Sunday 17 December 2017

The Return of Captain Invincible (1983) + 5 refs to Mora's career

The Return of Captain Invincible (1983) - A shambles. Philippe Mora is a director whose work is very strange, from Ozploitation ventures as the rather silly Australian western Mad Dog Morgan (1976) to the Sullivans-esque GIs in Australia murder conspiracy of Death Of A Soldier (1986) to US ventures as dire Howling II: Stirba Werewolf Bitch (1985) and The Beast Within (1982), a film which has an interesting cast, concept and setting and does everything that it sets out to do, but is still quite icky and unfocused, and nasty. The fact that his best film might be the insane Howling III - The Marsupials (1987) may say it all. He's a director who specialises in the daft. But Captain Invincible isn't quite daft enough. Written by future US action specialist Steven E. De Souza, the Australian setting feels tacked on, as if to please the Australian producers and also Actors' Equity to keep a mainly Aussie cast. Alan Arkin is decent as Captain Invincible, and Christopher Lee is perfect as his nemesis, Mr. Midnight. But the  film is confused. Arkin, then pushing 50 plays a Second World War veteran superhero who surely is pushing 80, but then again he is beyond human, who somehow has spent the last few years in Sydney, but still thinks it is NYC. The US President (Australian-born western vet Michael Pate, who would reprise the role in Howling III) is handily in Australia, when a hypno-ray is stolen, and the alcoholic Cap, taken in by an unlikeable female cop/journalist (the script is hazy), has to stop Midnight and his goblin sidekick Julius from wiping the ethnic minorities of New York (i.e. a few stereotyped Arabs and Jews, and ex-Laugh In star Chelsea Brown, the only African-American woman living in Australia at the time in a cameo). It is also a musical, featuring a few songs written by Richard O'Brien, and a few not by the Rocky Horror creator/future Crystal Maze host. An interesting joke is ignored - that Invincible's singing style is rooted in the 1940s, but then the soundtrack resorts to using old standards and the Peter Gunn theme. A lot of goofy comedy emerges, a lot of repeated training routines and magnetism jokes, endless flashbacks, endless in-your-face Americana to distract you from the barrage of Aussie faces (Blankety Blanks host Graham Kennedy, his regular panellist Noel Ferrier, Bill Hunter, David Argue, Chris Haywood, Arthur Dignam, Bruce Spence) and some of these are baffling (a bizarre few seconds of interlude with a female supervillain distributing dog excrement from robot doghouses there to give Australian drag act Mr. Tracey Lee some screentime), while one, a foodfight involving the legendary John Bluthal, one of the finest comic actors of his generation as a "Jewish deli owner" who isn't Jewish or a deli owner, and has a fish-shaped rifle instead makes one think what Bluthal would have been like as Captain Invincible. If the film did have Bluthal as a more unorthodox hero, the film less glossy (the high-quality second unit shots of 42nd Street in the climax jar with the obvious sets where we see the main cast),  perhaps with a more heightened sense of reality and artifice, and either the songs written by one unit, or dropped entirely altogether, it might have worked. Perhaps with the plot changed too. Instead of Captain Invincible being an alcoholic, he could have been a deli owner whose life is no longer interesting, because he is now afraid. In all, a tepid mess.

1 comment:

  1. Also the likes of Masquerade/Assignment K, etc, some of the lesser Le Carre stuff