The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Captain America (1990)’

Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Captain America.”

The info:

The Movie: “Captain America”

Starring: Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty  

Director: Albert Pyun

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Frozen in the ice for decades, Captain America is freed to battle against arch-criminal, The Red Skull.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 7 percent

Our take:

Froemming: It’s June, that means summer is nearly upon us, the sun is shining bright, the windows are open and it is time for some big time superhero blockbuster movies.

Well, sort of for the JOE-DOWN.

See, before Marvel ruled the world with its tentpole character, Captain America; before he was the first Avenger; before he wowed us with espionage and fought the Winter Soldier; before he went to war with Iron Man and half the Marvel characters (owned by Disney), Captain America was brought to life in 1990 with a direct-to-home-video movie that had Cap sporting rubber ears and fighting an Italian version of Red Skull, who looked suspiciously like one of the Puttermans from a 1990s Duracell commercial.  

Yes, we watched 1990s “Captain America,” a movie so bad I am sure Marvel and Disney wished it too had vanished when Thanos snapped his fingers with the Infinity Gauntlet.

Brown, I am not feeling so well. Could you pull over the car and give us your thoughts as I hop out for some air?

Brown: No, because I’m not letting you steal my car.

Having lived through the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is such a weird movie to visit. First, this movie never seemed to make its enemies clear in whether they should use Nazis from Germany or Fascists from Italy. Then, they stuck with the comic look of Captain America, which is… real, real dorky when put into reality.

Finally, you give Cap less lines than Schwartzenegger had in “The Terminator” and used an actor so lame this may as well have been a Hawkeye movie.

Low-hanging fruit of a joke, I know.

Like, were they going with a B-movie thing here? Because I was getting a few “Toxic Avenger” vibes from this whole film. Or, was this actually an earnest attempt at making a superhero movie?

I have so many questions and I don’t care to have them answer because it would mean revisiting this droll movie.

But we got no time to waste! People on dirtbikes are after me and I have to run through the forest. Get us started, Froemming.

Froemming:  It is Italy in 1936, and the Fascists have taken over. We see a house where some little nerd is playing piano and we hear how much of a genius the boy is. I think. There was almost no subtitles here and everyone was speaking a Italian, so who the (REDACTED) knows. Well, the army breaks into the home, kills the people and kidnaps the child, which we learn is to become a super soldier. Because all super soldiers are amazing piano players, obviously.

We get a hint of what is to become of the child when we see Dr. Maria Vaselli’s experiment on a rat, which made it look — like a zombie rat? I don’t know what making a person’s skull turn red and exists outside the flesh has to do with being a super soldier, but here we are.

Brown: It was pretty much the Sumatran rat monkey from “Dead Alive.”

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Froemming: Flash forward seven years and we meet a polio-stricken Steve Rogers, who runs and sprints perfectly fine, which I am sure made wheelchair-bound President FDR irate. He has signed up for a government experiment. So, you know, what makes him Captain America.

Also, Steve Rogers smokes in this. That seems to hinder his running ability more than his alleged polio. Might as well as add bone spurs to his reasons for not fighting in WWII.

Brown: So I get the idea of the serum they use where you can turn anyone into a super soldier. Even someone with polio.

But, in the case where you have the Red Skull, a supposed genius, get injected with the serum… if you’re the USA, wouldn’t you rather take a great soldier and make him super to fight the Red Skull? Use your miracle serum later to help with the sickly. Play an ace here, guys. I’ll expound on more of that later.

So when Steve is about to leave with the government, he says a goodbye to his main squeeze, Bernice. As he’s leaving, she declares that she’ll wait forever for Steve to return and the LOOK on his face is one of “Forever?! Oh (REDACTED), that was only supposed to be a summer fling.”

Just wait for 50 years into the future where her daughter has a thing for you, Cap!

Froemming: Doesn’t the same thing happen in “Endgame,” where Cap has dated his own daughter? I dunno, this time travel stuff is tricky.

Brown: You’re confusing “Endgame” with that episode of “Futurama” where Fry gets… involved with his own grandmother, aren’t you?

