Today! Because long before the age of Reason/Evil waged unholy treason –
The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)
Directed by Philippe Mora
Starring Alan Arkin, Christopher Lee, Kate Fitzpatrick, Michael Pate, Bill Hunter
Just your standard Australian musical superhero comedy, The Return of Captain Invincible is a pretty oddball production story that shouldn’t work as a movie as well as it does (which is debatable, too). While they managed to scrape together enough dough for effects and the likes of Arkin and Lee in the lead roles, the planned distribution company in America went bankrupt just before the movie’s release, resulting in it having virtually no all-time box office gross – figures have it around $55,000 worldwide. In Australia, the movie was tied up in litigation for a year – something having to do with tax credits and the producer re-cutting the film without the director’s input – before it got released. Thus, the whole thing managed to slip under the radar for a long time.
Or has it ever really emerged? I have no idea how popular this movie ever got. As of this writing, IMDB only shows 599 people having rated the movie – a few thousand being pretty standard for almost any film. This, despite our collective mania over superhero films in the last twenty years, and the world’s ever-long love affair with musicals? I’m not 100% sure when I first saw it – I want to say I acquired a VHS copy when some video store was going out of business when I was in college? Don’t know, but I’ve been squarely in the Captain Invincible fan club a long time.
The quality of the film is a subject of some debate. While I think they were purposely making a kinda trashy, cheap superhero parody, thus achieving wild success all around, many just disregard this whole thing as a mess. This, despite featuring songs from Rocky Horror Picture Show tunesmith Richard O’Brien and a script from Die Hard/Running Man scribe Steven E. de Souza. They had to plan it to turn out this way, right? Is there any other explanation for a scene where the Captain and his cop sidekick Patty battle a room full of vacuum cleaners? Or for a song, sung by the President of the United States, featuring only the word “bullshit” repeated dozen of times? The filmmakers didn’t just trip over themselves and accidentally arrive at The Return of Captain Invincible – did they?
Either way, again, I’d like to reiterate that I don’t have movies on this list ironically. I really do like #346 Howard the Duck, #332 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and #365 Popeye, and I really enjoy Captain Invincible as well. Sure, it’s no masterpiece, but Arkin and Lee are solid as the opposing hero/villain, and the silliness is fitting enough to manage a thorough consistency. I hate to write off people’s opinions with the dismissive “They just don’t get it,” but in this case, I feel like it might be just. Or maybe it’s terrible, and I’ve given it way more credit than it deserves all these years. Does anyone watch this thing?
With virtually no theatrical release, this movie almost doesn’t qualify to even be on this list – see the original parameters back in the introductory post – but I guess making fifty-five grand is better than nothing, so here we are. The Australian Film Institute did nominate it for Best Production Design, which is way more than I expected to find, but obviously it was ignored everywhere else around the globe. No longer! Best Alcohol Addiction Musical Number clearly belongs to Mr. Midnight’s mocking “Pick Your Poison,” taunting the raving drunk Captain with a full bar.
Mr. Midnight himself Christopher Lee becomes the 16th member of the Three-Timers club, following his work as Saruman in #362 The Hobbit (Not ironic! I like that, too!) and in #325 Gremlins 2: The New Batch. First non-sequel/prequel appearance for Lee! Way to go!