corner, as when the anti-Communist movement gathered apace in the United States, the Captain was accused of Red sympathies and subsequently disappeared under a cloud of unjustified shame...

This spoof of superhero films was one of many genre curios to come out of Australia, with an American in the lead for international appeal, and a Brit, Christopher Lee, as his nemesis Mr Midnight. The rest of the cast were mainly from Oz, despite the fact that you would have thought a peculiarly U.S. concept of the character would go against the idea of setting him outwith his native land, but the reason he turns up Down Under is that he has spent the past thirty years getting incredibly drunk there - no explanation for how he crossed the Pacific is offered.

And it probably isn't necessary, but does indicate the strange, uncertain tone for what emerges as a musical after a while. The songs are serviceable, with only really one standing out and that was among the tunes co-written by Rocky Horror man Richard O'Brien, a tribute to the demon drink which Mr Midnight croons to the Captain in the climactic confrontation - that's right, Lee sings with quite some gusto in this, and it's the true highlight. Elsewhere he is sadly underused, staying in his underground lair for almost the entire movie and exchanging banter with some very odd specimens, including animal puppets which eat each other and a little goblin-alien thing who presence is an unsolved mystery.

Sadly, although the enthusiasm for the material is undoubtedly present, the jokes simply aren't that great, and Steven E. de Souza and Andrew Gaty's script never seems quite sure in which direction to take. Is it an homage to those classic serials or comic books of yesteryear or is it bringing down such icons with a heavy duty ribbing? A recovering alcoholic superhero is an interesting concept, more recently adapted to Will Smith blockbuster Hancock, but not exactly a great source for laughs when comedy drunk acts make an uncomfortable match with a mood which is taking Captain Invincible semi-seriously.

As it is, the years have taken their toll and the Cap has to relearn how to use his powers over again when Mr Midnight launches a convoluted scheme to terrorise New York City by exploiting its immigrant population. So our protagonist cannot really fly, use his magnetism or his computer brain properly until the last five minutes of the story, messing up when he does try which is meant to provide humour but is far too leadenly produced to really take off as the Captain wishes to do. And yet despite these reservations, this is wacky enough to hold the attention even as the plot rambles around for ideas; when those gimmicks include the songs, an attack by a shop full of vacuum cleaners and a pie fight in a deli then you couldn't honestly call this run of the mill. File under intriguing, but brave, failure, which for some is more interesting than an unqualified success. Music by William Motzing.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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