Froemming: It’s all Disney now man. I guess it was his girlfriend’s niece, which is still wrong and creepy.

So Cap leaves Pegg..err, Bernice who he calls Bernie so Cap was the first Bernie Bro, I guess. And where does this experiment happen? Why, in the basement of some diner! Which is pretty stupid, but not as stupid as when it comes up again 40 years later!

The Italian doctor is ready to make the American Red Skull (basically) and is shot by a Nazi (?), but the serum goes into Steve anyway. So now he is a super soldier who gets shot and needs to go to a real hospital.

What are his powers again? Is one of them the same as 50 Cent in surviving multiple gunshot wounds?

Brown: It made me laugh how often Cap was shot in this movie.

Now, why have the fake diner in the first place? This seemed like it was a government-approved experiment. Why not use a sterile lab instead of a bunker under a diner that looks ripe for infection?

Whatever, they flip the switch and all of a sudden Steve Rogers starts getting massive thighs that look ripped straight from Ivan Drago in a “Rocky 4” training montage.

And then we zoom out and… Cap is still frumpy Matt Salinger, who in this movie looks like a marginally-talented Jason Segel. So, you know, not exactly the peak of American excellence.

Froemming: Hey, that is the son of fame author/recluse J.D. Salinger!

He was an odd choice for sure. Everything about this movie is odd. We’ll get into it, but Red Skull in the 1990s is more disturbing with skin around his head than just having  his famous red skull out in the open.

Nothing in this movie makes any sense. How Marvel survived this still amazes me.

Brown: Apparently this movie only made about $10,000, so it didn’t get a lot of eyes on it. You can’t be ruined by something no one saw.

Froemming: Should have buried it with Roger Corman’s “Fantastic Four.”

Brown: I legit put in my notes that I think Marvel took all the VHS copies of this movie and buried them in the desert like Atari did with all those “ET” cartridges.

Froemming: We will have to watch the 1970s Captain America movie at some time as well.

Now, after being rehabilitated, it is time to send Cap on his mission. A mission he goes alone and nobody knows what he should do, because it was all the plan of our now dead doctor. So, what the hell, drop this schmuck into enemy territory to stop the Red Skull from firing a rocket at the White House!

Was there a ransom?

Brown: OK, I have to bring up the other major flaw in picking Steve Rogers for this mission.

Being a man stricken with polio, it’s safe to assume that Steve was never in the military.

Froemming:  Sure, “polio.”

Brown: He never had any formal training in military tactics, firing a gun or hand-to-hand combat. And after he gets the super soldier serum, he gets shot and is in a hospital. And he leaves the hospital and goes straight for Red Skull. So we can only assume he’s received no training whatsoever.

And yet he is airdropped into enemy territory with NO parachuting experience with the idea of being a one-man army where he has NO combat experience. He’s expected to subdue Red Skull with NO one-on-one fighting experience AND he must stop a rocket when he has NO (REDACTED) experience in disarming weapons.

You made a super soldier and dropped him into a suicide mission. That’s your tax dollars at work, America!

At least the new Captain America movies had Steve Rogers enrolled and trained but wouldn’t see combat due to his diminutive stature. This “Captain America” is just (REDACTED) insulting.

Captain-America-1990-1-750x500

Froemming: This movie is telling you what Michael Bay told Ben Affleck, Brown.

So he is barging into enemy territory, Gumping his way through miraculously, when he is caught by Red Skull (who waves Nazi flags, sports Nazi regalia, but is Italian, so this movie craps on the historical nuances of the Axis powers in WWII) and is tied to a rocket, because Red Skull is Wile E. Coyote to Cap’s Roadrunner.

Well, Cap almost escapes, and even manages to cut Red Skull with a knife before he is LAUNCHED TOWARD THE WHITE HOUSE.

Meanwhile, in the good old USA where God, country and apple butter reign supreme, we meet a youngster named Thomas Kimball who somehow has a camera, which would cost a million dollars back then. He sees the rocket flying, somehow manages to get a closeup of Cap’s shadowed face before he is able to get the rocket to shoot him to Alaska, where he and Sarah Palin will see our true enemy — Russia — from their porches.

