Return of Captain Invincible, The
Reviewed by Scott Marshall
Rating: 9 Beans
am at a loss to explain the joy I feel from owning a copy of this movie. THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE is not, as the title would imply, a sequel to some earlier adventure of the good Captain. Sadly, no. But it is a perfect companion to that oeuvre of early 80s superhero films whihch boasts the likes of REMO (WILLIAMS): THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, MEGAFORCE, BUCKAROO BANZAI, the Sam Jones version of FLASH GORDON, and many others which pitifully failed to gather momentum for the sequels they must have intended. (And please don't think I'm dissing BANZAI. It's a good movie and its lack of a sequel was probably due more to legal wrangling than a lack of interest).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The film stars Alan Arkin as the Captain, who wears a wrist radio, has faux reptilian claws holding his cape on, and has many aliases including "The Man of Magnet." The villain, "Mister Midnight," is played with glee by Christopher Lee, horror film veteran. The love interest is some skank from Australia, where the film opens after an overlong CITIZEN KANE newsreel explaining what a great guy the Captain was, how he was investigated McCarthy style, and how he hasn't been seen since. But wait! Who's that derelict singing on top of a mountain as the opening credits roll?
It's the Captain, of course, now a drunk hanging out in Australia after trying to catch Skylab. The first half of the film takes place in Australia, I'm not sure exactly why, except that it must have been a co-production. The narrator even takes pains to point out in one scene that the vacuum store they visit is on Broadway in Sydney, Australia, NOT New York.
Whatever. I'm glad for the Australian content because it means they were able to cast Bill Hunter in a minor role. Hunter has been in every Australian movie ever made. Check it and see. Anyway, the Captain is wandering the streets of Sydney when he encounters the skank, who is a reporter, about to be mugged. He shoos off the crooks, who bear down on him with a VW bug that has a flame thrower under the hood (which is a good use for that storage space since the engine was in the trunk). Thanks to the miracle of the jump-cut, we next see the bug landing as if it had been thrown up in the air. The Captain wanders off in search of booze, muttering in Yiddish to himself.
Meanwhile, Mister Midnight's fiendish plan to continue his Fuhrer's legacy manifests itself in stealing a "hypno-ray" (insert Dr. Evil-like quote motions here) from the US government and using it to convince minorities to move out of NYC and onto some island full of new ethnic-based subdivisions which he will then blow up. Now, this is a plan which seems like a LOT more trouble than necessary, and would probably not leave many people in NYC, but it's his plan and he digs it.
It worries the President enough for him to fly to Australia to investigate the reports of the Captain's sighting. His advisors, complete with a Dr. Strangelove homage, tell him that they should nuke Midnight. "Bullshit," the President counters, and then the real magic of the film begins. Because, you see, this is not just an adventure movie: it's a MUSICAL.
"Bullshit bullshit bullshit bullshit bullshit," the President sings. "Bull bull bull bull bull! Shit shit shit shit shit!" It is a truly inspired number, followed by another song about how they need a hero to step in and save the world. They ask the skank to find the Captain again, and she does; but he is still bitter at being betrayed by his country and doesn't want to help. It's time for Alan to sing, a country tune called "Not Even A Hero Can Tell," and he warbles his way through it decently.
The President comes in and convinces the Captain to help because he was the same young boy scout who, back in the newsreel, got an autograph from the Captain. The trouble is that the Captain is very rusty with his powers, all of which seem to be activated by a catchphrase like "Magnet On!" for his magnetic ability, "Begin Program" for his amazing computer brain, and "Into the Blue" to fly. He wasn't born with these powers, oh no; in a truly bizarre origin scene, we see how the Captain's parents were making love in a Washington park one day when a flying saucer passed over head and the aliens inside watched and whacked off, imparting some cosmic power to the just-conceived Captain.
Oy. So after a few weeks of training, Midnight becomes aware of the Captain's return to circulation and arranges for a trap at the vacuum shop I mentioned; the trap being that the vacuums wrap their hoses around the Captain and the skank, menacing them with crevice tools and taking yet another opportunity to suck off the skank's blouse. Yes, that's what I said. They escape somehow and the skank rewards the Captain with a song called "I See Heaven in your Eyes," which sounds like it was cut from THE PIRATE MOVIE.
Now that he's ready for action, the Captain flies to America with the skank riding his back sidesaddle. They take a NYC subway train at some point, not wanting to be conspicuous, and the Captain describes the evil of Mister Midnight to the skank.. in song. Better yet, the song alternates verses with Arkin and Chris Lee, whose very deep bass voice intones lines like "Long before that first big bang.. there was EVIL in the void.. long before the first bird sang.. EVIL was enjoyed..." Or something. In another Kubrick tribute, there is a strange sped-up scene where Midnight sits down to a Thanksgiving dinner (his pet buzzard) and his butler shags a couple of household skanks in between courses.
OK. So it turns out that the Captain's secret lair was the head of the Statue of Liberty, but he is disappointed to see that all of his stuff is old and crappy. They go out searching for Midnight at a deli and the Captain discovers that the clerk is lying to him because of how he makes a kosher sandwich. A pie fight ensues and the Captain falls down a pit to the sewer while the skank, mercifully, exits for a while.
In the sewer, the Captain fights a bunch of Midnight's standard 80's punk cronies and finally faces his nemesis, who tempts him with a huge amount of booze and a musical invitation to "Drink!" It is, in my opinion, the best song in the film, cleverly using booze as a metaphor for cultural diversity while having Lee say lines like "I'll have to get the boys out." This leads to their final battle in a wading pool filled with models of Midnight's ethnic neighbourhoods.
Needless to say, the good guys win, everything is great, and the Captain (with the skank still fixed to his back) flies over the appreciative NYC minority crowd, admonishing them with a bullhorn to believe in the American dream, even though they probably can't hear a word he says. End credits roll with a rousing pop number that sounds like it might have been by Matthew Wilder or Tommy Shaw and sings the praises of the Captain.
It probably seems like I've given everything away, but I haven't even come close. If you see it, buy or rent it and experience the mind-numbing musicality of THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE. And don't forget to drink.
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