Like in “The First Avenger,” Cap is frozen in ice. Only here, he is about three feet in snow where in the other movie he is in the ocean.

Brown: Man, remember the days when an unsupervised child could just go up to the White House in the dead of night to take a photo? What a time to be alive!

Froemming: Thanks a lot, Obama!

Brown: As for the whole rocket thing, I don’t even want to revisit it. It’s something so dumb even the ‘60s Batman TV show would have left that idea on the cutting-room floor. And that show had shark repellant.

Froemming: Right? What’s next, driving a car through three skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi? When will the madness end?

So, Thomas shares his photo with his buddy and they vow to solve the mystery of the rocket and the mysterious man who prevented it from killing the president.

Then we get a montage of the years between WWII and the cruel reign of Bill Clinton’s 1990s set to the most generic era music I have ever heard. Thomas went off to Vietnam, became a war hero, a scholar, a humanitarian and finally president of the United States. His buddy, Sam Kolawetz (hey, Ned Beatty again!), became an enemy of the people by going into the murky waters of print journalism.

Kimball, as president, is ruffling the feathers of the military industrial complex for his hippie views on the environment, which he says we need to save. Obviously he’s never read the Bible and knows it will all take care of itself through the due diligence of unregulated capitalism. So, you know, Kimball is a Godless Liberal.

Brown: Remember when Obama got lambasted for the tan suit? Imagine if Fox News was invented in a world where President Kimball is waltzing around the White House in jeans and a sport coat. He would have been impeached!

Meanwhile, some “researchers” find Steve Rogers’ frozen body in the ice. I personally think it was Kwik-E-Mart employees finding the body while getting fresh ice. I mean, where else are you going to get ice, people?!

Cap wakes up in a daze and I swear, he becomes every sasquatch stereotype that’s ever existed. Just runs out of the tent and then starts traipsing through the Canadian wilderness in his garish red, white and blue outfit just waiting for some amateur photographer with a flimsy camera to find him.

Word gets out about Cap being discovered and Red Skull orders his daughter Valentina to exterminate the threat.

… What threat? You handled Cap with hilarious ease the first time you met.

Froemming: Let’s also mention how creepy Red Skull looks with that rubber skin over his rubber skull. Again, he brought back my old night terrors from the Duracell commercials.

Brown: Oh, it looks like a person wearing a Halloween skull mask put on another Halloween mask that looks like Max Headroom.

Or, he looks like what I imagine the faces of the victims in “Halloween 3” look like after putting on one of the Silver Shamrock masks.

OR! He looks like Michael Douglas’ character in “Wall Street” as a burn victim.

Froemming: Now, the president has sent Sam on the case of Cap, and he happens to come across Captain America on a quiet drive…

Wait, doesn’t he work in Washington DC? He works for the Washington Dispatch. That’s about 3,000 miles if Cap is still near Alaska! That is quite the drive the president sent a journalist on, but I am sure the mileage check is pretty sweet. Maybe it is Washington State Sam works from, but they never say.

Either way, location and distance between locations make little sense in this movie.

So Sam sees Cap walking and offers him a ride. I would think Sam would be more cautious of strangers after what happened to him on that canoe trip with Burt Reynolds a few decades before, but he isn’t.

So he picks him up and whatnot, but Cap sees all the wrong things a man whose last memory was WWII-era. A German car, a tape recorder made in Japan, Ned Beatty…none of this is adding up so he…

Best scene in any Marvel movie ever. Change my mind.

Brown: Look, I’d be a little queasy as well if I saw all this stuff shortly after being chased through Endor by a bunch of Nazis (?) on dirtbikes. This movie’s so damn stupid.

Also, the name of that video, LOL.

So Cap takes this stolen vehicle across state lines back to his hometown in California in hopes of finding anything. He does find Bernice’s old house looking like its idyllic suburban-ness from the ‘40s. Only, there’s a pretty blonde girl that kind of (but in no way) looks like Bernice so Cap (naturally) harasses her. Being he has the mannerisms of a man from the ‘40s, I’m shocked he didn’t slap the girl in the butt and offer her a Winston cigarette.

Turns out, this girl he’s harassing is Bernice’s daughter, Sharon. And Bernice still lives at the house with her (apparent) beta husband, whom she admits to Steve was more or less a sperm bank because her biological clock was ticking while waiting for Steve to return.

Froemming: He’s standing right there when she says all this too. I’m surprised he didn’t kill himself.

Brown: Right?! He’s at least in the next room in a small rambler. Clearly within earshot.

Froemming: Steve is reunited with his harlot of an ex, and we get the other plot of this movie: Red Skull is going to brainwash the president so Red Skull is the president of the United States, his dream as a child growing up in Italy that absolutely means he can never have the job since he wasn’t born on U.S. soil. He has the president’s office bugged, probably Nixon’s old microphones still in the Oval Office. So he knows when the president knows where Steve Rogers pops up.

And Sam finds out through hard journalism work. He finds out who Steve is, and his old address. Frankly, I am shocked we actually saw somewhat decent leg work regarding a journalists work in a movie.

Steve is cuddling with his ex-girlfriend’s (who might I add is an awful person for making her husband feel like the second choice before his face as she reunited with her true love) daughter (so, take that Bernie? Wait, that is awful too. I am so confused as to who I should be mad at now?).

captain-america-1990-movie-review_1606

Brown: Be mad at yourself for picking this movie.

Froemming: Hey, you are the one who is always telling me how great the Marvel movies are, so this is kinda on you. I just took your recommendation. Next up, “Spider-Man!”

So he is watching VHSes of history (LOL, tapes) like Austin Powers, only I don’t think Steve knew Liberace or whatnot. While this is happening, Sam shows up at the harlot’s home, where he gets shot right away by the Nazis (?) take out both Bernie and her poor son-of-a-bitch husband, whose life was in shatters at the moment due to his wife calling him her sperm bank before Captain America.

I thought this was all in the same house. I mean, why would I not when Sharon parked at her mother’s house when we first met her. Turns out, they were in another house. Because this movie has no idea what is going on and forces us to try and make sense of it all.

Brown: I thought the attack at the house was going to go into sheer pandemonium like the mutant sequence in “An American Werewolf in London.”

Wait, did I say thought? I meant hoped. Would have made at least one part of this movie entertaining.

And it’s Valentina’s hit squad (or something) that attacked Sam and Sharon’s family. I have to mention this hit squad. They jetset everywhere to find Captain America and just look like a bunch of ‘80s mod losers. If this movie were made today, they would have been the type of people who bought Fyre Fest tickets the moment they came out because of some Instagram influencer.

Froemming: Red Skull should have gotten Andy King to get Captain America. He gets things done.

It was around this time I think I blacked out from a rage, because next thing I knew, Cap and Sharon were in Italy, to get the dreaded Nazi Red Skull, who is an Italian Mafiaoso in this. Because (REDACTED) the source material and logic.

Captain America is in a tiny Fiat with Sharon, driving around Europe. It’s so (REDACTED) stupid. Also, he brings her there only to use the old car sickness/steal car bait-and-switch he did to old Ned Beatty earlier, making Captain America kind of an asshole in this movie.

Brown: This came after the one passable action sequence in the movie, where Cap takes out the Mod Squad. Problem with this action scene is it’s almost pitch black. My theory is that we couldn’t see how unimpressive Matt Salinger was in these moments. I’m sure it was all a stuntman’s work there.

Now, when they get to Italy, it dawned on me: This is not an superhero action movie. It’s a (REACTED) scavenger hunt. And a dumb one at that when they’re all “We need to find the Red Skull” and a news report comes on and says the president was kidnapped in Rome… START IN ROME YOU NUMBSKULLS!

But no! They have to find the origin of Red Skull in order to find him… in Italy. Where EVERYTHING in his life has happened.

Froemming: Well, they find the old radio that was used to record young Red Skull tickling the keys. It also happened to have recorded his family getting shot. Pretty good recording equipment for a young boy in wartorn Italy to have.

I’m still debating whether the radio or Cap’s rubber ears was the dumbest part of this movie.

Well, now they head to Rome, where the president is held captive and is having mysterious chemicals put into him that will make him Red Skull’s servent, but they take 24-hours, because of course they do.

He also pockets some poison that is sitting out IN FRONT OF EVERYONE! No wonder the Italians lost the war.

Brown: But was it poison? Kimball keeps pouring it on his jail cell and it starts making smoke. Acid, maybe? I dunno. I think Carl from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” can describe this movie better than either one of us.

I remember there’s one point where Cap and Sharon are being chased through the streets by the Mod Squad that includes both a fruit stand being hit by a car and a child almost being hit by a car because this movie is putrid garbage. Cap and Sharon also commandeer a bike and ride it into the ocean that leads the Mod Squad to give up their search, only for the two to emerge from the water less than a second later. What timing!

Also, was it just me, or was this Cap driving the tiny European car throughout this whole movie?

Froemming: It felt like it.

So, Wikipedia tells me because I have zero memory of it, but Sharon agrees to be kidnapped so they can get into Red Skull’s hideout. I am glad I forgot that, I am glad most of this movie was a blur to me.

So Steve dons the old Captain America costume, which is bright red, white and blue because these colors don’t run! Also, this suit is wildly impractical for stealthy military work. And he climbs Red Skull’s castle, because he also has super climbing abilities?

Look, the only powers I know he has in this movie is the power to pretend he is sick so he can steal cars.

Brown: We do also find out that one of Kimball’s generals sells him out and helps Red Skull kidnap him. I feel like the general doesn’t enjoy Kimball’s Green New Deal and wants that socialist to go away.

Also, in 1990, this crappy movie had a president that won on a message of environmental protection. Twenty-nine years later, climate change deniers occupy the White House.

I just made myself sad.

RedSkullCapAm90

Froemming: Hey, he is a very stable genius! He told us so!

Well, Kimball escapes with his poison/acid and punches out the traitor general, who was the dad in “A Christmas Story,” so now we have that fact to live with.

Captain America is after Red Skull, who is atop of his castle with a piano? I’m pretty sure the first rainfall would warp the hell out of that thing, but whatever, this movie insults our intelligence non-stop, so why stop now?

Brown: That’s literally a symbol of “Look how EVIL I am.” Bad action movies do this all the time. And you can guess what this movie is!

Froemming: For an action movie, there is very little action. For a superhero movie, there is not a lot of superheroes. WTF is this movie?

Red Skull has a doodad (technical term) that will blow up Europe and all in it because…see, he wants to blow up Europe now instead of being president of the USA because…umm….He’s going to blow everyone to hell with him, OK!

This movie is so (REDACTED) bad.

Brown: He’ll blow southern Europe up because… well, take it away, Grandpa Simpson.

Froemming: Well, Cap needs to stop this rubber-faced madman who isn’t Jim Carrey and good thing he has his trusty shield that boomerangs and deflects bullets because….reasons? Well, Cap plays the recording of Red Skull’s family being slaughtered, which in a different movie would have been pretty badass, but here is feels more like a dick move from our hero. Distracted, Cap throws his shield and knocks Red Skull off the building, because no movie from the 1980s-90s can end without the antagonist falling to their deaths.

Proof:

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Brown: I’ll throw one more in for good measure.

Valentina, who I’ll remind you was all torn when her father said he would blow up southern Europe, is set on killing Cap herself. He throws his shield at her and misses but for reasons the shield does the boomerang thing again and hits her with enough force to where I thought it’d be lodged in Valentina’s skull and look like a taco, like a discus when it lands in wet ground.

Then the movie just… ends. All things considered, I can accept this ending.

I have to go clean the rubber ears on my superhero costume, so why don’t we go to recommendations.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Froemming: Nope. This was pretty bad.

Brown: I wouldn’t force this movie upon my worst enemy. This and “Green Lantern” are 1A and 1B of worst superhero movies ever. Note: We haven’t watched “Catwoman” yet so I may regret those words.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down:

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2 thoughts on “The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Captain America (1990)’

  1. America saving Europe’s ass just like we did in WWI & WWII. USA USA USA!

    Like

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